It’s certainly going to be a wild summer. With the NBA Conference Finals underway, the NBA offseason is just around the corner. Not since the summer of 2010 have we seen so many star talents set for free agency in the same offseason. The league will likely look vastly different than the one we saw this past season.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Nikola Vucevic, Kristaps Porzingis, D’Angelo Russell, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and Khris Middleton will all have the opportunity to seek out greener pastures if they so please.
It’s not often a player of Kemba Walker’s stature hitting the open market isn’t one of the biggest stories of the offseason. It certainly feels as if the Durant and Irving drama, the uncertainty of Leonard’s future, and Zion-mania have relegated Walker’s future to second page news. It’s understandable, but the veteran point guard’s value should not be underestimated.
A three-time consecutive All-Star, Walker has the ability to transform a bad team into a good one or a good team into a great one. He averaged a career-high 25.6 points per game and had the second best passing season of his career at 5.9 assists per game. Kemba is dynamic in the pick-and-roll and has emerged as one of the best in the league at shooting off the dribble.
All of this talent combined with his team-first nature and unquestioned competitive fire add up to one of the game’s elite point guards. A number of teams could use his services.
Here are some of the best fits around the league, other than Charlotte, who could realistically sign the 29-year-old star.
5. Utah Jazz
Unfortunately for Utah, they do not currently have a max cap slot. They have an easy route of getting there, but it would require risk and sacrifice. First, they would need to cut Derrick Favors. This move would save them $16 million and would put them right at the max line. After that, they could make a number of simple moves to get fully under if they needed to.
Favors is a great player and well-liked. A move like dumping him would only happen if they feel really good about landing a max free agent. Walker could come in and add much needed firepower to their offense. The Jazz have found themselves in a similar situation to Indiana. They have a great collection of players that fit together nicely, but they do not have the star power to overcome the best teams in their conference.
Despite their defensive liabilities, a Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell backcourt could be lethal moving forward. The Jazz will need to make a big move to assert themselves among the league’s best. Signing Kemba Walker could be that move.
4. Dallas Mavericks
A big three of Kemba Walker, Luka Doncic, and Kristaps Porzingis would certainly be intriguing. Dallas is reportedly interested in Walker and it makes sense given the positional fit and Mark Cuban’s aggressive offseason history.
Walker would take much needed scoring pressure off of Doncic. Also, he acts as an insurance policy of sorts if Porzingis continues to struggle with injuries moving forward. The Dallas Mavericks adding Walker would immediately make them one of the best offenses in the NBA. The team would need to then focus on adding role players who can provide shooting and defense moving forward.
Walker’s ability to create his own shot off of the dribble combined with Doncic’s ability to create for teammates out of the pick-and-roll would be one of the more fun duos to watch.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
Similar to the Knicks, the Clippers have a lot of options this offseason. The Clippers will be loaded with cap space and are coming off of a surprisingly successful season that included pushing the Golden State Warriors to six games in the opening round of the playoffs.
They will be loaded with valuable players under contract, including Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and more, all of whom would be excellent complimentary pieces to a star or two. The Clippers will chase other stars before Kemba like Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Klay Thompson. Once some of these guys start making their final decisions, the Clippers could make a pitch for Kemba.
One concern about Kemba’s fit in Los Angeles is the defensive liabilities a pairing with Lou Williams would present. Both guards are undersized and teams would undoubtedly attack them on defense especially come playoff time. On the other side of the ball, the Clippers would have two of the best shot creators in the game and ample cap space to either add another star or fill out the roster.
2. Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers found their guy in Victor Oladipo. Now they need to find him an adequate running mate. Walker and Oladipo would immediately become one of the best point guard-shooting guard tandems in the NBA. Pairing two star playmakers entering their prime with two promising young big men in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner would make for an appealing roster.
Indiana comes into the summer with nearly $50 million in cap space. While they do have some important free agents, they could afford to let a few role players walk if it meant bringing in Walker. Landing Walker and re-signing Bojan Bogdanovic would set up the Pacers as real players in the East. The team needs star power. As fun as they have been to watch over the last two seasons, it is hard to see Indiana making a run without at least one more legitimate star next to Oladipo.
From Walker’s perspective, the Pacers offer a stable situation. They have solid role players and offer him a chance to play with by far the most talented teammate of his career in Oladipo. Most importantly, it allows him to stay in the weaker conference which likely offers him a better chance of reaching the NBA Finals. Kemba Walker to Indiana would be a fun outcome.
1. New York Knicks
The Knicks could be anything next season. No team has a wider range of outcomes than New York. With a lot of young talent, the third overall pick in this draft, and nearly $70 million in cap space, the Knicks will certainly be aggressive this summer.
The Durant-to-Knicks rumors are well established. Many would consider them the heavy favorites to land Durant at this point. Kyrie Irving has been talked about as the other piece coming to join Durant, but what if Irving has other plans? He did just force himself out of Cleveland because he was tired of playing second fiddle to an all-world forward.
Maybe the Knicks watched the headaches Irving caused in Boston and decides they’d prefer Walker. There’s also a scenario where they strike out on both and Kemba Walker becomes a priority. Adding Walker, with or without Durant, would be a great move by New York. The team desperately needs to build a winning culture and Walker can help them do that.