Kemba Walker is going to be in high demand as a free agent, and some of the suitors for his services are beginning to emerge.
According to the New York Times, Walker, who has spent all eight seasons of his career with the Charlotte Hornets (and Bobcats), will be targeted by both the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks once free agency opens on June 30. The Charlotte Observer also reported Boston’s interest in Walker on Tuesday.
Walker was selected ninth overall by Charlotte in the 2011 draft and has been a constant for the franchise ever since. He was a steady scorer early in his career and signed a four-year, $48 million extension the during the 2014-15 season. Now, after three consecutive All-Star seasons in which he averaged 23.2, 22.1 and 25.6 points per game, Walker is in line for a massive payday.
And because Walker was named All-NBA Third Team this season, he is eligible for a supermax contract — five years, $221 million — from the Hornets.
Under NBA rules, other teams cannot offer Walker the same astronomical figure that Charlotte can. However, Walker said on the record that he would consider taking less money if it meant the Hornets added pieces around him in an effort to build a legitimate contender.
But would he take significantly less to play for Dallas or Boston?
How would Kemba Walker fit in Boston?
It has been widely reported that the Celtics are preparing to lose All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Al Horford in free agency. That would leave young talents like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, along with Gordon Hayward, as the core of the team.
Walker, a 6-foot-1, score-first point guard, would presumably fit in pretty well in that starting lineup. His presence would take pressure off Tatum and Brown to shoulder the scoring load, especially with Hayward still seemingly on the mend from his serious leg injury.
Signing Walker would be a clear upgrade over Terry Rozier, who is a restricted free agent. Rozier showed a penchant to score in bunches in 2018 when Irving was injured, but faded into the background as a bench option when Irving returned.
Walker, 29, could keep Boston in the mix with Toronto, Philadelphia and Milwaukee among the contenders in the Eastern Conference. Of course, each of those teams has significant free-agency decisions around the corner, too.
How would Kemba Walker fit in Dallas?
The Mavericks are building an interesting young core and would be an intriguing fit for Walker.
The team was led last year by Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic, who averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and six assists per game. Dallas also traded for Kristaps Porzingis, whose tenure with the New York Knicks was full of special play, injuries and off-court controversies.
Still, nobody denies Porzingis’ talents, and the Mavericks will reportedly offer him a five-year, $158 million max contract once free agency opens. Porzingis, who missed all of last year because of an ACL injury, is a restricted free agent who could earn a four-year, $117 million max deal on the open market. Dallas can match any offer he receives from another team.
So with the assumption that Doncic and Porzingis will be in place, Walker’s presence could make Dallas one of the most intriguing teams in the West. But all three players are ball-dominant, so the three would have to adapt on the fly and navigate who touches the ball and when.
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