Trying to figure out the Charlotte Hornets will drive any fan crazy. Are they built for the Eastern Conference Playoffs or a high pick in the 2019 NBA Draft? Will they keep their core together or look to rebuild? One thing is for certain; it all starts and ends with All-Star point guard Kemba Walker.
While Walker’s contract only calls for a $12 million cap hit (per Spotrac), it’s what the future will bring that may have the Hornets worried. However, such a trade will not come without a huge price for any team. In order to snag Walker (who has posted 28.7 points and 6.1 assists per game), someone will be forced to give up a piece of their future and more.
He’s a stellar scorer and the Hornets understand his value but will Walker wish to stay and play for a team that’s straddling the fence every season? There are a number of teams he could turn into a title contender and while he’s out here putting up 60-point games, the help is just not there.
The Charlotte Hornets will have to consider moving him if they get any sign that Kemba Walker will not re-sign. I know letting go of a player with his skill set will hurt but it’s better to get something than being left standing with nothing in the summer of 2019.
Here are five trade destinations for Kemba Walker:
5. Philadelphia 76ers
Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers do have Ben Simmons leading the way as their current point guard, but Kemba Walker could easily slide into the shooting guard role and switch Jimmy Butler to small forward, where he’s more than capable of playing. If the Sixers are willing to part ways with Markelle Fultz and draft picks, a deal of this magnitude should be made. The issue the Sixers will run into is what happens after this season?
How much will Walker command on the open free agent market? While the Philadelphia 76ers will have room on the books for a good deal, is Kemba Walker worth max money? If he is, how will the deal affect their plans moving forward? This is the season where the Sixers will need to make another kind of splash at the NBA trade deadline.
With Fultz still struggling to find his game, general manager Elton Brand must find a backcourt player who can penetrate, hit the perimeter shots, and defend. Walker is a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. He’s everything Fultz is supposed to be. Besides, after his 60-point game against the 76ers, he will be a hot trade topic in Philadelphia.
4. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks may have a stable of point guards on the roster, but all of them combined still can’t equal what Walker can do. Just think what his presence back in Madison Square Garden will mean for the fans. How often does a team get a hometown kid still in his prime? The legend of Kemba Walker grew on the court of MSG while he was playing for UConn. To have that on a nightly basis will mean the world to the Knicks’ faithful and Walker.
With Kyrie Irving stating that he will likely return to the Boston Celtics in 2019, the Knicks may be forced to look elsewhere for a floor general. Pairing Walker with Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. will give the New York Knicks a scoring trio not many teams in the NBA have.
The Knicks will be forced to give away some talent but it will be well worth it. As with any team taking on Walker, it may be just a rental. With Walker eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019, will he want to stay if the Knicks continue to spiral down the Eastern Conference standings?
3. Los Angeles Lakers
The Clippers’ backcourt has been an area of concern all season. While Avery Bradley has dealt with injuries, it’s the lead guard position where the real trouble is at. Relying on Patrick Beverley and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should be enough for the Los Angeles Clippers to pull off a trade for Kemba. Adding Walker will solve a few issues the Clippers have had since the departure of Chris Paul. Adding Walker will be a huge upgrade over any floor general the Clippers currently have.
Despite losing Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin, the Clippers are playing inspired basketball. But still, there’s something missing and that’s a face of the franchise. Adding Kemba will give the Clippers a name they can look to in order to bring in other top free agents.
The one knock on Walker is the one aspect the Clippers desperately need, assists. They currently are 21st in the NBA in that department, and while Kemba Walker has never averaged more than 6.3 assists in a season, his scoring is up there with some of the game’s best. But it’s as if he’s wasting his good years on a team that has no direction. The gritty L.A. Clippers will be a good fit.
2. Phoenix Suns
Why not the Phoenix Suns? Imagine a backcourt that features Walker and sharp-shooting Devin Booker. As stated earlier, Walker is not one of the top assist men in the NBA, however, his perimeter game paired with Booker’s could help turn the rebuilding Suns around.
The Suns have reportedly been in the market for a point guard for the past two seasons and if the Charlotte Hornets make Walker available, they should be the first team to pounce. One glance at their roster and you can see that the Suns are heading back toward the Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion days with their young and athletic roster doing all they can to push the pace.
Walker, Booker and 2018 first overall pick Deandre Ayton could mirror that Phoenix “Big 3” of yesteryear, and would be a really good foundation for this organization to build around. Bringing in a leader in their prime, as is the case with Kemba Walker, is something the Suns desperately need, and he could change their culture.
Walker is still relatively young (28) and will have time to gel with this nucleus. As good as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are for the Golden State Warriors offensively, the Phoenix Suns with Walker and Booker could be just as dangerous will some playing time together.
1. New Orleans Pelicans
Honestly, the New Orleans Pelicans could be the best destination for Kemba Walker, but it all depends on what the Charlotte Hornets are willing to take back in return. The Pelicans can send Elfrid Payton and Nikola Mirotic to Charlotte for Walker and wing defender Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
A pairing of Walker and Anthony Davis would be fun to watch, too, and not forgetting to mention the dynamic backcourt in which Walker and Jrue Holiday would make up. Although they’d be small by most backcourt standards, they would almost be impossible to stop on the break or as a playmaking tandem in the halfcourt.
Holiday is one of best two-way guards in the NBA, and is averaging 19.4 points, 9.3 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game; losing Mirotic’s perimeter shooting would hurt, but Walker’s shooting could provide more than enough spacing for Holiday (and Julius Randle) to get into the paint at will. Plus, with the Pelicans deploying the league’s fourth-highest paced attack, Walker would get more opportunities to score and make plays for others compared to what he’s getting in a middling, 16th-fastest paced Hornets’ offense (per NBA.com).
Pairing Walker with Anthony Davis should be enough to quiet any rumors of Davis leaving the Pelicans. With a trio capable of some serious firepower, how could Davis look elsewhere?