Kemba Walker

Teams Lining Up For No. 3 Pick If Kings Pass On Doncic

The Mavericks, Magic, Bulls, Knicks, and Clippers have expressed interest in moving into the Hawks’ No. 3 slot to select either EuroLeague guard Luka Doncic or possibly Texas center Mohamed Bamba if the Kings pass on Doncic at No. 2, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Those teams, along with the Nuggets, have also talked to the Grizzlies at the No. 4 spot. The Celtics don’t appear to be a serious contender for either pick, O’Connor adds.

Here’s some other tidbits from O’Connor’s story:

  • The Hornets’ willingness to deal Kemba Walker has waned since they reached an agreement with the Nets to trade Dwight Howard for Timofey Mozgov. The Cavaliers have shown interest in solving their point guard dilemma by acquiring Walker.
  • The Clippers could select Miami (Fla.) guard Lonnie Walker with one of their first-rounders and then ship him to the Hawks. The Clippers have the No. 12 and No. 13 picks in the lottery.
  • The Bucks are trying to package the No. 17 pick with point guard Matthew Dellavedova‘s contract. Dellavedova has two years and $19.2MM remaining on his deal. Milwaukee would trade down in the draft in that scenario and not exit altogether.
  • The Timberwolves have a strong interest in Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo with the No. 20 pick.
  • There are rumblings that the Bulls made a promise to draft Boise State shooting guard Chandler Hutchison. That would have to be at No. 22 unless they make a deal.
  • The Trail Blazers and Lakers are interested in IMG Academy shooting guard Anfernee Simons with their late first-round picks.
  • Kentucky small forward Jarred Vanderbilt, Latvian forward Rodions Kurucs, and Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham are believed to have received draft promises.

Cavs Rumors: LeBron, Love, Trade Talks, Coaches

While LeBron James will have until June 29 to exercise or decline his 2018/19 player option, his final decision on his next team won’t happen quickly and figures to stretch into July, Adrian Wojnarowski said on Monday during a draft special on ESPN (Twitter link via Sagar Trika). If that’s the case, James seems more likely to opt out than to opt in next week, which would have an impact on which suitors are viable destinations, as I explained here.

Meanwhile, Wojnarowski also reports that the Cavaliers would like to package Kevin Love and the No. 8 pick for a star player on draft night, but that combo may not net the kind of star they’re seeking (Twitter link via Trika). As Wojnarowski observes, Love’s value isn’t at its peak and the Brooklyn first-rounder isn’t quite as strong as Cleveland had hoped, limiting the appeal of that package to some extent.

Let’s round up a few more Cavs notes and rumors…

  • The Cavaliers have talked to the Grizzlies on more than one occasion, according to Sam Amico of AmicoHoop.net, who cautions that he doesn’t know the specifics of those discussions. Memphis is reportedly open to the idea of attaching Chandler Parsons‘ contract to the No. 4 pick in a trade, so it’s possible Cleveland has checked in on that possibility.
  • Echoing a Monday report, Amico confirms that the Cavaliers are expressing interest in Hornets point guard Kemba Walker and have kicked the tires on disgruntled Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard.
  • Although Amico expects the Cavs to hang onto the No. 8 pick, a lot of teams are interested in trading up to that spot, including the Nets.
  • The Cavs have had discussions about potentially acquiring another late first-round pick “to help open up the possibilities,” a league source tells Amico.
  • The Cavs are parting ways with assistant coach Jim Boylan and player development coach Phil Handy, multiple league sources tell Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. By not renewing the contracts for Boylan and Handy, the Cavs are clearing the path to give Dan Geriot and Damon Jones larger roles on their coaching staff, per ESPN’s report. No longer employed in Cleveland, Handy may be a candidate to join Nick Nurse‘s Raptors staff, tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.

Cavs Willing To Trade Lottery Pick For Vets

The Cavaliers are seeking proven veterans from teams looking to move up in the draft despite not knowing LeBron Jamesplans for the future, Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Cleveland has the No. 8 overall pick on Thursday, courtesy of the Kyrie Irving blockbuster deal with the Celtics last summer. The front office has sent signals that it intends to upgrade the team, even if James opts out of his contract or requests a trade, Vardon continues.

Cleveland has sent out feelers to the Spurs about their willingness to deal disgruntled forward Kawhi Leonard. Hornets point guard Kemba Walker is another potential target, according to Vardon. Adding another impact player would be a way of trying to entice James to stay put but, of course, there’s no guarantee that will convince him to do so.

The front office and James’ camp have been in contact over the phone and in person lately, though the team’s brass hasn’t met with James,, sources told Vardon. There have not been any serious discussions regarding his future because James remains uncertain what he’s going to do, Vardon adds.

Despite their willingness to deal, the Cavaliers could still hold onto the pick.

Adding another veteran or two, especially if Cleveland uses the $5.8MM trade exception it possesses, would present even more salary-cap issues. The Cavs will pay about $50MM in luxury-tax penalties on last season’s payroll, Vardon notes, and they’ll still be over the cap even if James bolts without them trading for more help. Yet the Cavs’ front office is still willing to take on more salary with the hope of improving their chances to retain James, Vardon adds.

Hornets Notes: Porter, Walker, Kaminsky, Howard

Michael Porter Jr. could be a risk worth taking for the Hornets if he lasts to the 11th pick, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Porter was among the top recruits in college basketball last year, but a back injury sidelined him for almost the entire season. He underwent surgery to remove a piece of bone that was placing pressure on a nerve and has declared himself to be healthy.

Porter has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant, standing 6’10” with the skills of a small forward. If enough teams are scared off by his medical history, Porter could present new GM Mitch Kupchak with his first major draft decision since coming to Charlotte.

There’s more from Charlotte:

  • The Hornets might be willing to ship Kemba Walker to Cleveland in a deal involving the No. 8 pick, but LeBron James‘ uncertain status makes the trade problematic, Bonnell notes in the same story. Dealing Walker, who has one year left on his contract, for a draft choice would help ease Charlotte’s cap situation, but the Cavaliers won’t know until July if James is leaving. The eighth pick becomes extremely valuable if Cleveland is facing a rebuilding project.
  • Frank Kaminsky hasn’t done enough in three seasons to convince the Hornets he’s worthy of a long-term investment, Bonnell adds. The ninth pick in the 2015 draft has averaged 10.0 points per game since joining the team, and there are concerns about his rebounding and passing. Bonnell believes Charlotte wouldn’t hesitate to draft another power forward.
  • Dwight Howard could be a buyout candidate if he’s still on the roster in February, Bonnell writes in a mailbag column. The veteran center will make more than $23.8MM in the final year of his contract.
  • In the same piece, Bonnell puts the odds at 50-50 for free agents Michael Carter-Williams and Treveon Graham to return to the Hornets next season. An abundance of guaranteed contracts for wing players will limit Graham’s opportunity, while Carter-Williams is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he shot a career-low 33% from the field.

Hornets Notes: Walker, Whiteside, Draft, Salary Cap

The lack of teams with cap space and a weak crop of free agent point guards could work to the Hornets’ advantage if they decide to trade Kemba Walker, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. That’s the assessment of ESPN’s Bobby Marks, a former executive with the Nets, who thinks Walker will reach his peak trade value this summer. Walker has one year left on his contract, and Marks states that teams would rather pick up a player in the offseason rather than close to the trade deadline.

Addressing trade rumors during the season, team owner Michael Jordan said he would only consider moving Walker if it meant getting an All-Star in return. Marks considers that unrealistic, saying a lottery pick is likely the best the Hornets can hope for. The franchise is near the tax threshold and would like to unload one of its expensive contracts in any Walker deal, but Marks says that will only happen if Walker’s new team gets assurances he will re-sign.

There’s more today from Charlotte:

  • Hassan Whiteside would help the Hornets get younger at center, but his contract woudn’t make him a wise pickup, Bonnell cautions in a separate piece. Whiteside clashed with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra this season over reduced playing time, and there are indications out of Miami that the team would like to deal him. Charlotte has Dwight Howard signed for one more year at $23.8MM, while Whiteside is owed $25.4MM next season with a $27MM player option for 2019/20. Bonnell doubts the investment in Whiteside would be worth it, considering the NBA is trending away from traditional low-post centers.
  • In another story, Bonnell analyzes the Hornets’ draft prospects and takes a look at new GM Mitch Kupchak’s drafting history. Bonnell identifies a top eight of DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mo Bamba, Michael Porter, Wendell Carter and Trae Young, and states that anyone else has a reasonable chance of being available when Charlotte picks at No. 11.
  • This year’s extended playoffs, which feature a seventh game in both conference finals for the first time since 1979, will provide the NBA with extra revenue that will affect next year’s salary cap, Bonnell tweets. That should raise the $101MM cap projection at least slightly and benefit cash-strapped teams like the Hornets, who already have $117.9MM in committed salary for next season.

Hornets Rumors: Walker, Quinter, Whiteside, Workouts

A lottery pick and a young player would be a reasonable return in any trade involving Kemba Walker, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. In consultation with ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Bonnell takes an in-depth look into the possibility of trading Walker, who has a year remaining on his contract. All-Star caliber point guards are highly valued but any suitor would want to feel they could re-sign Walker. The Hornets could package a bad contract with Walker but only if he committed to re-signing with his new team, Bonnell adds.

In other developments involving the Hornets:

  • The Hornets have parted ways with director of pro personnel Todd Quinter, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Changes are being made in the Charlotte organization with recently-hired Mitch Kupchak running the front office. Quinter is one of the league’s most seasoned scouts, Stein notes.
  • It wouldn’t make sense for the Hornets to pursue Heat center Hassan Whiteside in a trade, Bonnell opines in a separate story. The Hornets already have an older version of Whiteside in Dwight Howard and don’t need to saddle their payroll by adding Whiteside’s contract, which has two years and $52.4MM remaining, Bonnell continues. The Hornets would be better off moving forward next summer after Howard’s contract expires, Bonnel adds.
  • Charlotte is bringing in six draft prospects on Friday: Guards Connor Burchfield (William & Mary), Jon Davis (Charlotte), Lexus Williams (Boise State) and Ray Ona Embo (Tulane); forward Marcanvis Hymon (Ole Miss); and center Bakary Konate (Minnesota).

Hornets Notes: Borrego, Batum, Howard, Zeller

Nicolas Batum may benefit more than anyone from the Hornets’ coaching change, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Spurs assistant James Borrego is expected to install the motion offense used in San Antonio, which plays to Batum’s strengths of handling the ball and making quick decisions.

Charlotte’s approach under Steve Clifford this season was heavy on postups for center Dwight Howard, which restricted Batum’s effectiveness. His scoring average dropped to 11.6 points per game, the lowest in his three years with the Hornets, and Bonnell speculates that he needs a new approach on offense to become productive again.

Bonnell addresses more Hornets topics in a mailbag column:

  • New GM Mitch Kupchak would like to move at least one big contract this summer to provide cap relief, but the organization might be wise to hold onto Howard. Bonnell states that the team may be in a better long-term position by allowing Howard’s $23.8MM contract to expire next summer rather than trading it for other expensive assets. However, he questions how much Howard will play next season, especially if the Hornets fall out of contention early.
  • Of the five players with large contracts, Cody Zeller may be easiest to trade. Zeller is signed for the next three seasons at an average of about $14MM per year, but he is only 25 and could develop into an effective center if he can overcome his injury history.
  • Young players Malik Monk, Willy Hernangomez and Dwayne Bacon may get a better chance to prove themselves under Borrego than Clifford. Bonnell says all three will be closely watched and supervised over the offseason, although Hernangomez will spend a large part of the summer with the Spanish National Team.
  • Borrego may try to add a former NBA head coach to his staff, just as Clifford did with Bob Weiss and Eddie Jordan.
  • The most pressing offseason need is finding a point guard to back up Kemba Walker. Monk played there late in the season, but Bonnell notes that it’s too early to say if that’s his best position. It’s also a long-term concern because Walker is headed for free agency in 2019.

Hornets Notes: Walker, G League, Howard, Monk

With changes taking place throughout the organization, Kemba Walker understands he may not play another game for the Hornets, writes Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Walker, who became the leading scorer in franchise history this season, has one year left on his contract at $12MM and  could be moved this summer to bring Charlotte some much-needed cap relief.

“I have no idea,” he said when asked about his future with the Hornets. “That is out of my control. I am just going to focus on getting better as a player. That is really all you can do. I don’t know what they are going to do.”

Walker made his second All-Star appearance this season while averaging 22.1 points and 5.6 assists in 80 games. However, the Hornets are about $17MM over the salary cap for next season and have missed the playoffs the past two years.

There’s more tonight out of Charlotte:

  • The hiring of president and GM Mitch Kupchak and the firing of coach Steve Clifford made headlines this week, but the Hornets are going through a complete overhaul throughout the organization. Most of the training staff and analytics department were dismissed along with Clifford, tweets Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. Clifford’s assistants have been retained for now, but they will eventually be replaced (Twitter link).
  • The house cleaning extended to the G League affiliate, where head coach Noel Gillespie will not have his contract extended, the Hornets announced on their website. He compiled a 35-65 record in two seasons with the Greensboro Swarm.
  • Dwight Howard‘s track record under Clifford was an important factor in the decision to trade for him last summer, but Clifford’s departure doesn’t mean Howard will definitely be moved, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. The biggest factor for Kupchak in a potential Howard deal, Bonnell observes, is what the team would have to accept in return to match Howard’s $23.8MM salary for next season. Howard put up his best numbers in several years, averaging 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
  • Rookie guard Malik Monk has a lot of work to do this offseason after being limited last summer by a sprained ankle, Bonnell adds in the same story. He states that Monk could be in line for a starting spot if the Hornets decide to trade Walker or Nicolas Batum.

New Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak Talks Rebuilding, Kemba, Analytics, Draft

The Hornets appear to be stuck in the NBA’s no-man’s land—too good to get a top lottery pick, yet not good enough to make a real dent in the conference’s playoff race. However, despite the status, new GM Mitch Kupchak isn’t ready to undergo a full rebuild, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer relays.

“I don’t know the ins and outs much. I don’t know if that is the right word or not. To sit here and say this is a team that needs to be rebuilt, I don’t know if that’s fair,” Kupchak said at today’s introductory press conference.

The GM added he hasn’t made a decision yet on the status of coach Steve Clifford and that he doesn’t feel pressure to trade Kemba Walker.

“I don’t think [his distaste for losing is] something to overreact to. I want a player who doesn’t want to lose. That’s a good thing. I’m aware of [Walker’s comments]. Over the next several days, I will have player interviews. My understanding is he has another year under contract. It’s clearly a very favorable contract [for the team, at $12MM], but he’s going to be just fine going forward. I’m very aware of his talent. From what I hear, he’s great in the locker room and great in the community. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want that going forward.”

Kupchak talked about his approach to analytics, telling the media that if all others things are equal in evaluating a player, he’s trusting his instincts over the numbers.

“Gut instinct has been a big part of talent evaluation: watching the player, watching the player walking to the bench, how he interacts with the coach. Scouting games in person. Those things are the biggest,” he said. “Over the last 15 years, with the introduction of cameras on top of each building basically like GPS, it’s created a whole new form of data. That creates so much data every night; data uploaded every night and you have to have people to evaluate that data. That’s how the business has really changed.

“Every GM is different [as far as] confirming your instincts as a GM. If it ever was a tie I’d always go to my instincts. Might be 70-30 or 60-40.”

Charlotte is currently slotted to pick 11th in the upcoming draft, as our Reverse Standings indicate. In picking that far down the lottery, Kupchak believes the obvious strategy is simply taking the best available player.

“If we’re picking around 10 or 11, you would almost always go with the best player. If it was close, you might go with position. But you can always trade players if you have duplication,” he said.

Community Shootaround: Kemba Walker’s Future

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?

Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!