The Hornets have shown a willingness to discuss star point guard Kemba Walker in trade talks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi, who reports that the team has been encouraging potential trade partners to make offers. Charlotte appears “eager” to explore deals that would involve attaching Walker to one of the club’s less desirable contracts, Wojnarowski adds.
As Woj details, the Hornets have already made several of their other highest-paid players available in trade discussions. That list includes Nicolas Batum, Dwight Howard, Marvin Williams, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — those players are all earning between $13MM and $23.5MM in 2017/18, and have at least one more guaranteed year on their respective contracts beyond this season. Batum’s deal is particularly onerous, with three more years and $76.7MM left on it after ’17/18.
By comparison, Walker is a terrific bargain for the Hornets, earning just $12MM annually this year and next. Despite the great value they’re getting on the star point guard, the Hornets have struggled this season, posting an 18-25 record and sitting four games back of the Pistons and Sixers for the No. 8 seed in the East.
With little hope of contending in 2017/18, Charlotte would head into the summer with Walker entering a contract year if he’s not traded at the deadline. While the Hornets would certainly like to retain the 27-year-old for the long term, they’d run the risk of losing him for nothing as a free agent in 2019 if they hang onto him. Moving Walker now, rather than waiting until he’s on an expiring contract, would likely result in the best possible return for the team.
Trading Walker would also signal that the Hornets are shifting into full-fledged rebuilding mode. It would be difficult to effectively move forward on a rebuild without dumping at least one of their most expensive contracts, so it makes sense that the Hornets would look to address that issue at the same time they explore the market for Walker. Still, attaching the All-Star guard to any one of the four players listed above would mean at least $25MM in outgoing salary, which may limit the list of Charlotte’s viable trade partners.
Walker, 27, has been his usual productive self for the Hornets this season. While his 3PT% (.349) has slipped a little, he has averaged an impressive 21.7 PPG and 5.8 APG in 41 games.