Kemba Walker and the Hornets have officially signed a rookie-scale extension, the team acknowledged in a formal announcement. Marc Stein of ESPN.com first reported on Tuesday that the sides had agreed to terms on what is a four-year, $48MM deal. It contains no options or incentive clauses, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link) confirms. Earlier Tuesday, Hornets owner Michael Jordan made it known that he intended to work out a new deal with Walker.
“Today is a great day for the Charlotte Hornets,” Hornets GM Rich Cho said in the team’s statement. “To be able to retain such an important piece of the core we are building here in Charlotte is exciting. Kemba is an integral part of the culture we’re trying to create within our organization and we are excited that he will continue to be a part of our team for years to come.”
Walker, a Jeff Schwartz client, averaged 17.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, and 4.2 RPG in a career-high 35.8 minutes per contest last season. Walker’s scoring average was identical to his 2012/13 mark and he’s accustomed to being a leading scorer for Charlotte. However, not everyone sees him as a go-to player and his $12MM average annual salary is sure to draw some criticism. About a month ago, Zach Lowe of Grantland wrote that he has heard from executives around the league that the the UConn product is not a “championship point guard.” Walker got his first taste of NBA postseason basketball last season and Charlotte has a good shot at a return trip this year.
As Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors pointed out earlier, the Hornets had about $22.7MM in guaranteed salary on the books for 2015/16 prior to the Walker agreement, though that number increases when factoring in a $13.5MM player option for Al Jefferson, $10MM+ in rookie scale team options that the team has since exercised, and a $6MM player option for Gerald Henderson. With that in mind, the new deal for Walker doesn’t leave the Hornets much room to add an impact free agent next summer. However, if the Hornets didn’t lock up Walker to a new deal before then, they would have risked seeing two top players — Jefferson and Walker — potentially hit the open market.
Even though Walker’s scoring average stayed the same from 2012/13 to 2013/14, his shooting percentage dipped from 42.3% to 39.3% as his uptick in long two-point attempts cost him some accuracy. That slide was also reflected in his PER as it declined from 18.8 in 2012/13 to 16.8 this past season. Walker’s PER score in 2013/14 put him 17th amongst all qualified point guards.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.