Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets are one of the feel-good stories of the early NBA season as the 28-year-old has elevated his game and is looking like a top 10 player in the league. Walker went off for 60 points against the Sixers last Saturday and then put up 43 against the Celtics two nights later. He is averaging 29.6 points per game this season.
That success would lead many to believe that Walker will be in Charlotte for the long haul. Well, not necessarily. Walker holds all the cards right now as it pertains to his upcoming free agency.
The Hornets have flirted with trading their star point guard in the past but now that he’s emerged as an elite talent they would love to lock him up longterm. Michael Jordan recently said that he’s “hell-bent” on keeping Walker in Charlotte.
Walker, however, has to and will look out for himself. Despite exceeding expectations so far, the Hornets are still just 8-8 in an Eastern Conference that suddenly looks strong. If the playoffs started today, they would be the eight seed and would face Toronto in the first round.
It’s doubtful that simply “making the playoffs” is good enough for Walker at this stage of his career. Walker must also be realistic about the franchise signing top free agents and being able to acquire other elite players via trade. Right now, neither looks promising for the Hornets.
There is still plenty of time between now and the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 7 for the Hornets season to go south, and if it does look for GM Mitch Kupchak to at least explore trading Walker. Now that Walker has upped his game, the Hornets will surely be able to get more in return than they would have – say – this past summer.
If Walker does become available again in trade talks, expect the usual suspects to emerge. Walker has always been linked to the Knicks as the Bronx native has said time and again that he loves Madison Square Garden. He has had tremendous success in that building throughout his NBA career and dating back to his college days at UConn. The Knicks, as you may have heard, also have a boatload of money to throw around this coming summer. In a perfect world the Knicks would want Walker to hit free agency and not have to give anything up in a trade for his services. But New York runs the risk of watching him being traded elsewhere in the next few months and re-signing in that spot.
This, of course, all hinges on whether or not the Knicks actually have eyes for Walker. Signing him to a longterm deal certainly seems more realistic than getting a Kevin Durant or a Klay Thompson to sign on the dotted line in New York.
Other teams in the mix for Walker should he become available again are the Lakers and Spurs. Both teams have a need for a scoring upgrade at the point guard position, and both teams seem like they’re ready to “go for it” either this coming spring or next season. Walker would make great sense for the Lakers on the court as he could do considerable damage as a second option to LeBron. It is unclear whether or not LeBron is a fan of Walker’s or not, though it’s worth noting that the Cavaliers’ plan to keep LeBron this past summer involved trading the No. 8 pick to the Hornets for Walker. Obviously that plan that surely was run by LeBron didn’t play much of a factor in his free agency decision.
Finally, the Spurs would be an excellent fit for Walker’s services as they need a scoring point guard to supplement DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs have been mentioned as a team that could be interested in bringing in the Wizards’ John Wall or Bradley Beal – and either player would be less expensive asset-wise right now compared to Walker.
All told, the good money is that Walker finishes out the season with Charlotte, becomes a free agent, and eventually re-signs with the Hornets. You can bet on where you think Walker will play next season below with NBA prop bets.