Although he was the subject of several trade rumors leading up to last month’s deadline, Kemba Walker remained in Charlotte. With the Hornets set to land in the lottery this spring though, the Walker rumor mill figures to be revived in the coming months.
Longtime Hornets general manager Rich Cho is no longer in the picture in Charlotte, as the team is set to hire a new head of basketball operations at season’s end. That new general manager will inherit a cap sheet packed with expensive multiyear contracts, with Walker’s $12MM expiring deal easily representing the most valuable trade chip on the Hornets’ roster. Tasked with turning the franchise into a contender, the new GM could decide that moving Walker is the best way to accelerate a necessary rebuilding process.
It’s also worth considering how Walker’s latest comments differ in tone from his initial response to trade rumors back in January. At the time, the star point guard said he’d be “pretty upset” to be dealt, and talked extensively about having spent his whole career in Charlotte. Two months later, Walker’s fondness for the city likely hasn’t changed, but he sounds more pragmatic about his situation.
Earlier this month, for instance, Walker admitted that he’s not sure he has the stomach to go through another rebuilding process, noting that “nobody wants to lose.” More recently, the 27-year-old acknowledged that he’s getting tired of missing the playoffs, suggesting that winning will be his top priority going forward — including when he has to make a free agency decision in 2019.
The Hornets could certainly retool around Walker and attempt to make a playoff push in 2018/19 before eventually looking to re-sign him in 2019. However, a trade looks like a viable possibility too. In his latest piece for The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor took a closer look at the situation, identifying the Cavaliers, Bucks, Suns, and Knicks as a few teams that could make sense as trade partners if the Hornets want to deal.
What do you think the Hornets should – and will – do with Walker? Would it be misguided to move the team’s only star, or would it ultimately be the best long-term move for the organization? If the Hornets do trade Walker, do you think one of the clubs mentioned by O’Connor would be the best destination for him, or is there another team you view as an ideal fit?
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