Kemba Walker is easily the biggest name on the market as we approach the deadline. Despite Michael Jordan’s recent comments, Walker is certainly available. While the Charlotte Hornets aren’t actively shopping the All-Star point guard, they are taking calls from any team interested. Unless this is a stunt by the front office to make a stupid point to the franchise’s star player, all while pissing him off and making him question his team’s loyalty—I’m looking at you, Phil Jackson—Kemba Walker might be wearing a different jersey soon.
The Hoops Inquirer learned on Friday that the Hornets received calls from the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks regarding Kemba Walker. The New York Times later reported that the Milwaukee Bucks were also interested in Walker, following the firing of Jason Kidd.
Kemba Walker will be entering the final year of his contract next year, as the Charlotte Hornets continue to be mediocre at best. There are multiple teams that are both in a better position to win and willing to give Kemba Walker a hefty contract, two stipulations the Hornets are unlikely to meet by the end of next season. Thus, the circumstances will eventually lead the two sides to head their separate ways. The question is a matter of how soon it happens.
Among the first teams to call the Hornets were the New York Knicks. However, any trade that would send the Bronx-born point guard back home remains unlikely at this point. Steve Clifford is enamored by Frank Ntilikina defensively, per a team source. They’re also interested in what Enes Kanter or Willy Hernangomez could bring to the table. However, there are two crucial issues that have prevented these talks from gaining any sort of traction.
Firstly, Walker has one year left on his deal. The worst-case scenario is that Kemba Walker becomes a rental for a season and a half if the Knicks don’t find themselves in a better situation to win than the Hornets currently are. And, it should be noted, the Knicks are currently just a game above the Hornets in the East. Secondly, Michael Jordan wants a good return. Ideally, any deal would include dumping one of their bad contracts, something the Knicks ought to be in no rush to help with given their own bad contracts.
Jordan revealed in an interview with the Charlotte Observer that he wouldn’t trade Walker for anything less than All-Star talent. The issue here is that he’s merely back-tracking. A few days ago, when the noise initially began, Jordan reached out to Walker personally and told him to not worry about the noise. Walker, per a source, prefers to remain in Charlotte and make a decision himself when he enters free agency in 2020. However, Walker's camp wasn't too convinced of Jordan's sentiments, which is likely why Jordan doubled-down by reaching out to the Charlotte Observer himself and going public with his comments.
However, this discussion with Walker happened after the initial calls were made. The reality is that, of the teams that showed interest, none of them could meet Jordan’s demands. Thus, he’s just covering his tracks to salvage the franchise’s reputation with Walker, should the two sides have to deal with each other until 2020.
Any team that deals for Walker will have to face the reality that he might not re-sign with them in 2020, the same reality the Oklahoma City Thunder had to face when they traded for Paul George. The only difference is that the Thunder are a playoff team with enough talent to potentially challenge the Warriors. Paul George will have very few, if any, options that are better than his current situation when he becomes a free agent. Kemba Walker will have plenty.
Andre Drummond, a UConn product like Walker, did reach out to discuss a future in Detroit. The Pistons are actively shopping their assets in an attempt to win now. They currently sit a game out of the 8th seed in the East, largely due to the absence of Reggie Jackson. Any deal would be centered around Stanley Johnson and draft compensation, although no talks have gained traction between the two sides.
The Bucks are a team to keep an eye on, as they have heavily pursued a star point guard for quite a while now. They desperately need a guard that can space the floor and alleviate the scoring duties that are currently on the shoulders of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But again, any deal would be dependent on Walker’s likelihood of re-signing in 2020 and the kind of package Jordan would be willing to accept. As of right now, no teams are meeting the expectations of the latter, so Jordan is backtracking. However, the right package from a team willing to gamble on Walker’s future will certainly feature the All-Star point guard in a new jersey. Kemba Walker wants to win. Jordan wants to dump bad contracts and/or receive an All Star talent. Both might not be capable of happening.