Kemba Walker is absolutely entering the now or never phase of his career. If he’s going to win an NBA title, he needs to get out of Charlotte this summer, or have Michael Jordan convince him that the Hornets have a plan to incorporate top tier talent around him in the near future.
Walker will be 29-years-old this summer, and the next two or three years will be his peak. He needs to maximize his own championship window.
The former UConn star is having the best year of his pro career this season, averaging a career high 25.2 points per game. But the Hornets are far from a true contender at 35-39. Even if they somehow make the Eastern Conference playoffs they will be first round fodder for the Bucks or Raptors.
If Walker ultimately decides he needs to get out of dodge this summer, his free agency landing spot will likely be decided by what Kyrie Irving decides. It could quickly become a game of high-scoring point guard musical chairs.
If Irving decides to join Kevin Durant in New York with the Knicks, expect the Celtics to aggressively pursue Walker. Walker would represent the perfect replacement for Irving in Boston as he is as talented (if not more) on the offensive end and by all accounts is a better teammate. Walker has had every right to be frustrated by the Hornets organization spinning its tires over the past five years or so, but he hasn’t said peep. Young players like playing with him. Vets like playing with him.
Conversely, if Kyrie re-ups with the Celtics – the Knicks will be more than happy to use one of their max slots on the Bronx native.
The Lakers remain a longshot to land Kyrie in free agency, but they will likely talk to Walker about joining up with LeBron. The Anthony Davis to LA ship has sailed (as far as this summer), but Los Angeles absolutely needs to get a secondary star to appease LeBron this summer. Walker will likely be the best available option once Durant and Kyrie are off the board.
One other team to watch here is the Mavericks, who were the most aggressive team in pursuing Walker back in January according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. A trio of Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and Walker would certainly be formidable in a Western Conference that may no longer house the Warriors at the seemingly unbeatable level they are at now.