Heading into the 2018/19 season, there were several questions surrounding the Hornets and Kemba Walker. Would they make the playoffs this season? Would Walker re-sign with the team after the season? How would new head coach James Borrego impact the team’s style of play? With these questions surrounding the franchise, it is imperative that they have a strong season and return to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
As the Hornets were fighting through another disappointing season last year, many called for the team to trade Walker in hopes of acquiring a package of young players and draft picks that could be the start of a rebuild. The Hornets balked at the idea, insistent on competing for the playoffs as long as they can given their current roster and lack of salary cap flexibility.
Instead, the Hornets re-tooled their coaching staff and front office, added another lottery pick in Miles Bridges and signed Tony Parker to lead second units when Walker is off the floor. The Hornets return most of the roster from last season with a few exceptions, as they hope that a fresh perspective from Borrego and continued development from Bridges and Monk can play key roles in getting the team back to the playoffs.
However, it really rests on Walker’s shoulders. As the team’s leader and unquestioned star, Walker must be at his best for this Hornets team to truly have a chance on a game-to-game basis. So far this season, Walker has been just that, averaging 35.3 points and 5.3 assists per game while hitting 50% of his 3-pointers.
Walker looks determined to lead the Hornets back to the playoffs and play on the national stage as he approaches free agency this summer. Walker has said all of the right things regarding his desire to finish his career in Charlotte, but should the Hornets re-sign him to a (likely) max contract? There are questions surrounding the extent to which he will be worth such a contract given that he will turn 29 years old at the end of the 2018/19 season.
Should the Hornets re-sign Walker next summer, they will be locking their team up for the foreseeable future given the length remaining on other contracts for Nicolas Batum and Cody Zeller. As currently constructed, the Hornets are too good to get a top talent in the draft, but not good enough to win a playoff series, presenting the front office with an interesting dilemma.
If this season goes south for the Hornets, should they look to trade Walker at the deadline for 40 cents on the dollar? Given the team’s market and Michael Jordan’s desire to compete, it’s unlikely that will be the case.
What would you do if you were the Hornets? Would you look to trade Walker this season or re-sign him in free agency? Comment below with your ideas!