The biggest story facing the Charlotte Hornets this offseason will be Kemba Walker’s free agency and whether he’ll still be with the team going forward.
Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday that the team is all-in on trying to retain Walker, and will do everything possible to keep him with the organization.
This will be easier said than done. The Hornets just haven’t been a contending organization, and the chance to hit the open market and find a fit with a brighter future may well appeal to the star guard. On the other hand, Walker has said he wants to stay with the team, and they can offer him the most money. Will two playoff appearances in eight years — and no promise of brighter days to come — be enough to keep him around? That’s the big question.
After spending the first eight seasons of his career with the Charlotte Hornets, Kemba Walker may be nearing the end of the line.
During an open Q&A this week, Sam Amick of The Athletic indicated that the three-time All-Star guard could be likely to leave Charlotte this summer.
“At this point, based on scuttlebutt around the league but without direct clarity from his side, it feels like he’s more likely to leave than stay,” he wrote.
The 28-year-old Walker, who is averaging a career-high 25.0 points to go with 5.8 assists per game this season, was drafted by Charlotte in 2011 back when they were still the Bobcats and has been with them ever since.
The Hornets can offer Walker the most money and the most years when he becomes a free agent this offseason, which is big considering that he is coming off a deal that paid him just $48 million over the last four years. But the team has made the playoffs just twice in Walker’s eight years, both first-round exits. This season, they are tenth in the East at 29-35 and just got dealt a blow with Wednesday’s loss to Miami, a team they are competing for a playoff spot with.
Walker is a native of New York, and the Knicks will have a lot of cap space this summer and a need in the backcourt. Plenty of contenders would probably love to have him too. But Walker has been vocal recently about his desire to stay with the Hornets, so it’s tough to really tell which way he is leaning.
The NBA season is young, but a number of fascinating storylines have already emerged. Jimmy Butler got his wish and was traded to a contender. The Warriors have managed obvious tension between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. LeBron James and the up-and-down Lakers are figuring things out on a nightly basis. The red-hot league continues to produce compelling storylines.
We are now a quarter of the way through the 2018-19 season, and a handful of players have stood above the pack as the best in the league. Who will win the top individual honor at the NBA Awards in June? Here are 10 early MVP candidates.
10. Victor Oladipo, Pacers
Last season’s Most Improved Player took a big leap when he transitioned from Oklahoma City to Indiana, and he’s taken another leap this season. The former Indiana Hoosier is back to his roots, and he’s become not only a fan favorite but also one of the most dominant guards in the league. After going toe-to-toe with LeBron and the Cavs in the first round of last postseason (it’s still crazy the Pacers didn’t win that series), Oladipo entered this season with newfound confidence. Oladipo’s two-way play makes him so impressive. Yes, he’s efficient and explosive on the offensive end, but he’s also one of the most dynamic defenders in the league. He’s averaging 1.6 steals in addition to his 21.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game this season.
Just two months ago, NBA fans were talking about which stars could change teams this summer. Now that those chips have been sorted, with stars like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and DeMarcus Cousins joining new squads, the league’s power dynamics have shifted.
The Lakers are suddenly a contender. The Raptors have new life. The Warriors somehow look even more unbeatable.
It’s early, and a lot could change this season, but we’re already thinking about which big names could be on the move a year from now. Here are the 10 best 2019 free agents as it stands today.
10. DeMarcus Cousins
This is a trial year for Cousins. He signed with Golden State for a few reasons: (1) he won’t have to rush back, as the Warriors are far from desperate to get him on the court; (2) he could win a ring; and (3) Golden State’s revered locker-room culture should present him with an opportunity to rebuild his reputation, much like JaVale McGee and Nick Young have previously. But he didn’t sign with the Warriors for the money — he’ll only receive $5.3 million this season. Cousins is looking to next summer as his opportunity to cash out and land a longer-term deal.
The Phoenix Suns made a rather curious trade on Thursday, but they’ve apparently been trying to make some even bigger moves recently.
According to Arizona Sports 98.7’s John Gambadoro, the Suns have tried to trade for several high-profile point guards this summer. Those include Portland’s Damian Lillard, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, and Boston’s Terry Rozier.
Obviously, nothing came of any of this. It’s an indication that the Suns are trying to be aggressive and are well aware of their need for a point guard, but they simply don’t have the assets — at least, not ones they’re willing to give up. Instead, they’ve made moves like this one to reset the organization.
Kemba Walker isn’t itching for a homecoming in New York. In fact, he wants to stick around Charlotte for a while.
With the Hornets point guard entering the final year of his contract, there is doubt about Walker’s long-term future in Charlotte. It’s particularly true as he’s a New York native, and some have whispered about a homecoming with the Knicks.
Don’t count on it, says Walker.
“As far as seeing me in New York, I doubt it,” Walker said, via Michael Scotto of The Athletic. “I’m a Hornet, and I’m planning on being a Hornet for a long time, so, yeah, I’m not sure about that.
“I’m not planning to leave, no. It’s not up to me right now.”
Walker has made it quite clear that he’s happy in Charlotte and absolutely does not want to leave. Of course, he may not have a choice if the Hornets decide to get some assets for him, but right now, he’s content to remain a Hornet.
The Cleveland Cavaliers seem eager to try to make a big splash on trade deadline day, but at least one option doesn’t seem to be happening.
The Cavaliers remain interested in Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker, but owner Michael Jordan is not motivated to move him and little progress is being made on trade talks.
The Cavaliers, by all indications, are definitely trying to make a big move on Thursday. They’ve been linked to DeAndre Jordan which, while still difficult, seems a bit more likely than Walker. They’re definitely a team to keep an eye on.
On February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from his underground burrow on Groundhog Day to determine whether or not we will have six more weeks of winter. Several days later, on February 8th, NBA general managers will emerge from their underground bunkers on Trade Deadline Day to determine whether or not we have a nuclear winter. The Detroit Pistons’ jaw-dropping trade for Blake Griffin on Monday was one heck of a start and knocked many of us dead in the process. But the fact of the matter is that we in the basketball fandom still crave infinitely more chaos. So in the spirit of the season, here are ten major trade candidates that are still out there.
DeAndre Jordan, C, LA Clippers
Jordan being the only Clippers player left from the notorious Navy SEALS unit that descended upon Dallas in 2015 was a plot twist that I, for one, wasn’t expecting. Nevertheless, he may want to keep an extra suitcase handy as the Griffin trade signaled that, if not a full-scale rebuild, the team is remodeling this roster like an HGTV show. Jordan’s value speaks for itself – basket-to-basket activity with ironman-like consistency (this season’s brief five-game absence was the first time he missed action due to injury in his ten-year career). His expiring contract does give him a specific niche market, but for the lob of God, players of his caliber ain’t available for trade all that often.
George Hill, PG, Sacramento Kings
It took all of six months for the Hill-Kings marriage to go sour, and now we wait and see which team will win custody. A prolonged stay in Sacto is likely untenable – rookie De’Aaron Fox has already lapped Hill on the depth chart, and the Kings’ Western Conference-worst record is pretty much purgatory for a player who has made the postseason in eight of his nine NBA seasons so far. A classic veteran point guard of the 3-and-D mold, Hill would probably be an ideal depth piece for a host of playoff teams. As such, he may not be locked in the royal castle humming “Someday My Prince Will Come” to himself for long.
Cleveland’s desperation for roster upgrades is nearing DEFCON 1 levels.
Appearing Tuesday on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” basketball insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Cavaliers have “checked in” with the Charlotte Hornets about the possibility of a Kemba Walker trade. Wojnarowski notes Cleveland’s desire to improve defensively in the backcourt and to do so soon.
The 27-year-old Walker, who was recently reported to be available for trade, is averaging 21.8 points and 5.9 assists per game this season. He also has a reputation as one of the better defensive point guards in the NBA.
Granted, the Cavs likely do not have the assets to acquire an All-Star like Walker on a team-friendly deal ($12 million a year through 2019). Thus, they may be better off focusing on their pursuit of this fellow point guard instead.
H/T NBA Reddit
Kemba Walker is not taking his surprising inclusion in trade talks all that well, and it is definitely hard to blame him.
Jordan Schultz of Yahoo! Sports reported Saturday that the Charlotte Hornets All-Star point guard is “legitimately hurt” that he could be traded by the team before the Feb. 8 deadline and found out the news through media coverage.
The 27-year-old Walker, who is averaging 21.7 points and 5.8 assists per game this season, appeared to be the one untouchable on the Hornets roster. But the team is just 18-25 on the year and has never made it past the first round of the playoffs since Walker arrived as a rookie back in 2011. The rumors about where he may end up next likely won’t make Kemba feel much better either.