The Charlotte Hornets do not want Kemba Walker’s future to become collateral damage of their organizational pivot. They also recognize they’re traveling a slippery slope with his next deal.
On the heels of owner Michael Jordan deciding not to renew the contract of general manage Rich Cho, along with a report that stated he’s targeting former Los Angeles Lakers GM Rich Cho as a replacement, the Hornets addressed their commitment to their All-Star point guard. Here’s what the team’s vice chairman, Curtis Polk, told reporters, per the Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell:
Polk said it’s a “concern” Walker will likely have to reach unrestricted free-agency before he could be re-signed, but that’s a function of the rules.
“We love Kemba Walker,” Polk said. “We would like nothing more than for Kemba to end his career here.”
These sentiments fall short of an actual stance. Of course the Hornets would like to have Walker end his career in Charlotte. He’s really ridiculously good. But the prospect of his looming free agency, in 2019, likely prevents them from keeping him beyond next year.
Hold onto him, and the Hornets will have to shell out max or near-max money for an undersized point guard nearing his 30th birthday. And they’ll need to do so while Marvin Williams, Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are all still on the books. That’s a precarious situation in which to be.
And this assumes Walker even wants to return. He’ll have an array of suitors in 2019, many of which will be offering more direct paths to playoff success than a Hornets squad that, as of now, appears to be nearing a rebuild.
Given all this, we should expect Walker to be among the most popular trade targets of the summer. He’s owed just $12 million next season, making him especially appealing to outside buyers, and he’s also the Hornets’ ticket to lopping off some of their other less savory contracts.