Kemba Walker

Southeast Notes: Riley, Heat Outlook, Bryant, Hornets

Heat president Pat Riley felt it was time to invest in his own roster after he failed to sign top-level free agents in recent years, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. “Once we didn’t land Kevin Durant or didn’t land Gordon Hayward, then it was time to sort of move on from searching for room and at the same time holding your other players hostage,” Riley said. “To move into a two- or three-year window with young players that we drafted and others who we thought were on-the-brink-to-make-it veterans that hadn’t made it somewhere else. What we came up with and what we found out is that we have a very, very competitive team.”

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • Riley made moves during the trade deadline to get rid of the glut of guards and wing players on the roster. He also waived Rodney McGruder right before the end of the regular season to dodge the luxury tax. He feels the roster is much more balanced now heading into the summer. “I think we have built a base. … We have our draft choices,” he said. “The possibilities of room are right around the road. Don’t be making any kind of conclusions about next year in that we’re stuck with certain contracts or whatever it is you think we can’t get out of. That would be foolish thinking on your part.”
  • Center Thomas Bryant will be a restricted free agent if the Wizards extend a qualifying offer of $3MM and he intends to re-sign, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “They gave me an opportunity to play,” said Bryant, who inherited the starting job with Dwight Howard playing only nine games. “Why would I want to leave?” Retaining Bryant is high on the current front office’s priority list but the GM who replaces fired Ernie Grunfeld might not feel the same way, Hughes points out. League provisions could also come into play if Bryant signs an offer sheet. The Wizards hold his Early Bird rights but salary-cap concerns would grow if Bryant signs a back-loaded contract.
  • If the Hornets move up in the lottery and snag a top-three pick, GM Mitch Kupchak would likely listen to trade offers, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer opines in his latest mailbag. However, that would only make sense if Kupchak was confident that bringing in an impact veteran would secure a commitment from Kemba Walker. Otherwise, the Hornets would be in a rebuild mode, and a rookie with star potential would be more valuable to them.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Walker, Hornets

The Heat missed the playoffs for the third time in the past five years this spring, heading into the offseason with more questions about their roster than answers.

The steady decline in playing time for Hassan Whiteside, potential position change for Justise Winslow and important draft in June are among Miami’s biggest factors to address, and that’s without including Goran Dragic‘s player option decision or Dion Waiters‘ major weight loss goal.

“I would like to continue to grow within that point guard role [next season], but I don’t want the narrative to be between me and Goran, us fighting for that position,” Winslow said, as relayed by David Furones of the Sun Sentinel.

Winslow started at point guard with Dragic sidelined for part of the season, then failed to find a defined role upon his return.

“We’re both unselfish guys, and I’ve learned so much from him. If James Harden and Chris Paul can play together, then I think me and Goran can play together.”

Miami has a strong coaching staff and front office regime capable of turning the ship around, but the absence of future Hall-of-Famer Dwyane Wade will surely leave a void. The team will look to regroup in the offseason with hopes of contending for the playoffs next year.

“The time without him was different, but I think we showed ourselves that we’re capable,” Heat guard Josh Richardson said of Wade. “We’re all wiser, better basketball players, so I’m excited to see how this summer and everything plays out.”

There’s more today from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat could benefit from waiting one year before striking in free agency, Ira Winderman writes in his mailbag for the Sun Sentinel. Aside from lacking cap space (unless Whiteside and Dragic opt out), Miami could use next season to further develop the likes of Richardson, Winslow, Bam Adebayo and Derrick Jones Jr. before placing a major focus on the open market.
  • Frank Urbina of HoopsHype examines the potential landing spots for Hornets guard Kemba Walker, who’s set to enter unrestricted free agency in July. Along with the Hornets, Walker has been linked to the Knicks, Mavericks and Pacers throughout the season. “I have no feeling right now, I don’t know,” Walker said of his impending decision, according to ESPN. “Honestly, I don’t know what to expect. I guess it’s a lot of different emotions bottled up into one. I’m not sure. I don’t know.”
  • The Hornets must show Walker how they’re going to win next season and beyond if they hope to re-sign him this summer, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. “I want to win; I want to win,” Walker said during his player interviews. When asked what the Hornets need to do in order to keep him, Walker replied, “They know,” according to Bonnell.

Southeast Rumors: Hornets’ Plans, Walker, Ferry, Skyhawks

Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak said the team will not be a major player in the free agent market, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer tweets. With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and Marvin Williams holding player options on their contracts for next season totaling $45MM, the Hornets likely won’t have much cap space to utilize. Upgrades will be sought mainly through trades, according to an Associated Press report. Kupchak’s main goal this offseason is to re-sign unrestricted free agent Kemba Walker. “I think this is a place that he wants to be and we’ll do everything that we can to bring him back here,” Kupchak said.

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • The Charlotte Observer editorial board took the unusual step of urging the franchise to let Walker seek greener pastures. Opining that “a special player should get the opportunity to find something truly special someplace else,” the board believes it may be in the franchise’s best interest to start over, go into tank mode and gain the financial flexibility required to bring the city a winning team.
  • Danny Ferry, who pulled himself out of consideration to run the Pelicans’ front office, is very interested in the Wizards’ top front office job, Gery Woelfel of Woelfelspressbox hears (Twitter link). Ferry served as the interim GM with New Orleans after Dell Demps was fired just after the February trade deadline. Washington fired longtime president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld last week.
  • Dan Dial has been named president of the Hawks’ newly-relocated G League team, the College Park Skyhawks, according to a team press release. Dial spent the last seven years as president of baseball’s River City Rascals in the Frontier League. The G League team was previously called the BayHawks and located in Erie, Pa.

Hornets Notes: Parker, Kemba, Lamb, Kaminsky, MKG

Speaking today to reporters, including Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link), veteran point guard Tony Parker said he’s 50-50 on playing for the Hornets next season. Parker would like to return, but only if he can play on a competitive team.

“I don’t want to play on a rebuilding team,” Parker said (Twitter link). “I want to play for a team that’s fighting to make the playoffs at least.”

The contract Parker signed with the Hornets during the 2018 offseason is a two-year deal, but next year’s $5.25MM salary won’t become guaranteed until July 4, per Basketball Insiders. In other words, even if Parker – who will turn 37 next month – decides he wants to stick around, that interest will need to be mutual.

However, the former Spur said today that the Hornets want him to come back, tweets Bonnell. Parker also admitted that the opportunity to play a regular-season game in Paris is an incentive to return.

As we wait to see what happens with Parker, here are several more Hornets-related notes:

  • As Bonnell relays for The Observer, Kemba Walker said after the Hornets’ regular-season finale on Wednesday that he’s unsure whether he expects to remain in Charlotte long-term. Walker did reiterate today that “this is where I want to be” (video link via Rod Boone of The Athletic), but also said that winning will absolutely be his number one priority (Twitter link via Bonnell).
  • Asked if the Hornets have done enough to convince him they’re serious about winning, Kemba said that’s still in action, according to Bonnell.
  • Walker isn’t the only key Hornet with an uncertain future. As Brendan Marks of The Charlotte Observer details, it’ll be a big summer for veterans like Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky as well.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has a $13MM player option for 2019/20, said today that he hasn’t thought much yet about his decision, per Bonnell (Twitter link). He did say that “happiness” – rather than money – is his main concern going forward, though it’d still be a surprise if he opts out.
  • As we explained earlier today, a random drawing on Friday will go a long way toward deciding where the Hornets will pick in the first round of this year’s draft.
  • Marvin Williams said today that he plans to opt into the final year of his contract. Here’s the full story.

Southeast Notes: Connelly, Walker, Lamb, Briscoe

Asked about the possibility that he might leave to run the Wizards‘ front office, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly passed on the chance to issue a denial, relays Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Washington has reportedly targeted Connelly as its top candidate after firing Ernie Grunfeld this week.

“To be honest with you, I was hoping not to have to answer that question on a night when we win the Northwest Division,” Connelly responded Friday as the team celebrated its title.

Connelly grew up in Baltimore and had his first NBA job as an intern with the Wizards. He signed an extension with the Nuggets in February, but Kiszla notes that the organization doesn’t have a history of paying executives especially well, which led to the departure of Masai Ujiri in 2013. Kiszla suggests that Josh Kroenke, vice chairman of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, should refuse any request from the Wizards to interview Connelly.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • With the Hornets as a long shot to reach the playoffs, Shane Rhodes of Basketball Insiders examines some situations that might be better for free agent guard Kemba Walker. Rhodes states that the Suns are intriguing with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton already in place and a high lottery pick about to join them. Rhodes names the Bulls, Knicks, Lakers and Mavericks as other possibilities.
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer examines whether the Hornets can afford to bring back Jeremy Lamb if they re-sign Walker. Lamb has established himself as a legitimate scorer and another crunch-time option, but the team would be well into luxury tax territory if it brings back both free agents. Bonnell speculates that it will probably take a max offer to keep Walker ($190MM over five seasons or up to $221MM if he makes an All-NBA team and qualifies for a super-max contract), plus something in the range of $10-$13MM annually for Lamb.
  • The Magic are interested in working out a new deal with Isaiah Briscoe this summer, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. Briscoe, who is sidelined by a torn meniscus, was waived this week to open a roster spot for Michael Carter-Williams. He cleared waivers yesterday and is an unrestricted free agent.

Poll: Will Kemba Walker Re-Sign With Hornets?

When longtime Hornets beat reporter Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer addressed Kemba Walker‘s contract situation in a column this past Sunday, his piece opened with a compelling lede.

“I no longer think it’s likely Kemba Walker re-signs with the Charlotte Hornets,” Bonnell wrote. “More importantly, I no longer can give you a strong argument why he should.”

Walker has had another terrific season in Charlotte, averaging a career-high 25.0 PPG to go along with 5.7 APG, 4.3 RPG, and 1.3 SPG. On a team that features no clear second-best player, Kemba earned All-Star honors for a third straight year and has single-handedly kept Charlotte in the playoff race.

Walker has also repeatedly expressed a desire to remain in Charlotte, despite the fact that the team hasn’t won a playoff series since he arrived in 2011. The Hornets have reciprocated that interest — after briefly gauging the trade market for the star point guard prior to the 2018 trade deadline, the team replaced GM Rich Cho with Mitch Kupchak, who has maintained since his hiring that he wants to retain Walker going forward.

Still, with the Hornets’ playoff hopes fading fast and unrestricted free agency right around the corner, Walker definitely can’t be considered a lock to stay, Bonnell writes. While Charlotte could offer him more years and dollars than any rival suitor, doing so would make it that much harder to build a contender around him in the coming years, as Bonnell observes. And Kemba, who turns 29 in May, figures to be seeking an opportunity to contend as he decides where he wants to spend his next few years.

A looming All-NBA decision could have an impact on the summer negotiations between Walker and the Hornets. If he earns an All-NBA spot, the former UConn standout would be eligible for a five-year deal that starts at up to 35% of the cap, rather than 30%. The difference would work out to a projected $31MM+ over those five years. Would the Hornets put that offer on the table if they’re able to? Would it sway Walker’s decision? It’s hard to say at this point, but it’s a factor worth considering.

If Walker seriously considers other teams, there should be no shortage of outside options for him. The Knicks and Mavericks are among the clubs that have been most frequently cited as possible suitors, but there will be many more teams with the ability to open maximum-salary cap room. And there are just as many teams that could use a guard with Walker’s scoring, shooting, and play-making abilities.

What do you think? Will Walker ultimately decide to stick with the Hornets after another disappointing season in Charlotte? Or do you expect the three-time All-Star to move on and sign with a new team this summer?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your two cents on Walker’s future.

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

How All-NBA Choices Could Impact Contract Situations

Last month, we outlined how the Anthony Davis saga in New Orleans could significantly impact what Karl-Anthony Towns next contract looks like.

Towns’ new extension, signed last fall, will start at 30% of the cap if he earns All-NBA honors in 2019, as opposed to 25% of the cap if he misses out on an All-NBA slot. With Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid expected to claim two All-NBA center spots, Towns is in position to grab the third, in part due to Davis’ trade request — not only will AD’s role in the Pelicans’ dysfunction be considered, but he’s playing limited minutes down the stretch while Towns puts up some of the best numbers of his career.

Assuming Towns does earn an All-NBA nod, it’ll be a $30MM+ decision by award voters, bumping the projected value of his five-year deal from about $158MM to nearly $190MM. However, KAT isn’t the only player who could have his contract situation significantly impacted by this year’s All-NBA selections.

As Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com and Andrew Sharp of SI.com have detailed this week, there’s a lot at stake for a handful of players who are candidates for this year’s All-NBA teams. Let’s break it down, taking a closer look at some players who could become eligible for a super-max contract this year…

The All-NBA locks:

While there’s some debate over which six guards will get All-NBA nods, Lillard looks like a slam dunk for a spot on the first or second team — Lillard, Stephen Curry and James Harden appear to be the strongest candidates for the two guard spots on that first team.

Assuming he does, in fact, earn All-NBA honors, Lillard will become eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension. His current contract runs through 2020/21, with no options, so he’d be eligible to tack on four extra years to that deal, starting in 2021/22.

For now, i’s impossible to say exactly what the NBA’s salary cap will be in 2021/22, but based on projections for ’19/20 ($109MM) and ’20/21 ($118MM), we can safely assume a max deal for Lillard starting in ’21/22 will be worth a lot more than it would be now. Conservatively, estimating a $120MM cap, Lillard’s super-max extension would start at $42MM and would be worth $188MM+ over four years.

With Lillard in position to gain eligibility for a super-max extension, the big question in Portland this summer could be whether the Trail Blazers will actually put that offer on the table. There have been no indications that either Lillard or the Blazers wants to end their union, but the club might be wary of offering such a massive deal to a player who will be 31 years old when the four-year deal begins — that decision hasn’t worked out well for the Wizards with John Wall.

As for Antetokounmpo, he’s on track to become eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension too, and that decision figures to be a much easier one for the Bucks. However, Milwaukee won’t be able to actually put that super-max offer on the table until the 2020 offseason, once Giannis has seven years of NBA experience under his belt.

The All-NBA guard contenders:

Read more

Mavs Expected To Make Big Push For Kemba Walker

The Mavericks are the biggest threat to the Hornets for unrestricted free agent Kemba Walker, longtime Hornets beat writer Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer reports.

Bonnell cites two knowledgeable sources who indicate the Mavs will make the high-scoring point guard their top free agent target. Dallas could plug Walker into its backcourt to create a formidable trio alongside rookie sensation Luka Doncic and recently-acquired big man Kristaps Porzingis. Dallas has ample cap space to offer the max a new team can give a free agent, a four-year deal worth approximately $140.6MM.

Walker is averaging a career-high 24.9 PPG and 5.8 APG in his walk year. Charlotte can offer him a five-year deal worth up to around $189.7MM, but the franchise’s inability to build a quality team around him may convince Walker to seek greener pastures. That five-year, maximum-salary figure could rise to $221MM if Walker is named to the All-NBA team, Bonnell notes.

[RELATED: Maximum Salary Projections For 2019/20]

The Knicks, Lakers and Pacers are some of the other teams expected to contend for Walker’s services, Bonnell adds.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Olynyk, Beal, Walker

Trading Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson has led to a more coherent rotation for the Heat and the players appreciate that stability, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. The team was overloaded at the guard and small forward positions before the logjam was broken. “It’s calming knowing you’re going to play X amount of minutes every night,” Josh Richardson said. “We love those guys [but] before, it was different. Now the guard rotation is thinned a little bit so we can play through stuff a little more now instead of it being the other way around.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Heat big man Kelly Olynyk will likely lose the $1MM bonus in his contract because he’s not on pace to reach 1,700 minutes. However, Olynyk is not fretting over it, according to Jackson. “It’s not something you can control,” Olynyk said.
  • Wizards guard Bradley Beal took some time during All-Star weekend to do some recruiting, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. Beal wouldn’t name the players he spoke with because he wanted to avoid any league discipline. “The recruiting process is really going alright. It’s going alright. I’m trying,” Beal said. “This is new for me. I’m definitely getting some ears and seeing what guys are looking for.”
  • Beal declared he would never demand a trade from the Wizards despite injuries and deals that have changed the outlook of a once promising season, Hughes writes in a separate story. “I always feel like if I requested a trade, and I didn’t get traded, there’s no way in hell I’m gonna be able to go and play with my teammates who know I don’t want to be here. That’s mind-boggling to me,” he told Hughes.
  • Kemba Walker dropped a hint during All-Star weekend that he’ll stay in Charlotte if the money’s right, according to Shaun Powell of NBA.com. The Hornets point guard, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, says the thought of playing in the same place throughout his career holds a lot of appeal to him. “There’s something to be said for being on a team for your whole career,” he said. “Not many players have done that. Only a select few. That’s a goal to accomplish.”

Southeast Notes: Walker, Dragic, Fultz, Bryant

It’s not a guarantee that he’ll stay with the Hornets, but Kemba Walker is serving as Charlotte’s unofficial host for All-Star Weekend, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “Welcome everyone to my city!” Walker tweeted today as a greeting to the thousands of visitors headed to Charlotte for three days of festivities.

“This city has embraced me so much over the years,” Walker said. “Allowed me to be who I am. Allowed me to play through my mistakes early in my career, to become the player I am today. The fans have just been top notch, and I respect that because we haven’t been a top organization, haven’t gone to the playoffs every year. … Through that, they still embrace us, still embrace me. You have to respect that.”

Walker, who holds nearly every franchise scoring record, will be one of the hottest names on this year’s free agent market. A three-time All-Star, he is in the middle of his most productive season, averaging career highs with 25.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists per night. Despite Walker’s affection for Charlotte, Bonnell states that it’s hard to predict what will happen this summer.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Heat guard Goran Dragic is “making a lot of progress” after having knee surgery in December, but coach Erik Spoelstra tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald there’s still no timetable for his return. Miami has been expecting him to be ready soon after the All-Star break. In the same story, Spoelstra says Ryan Anderson, who has only played two minutes since being acquired from the Suns, is ready for a larger role if needed.
  • Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, both top six selections in the 2017 draft, have a chance to prove themselves with the Magic after battling injuries early in their careers, notes Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando’s front office believes Fultz, who was acquired from the Sixers last week, can become a standout point guard because of his strength, explosiveness, court vision and playmaking.
  • Wizards center Thomas Bryant reached starter criteria this week by starting his 41st game of the season, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The qualifying offer for the upcoming free agent has been increased to $3MM and Washington’s cap hold has been raised as well. Dwight Howard was supposed to be the starting center after signing with the Wizards last summer, but Bryant seized the opportunity when Howard was injured.