Some within the Hornets‘ organization feel that Kemba Walker may be as meaningful to the franchise as Stephen Curry is to the Warriors in terms of relative importance and cultural influence, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com writes in his latest piece. The 28-year-old point guard enjoys his role in elevating the franchise.
“These guys believed in me,” Walker said. “I couldn’t care less about big markets. That’s not who I am. I want to make this place big. I want to be in the playoffs every year. I want to make Charlotte pop.”
Walker is in the final year of one of the league’s most team-friendly contracts, one that pays him $12MM per season. However, the deal didn’t always seem like such as bargain, as Lowe details.
Walker was navigating his way through his rookie deal and his shooting numbers—which were a red flag of his during pre-draft workout—weren’t improving. When he was up for a rookie-scale extension, Charlotte’s offer topped out at $10MM annually, per Lowe, and Walker wanted his agent Jeff Schwartz to accept it, threatening to call the team and make the deal himself if he didn’t.
The Hornets eventually budged, going to the $12MM annual value, and over the ensuing years, Walker has made critical adjustments to his game to set him up for a much bigger payday once that deal expires.
If Walker makes an All-NBA team this year, the Hornets will be able offer him a designated veteran contract, starting at 35% of next year’s salary cap (roughly $220MM over five years). If he doesn’t, Charlotte can still offer a five-year deal worth approximately $189MM. Lowe speculates that the Hornets could find common ground on a five-year deal in the $163MM range since no rival team could offer him more than a four-year pact.