As the hot stove is heating up, Kemba Walker’s tenure in Charlotte may be coming to an end.
While some big dominoes have already fallen in the pre-trade deadline fracas (Blake Griffin), the Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker remains one of the hottest trade targets on the hot stove. Along with Nicolas Batum and Dwight Howard, the Hornets have included Walker in talks, as they look to shed contracts in return for younger, cheaper assets.
Though he was one of the first big names mentioned in trade talks, Walker is still in Charlotte for now. It seems almost inevitable that Kemba will be on the move as the Hornets eye a rebuild, so where are some of the most likely landing spots for the All-Star PG?
For his part, Walker has continued to play well for the faltering Hornets. He is averaging 22.1 points per game on 41.9% shooting, to go along with 3.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. His numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, but in a point guard-driven league, Walker’s athleticism and step-back 3-point ability could be an invaluable asset for a playoff team looking for a piece to put them over the top.
Michael Jordan says he’s not looking to trade Kemba Walker but would listen to opportunities. pic.twitter.com/CXTpniYAcP— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 23, 2018
One of the first destinations that comes to mind for Kemba Walker would be a homecoming for the Bronx native. However, this scenario does not appear to be very likely, as the New York Knicks have little to offer in cap relief, an unwillingness to part with picks, and few assets on the roster. Currently running point with the committee of Jarrett Jack, Frank Ntilikina, and Trey Burke, the Knicks would certainly be interested in Walker’s services (as they have been for years now), but the price would be too high for GM Scott Perry. A package involving (possibly) Ntilikina, Willy Hernangomez and/or Kyle O’Quinn does not seem like it would be enough of a return for Kemba.
The Cleveland Cavaliers also present an intriguing option for Kemba Walker, as an insurance policy for the (thus far) underwhelming Isaiah Thomas. This season, Thomas has averaged just 15.3 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 3.9 assists (all near career lows) as he works back from his hip injury. Though it would make little sense to keep both players and ludicrous to give up on IT this quickly, the Cavaliers are certainly in ‘swing for the fences’ mode as they attempt to compete for a championship to satisfy LeBron James. Though to work out this deal, Cleveland might have to part with the Nets’ 2018 first rounder, which looks to be a high lottery pick. This would certainly derail Cleveland’s backup rebuild plan should James bolt for greener pastures.
Another team with a need at point guard that jumps to mind is the Indiana Pacers. Despite parting with their franchise cornerstone in Paul George, Indiana has been competitive this year (currently sitting in seventh in the East), largely due to the strides of Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner. If the Pacers were to compete in the playoffs this year, they would most likely look to upgrade over Darren Collison, though he is currently enjoying a career season. Walker would be an improvement over Collision in VORP (2.3 to 1.6) and box plus/minus (3.6 to 2.3), and Kemba’s 3-point prowess fits with the Pacers’ long-range attack. In terms of future implications, Walker is also three years younger, which makes the loss of assets a little more palatable for Indiana.
This seems like the most likely spot for Walker to land, as Indiana has enough cap space to take on some of the Hornets’ more odious contracts (like a Dwight Howard, for example). They could offer up a few rotation players like Collison, and perhaps a starter like Bojan Bogdanovic, making Indiana one of the few viable options the Hornets have. It may not be the king’s ransom that Michael Jordan has been reportedly asking for, but it seems to be a realistic destination compared to some of the other rumored deals.
Guys I want moved to playoff teams before the deadline wishlist:— Josh Eberley 🇨🇦 (@JoshEberley) January 30, 2018
1) Kemba Walker
2) Lou Williams
3) Tyreke Evans
4) DeAndre Jordan
5) George Hill
The biggest hold up for a potential Kemba Walker deal is Jordan’s reported condition that Charlotte receive an All-Star in return. Though not out of the realm of possibility, few of the Hornets’ possible trade partners have such players that they would be willing to part with. A major Charlotte selloff seems to be in the cards, but the perfect deal involving Kemba Walker may be difficult to develop. If the Blake Griffin trade can be used to gauge the current trade market, it would be reasonable to expect prospects and picks for Walker. Similar to the Clippers’ haul, Jordan’s Hornets are hoping for a quick turnaround, and a shortened path to contention; they appear interested in a short reset rather than complete rebuild. However, if the Hornets insist on too high a price, Walker may end up staying in Charlotte a little while longer.
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