Chuck Burton/Associated Press
Kemba Walker has been on the Charlotte Hornets his entire NBA career since they selected him with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 draft, but he will reportedly have multiple suitors in free agency this offseason.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealed on the network’s mock draft special that the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks are among the teams that will be “very interested” in the Connecticut product should he end up leaving Charlotte as an unrestricted free agent.
Walker may be seen as a consolation prize in a free-agency class that could include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving, among others, but he averaged a career-best 25.6 points, 5.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game in 2018-19.
He is also just 29 years old and should have a number of seasons of prime production remaining.
The three-time All-Star’s contract situation was impacted by the fact he was named All-NBA Third Team for the 2018-19 campaign.
Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated explained the maximum contract other teams can offer him is four years and $140.6 million, but the Hornets can offer up to five years and $221.3 million in a supermax deal. Had he not been named to an All-NBA team, the max offer Charlotte could have given was five years and $189.7 million.
That presents plenty of motivation for Walker to remain in Charlotte should the Hornets elect to re-sign him, but the team has made the postseason just twice in his career and didn’t win a series in either appearance. That is a head-turning amount of cap space to tie up moving into the future from the team’s perspective, and Walker may be interested in joining a more ready-made contender as he becomes a veteran.
Playing alongside LeBron James in Los Angeles or Luka Doncic in Dallas could give him a chance to compete longer into the postseason than he ever has in Charlotte.