I’m going to make a few statements right now and I hope the majority of the readers looking at this can agree with me. Kemba Walker is a seriously underrated point guard. He doesn’t receive as much mainstream media attention as he deserves, I don’t know how a guy who’s averaging 25.2 points and 5.8 assists shooting almost 43% from the field per game this season, doesn’t get the respect he deserves. The next statement I’m going to make is that Walker is arguably also one of the best players in the league who hasn’t been voted to an All-NBA team. I don’t know how someone can make three consecutive NBA All-Star appearances and not find themselves in any of the three All-NBA teams.
But guess what? I do know the answer to all of these questions, and one simple answer can answer all of them. Walker is stuck with the Charlotte Hornets, a franchise that has only seen the playoffs twice since the Hornets drafted him, and didn’t get past the first round in either of those years. On the bright side, Walker is in the final year of his contract, and if he’s elected to any of the three All-NBA teams, he will be eligible for a five year supermax deal worth roughly $221 million, if he doesn’t make any of the teams he can receive a deal from the Hornets worth $189.7 million, on the not so bright side both of those deals would come from the Hornets. The highest offer any other NBA team could offer is a four year deal worth roughly $140M. I mean from the perspective of a 17 year old kid, this guy is making a run to the bank either way it plays out, and that’s probably how Walker sees it too.
Walker has more than proven his worth to the Hornets He either leads or is in the top ten in every Hornets career statistical category except offensive rebounds. Walker has given his best years to the Hornets, and now he’s sitting at 29 years old with basically nothing to show for it. Granted some people might say Walker potentially poses an injury risk to the team, undergoing three surgeries on his left knee already, which would be damning for almost any other player, but he’s also played in at least 66 games in every season of his career, so you can’t really list availability as one of his cons.
The next thing I want to address is how Walker has always had good players around him, but not great players, he’s never had a Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook or Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan type of partnership with anybody while he’s been with the Hornets. When the Hornets made the playoffs behind a 48-34 record that helped them grab the sixth seed in the Eastern conference, Walker went into the playoffs averaging a career-high 20.9 points per game.
During the first round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat, Walker put up a team high 22.7 points, and while it was a very impressive performance that helped the Hornets reach game seven, they couldn’t seal the deal. Walker has had effective teammates like Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb through the years, but they aren’t on the level of Walker and aren’t capable of matching or exceeding his offensive output.
Now the Hornets are sitting at 35-42, basically almost statistically eliminated from the playoffs for the third year in a row, and Walker is about to approach the wrong side of 30 years old, and seriously needs to think about how bad he wants to compete for an NBA championship. If Walker wants financial security for the remainder of his career, then the Hornets are who he wants to stick with, he won’t see an NBA Finals appearance, or deep playoff run before his career is done, but he’d definitely be able to walk away from the game with a very good financial situation. He’d be known as a talented player who just never really had the right ingredients around him to win, his career would basically resemble Allen Iverson’s.
However if he really wants to start making his name in the NBA, and see his season extend deep into April and May, his best shot is to test the free agency waters and see what team would be willing to take on his services. He definitely has options too, he could join teams with established superstars such as the Lakers who have LeBron James, or he could be the final piece that up and coming teams such as the 76ers need, to really compete for the conference title every season. With this years upcoming free agency class being one of the deepest we’ve seen for a little while, Walker can make a variety of moves, but he has to make the one that’ll set him up for either financial success or basketball success. The choice is up to him.