The wait for the NBA free agency period is almost over and Charlotte Hornets All-Star guard Kemba Walker is mulling his options.
The Hornets franchise scoring leader spoke at a youth basketball appearance Thursday about his leanings in free agency, where he must juggle qualifying for a supermax contract with wanting to win a title.
Hornets are Walker’s ‘first priority’
Walker said he will be meeting with other teams and he’s not guaranteeing he’ll land in Charlotte. He said he’d love to stay and it’s his “first priority” to work something out with them.
“How can they not be?’ Walker said about calling the Hornets his first priority. “I don’t understand how they can not be my first priority. I’ve been here eight years. They were the team that drafted me.”
The Hornets can offer up a supermax contract up to $221 million over five years, more than the $140 million over four years other teams can offer under NBA rules. It’s nearly $10 million more a season before taxes and Walker became eligible with a third-team all-NBA nod.
The Hornets don’t have much room to work within the 2019-20 luxury-tax threshold and no lemonade stand is going to fix that. The salary cap for next season is reported to be $109 million with a $132 million luxury-tax cap. The team has $102.6 million on the books for ’19-20 but half of that drops off the following season.
Why wouldn’t Walker sign with Hornets?
Walker gave a caveat in saying he would take less to sign with the Hornets. The 29-year-old said advancing in the playoffs — a spot he’s only been in twice — is important as he takes the “driver’s seat” in his career.
Walker was asked if he’d consider taking less than the full $221 million guarantee to help the Hornets’ put talent around him.
After a pause, he said, “Yeah, why not. I would be. I would take less, for sure.”
Signing Walker to the full supermax contract would mean an inability to sign anyone else around him to immediately upgrade the roster. He could instead jump to a cap-friendly team with talent awaiting, such as the Los Angeles Lakers with LeBron James. Taking less to stay puts the Hornets in a position to add talent around him and make their star happy with the choice.
Walker averaged 25.6 points last season, another year-over-year increase, with 5.5 assist and 3.8 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb averaged a second-best 15.3 points.
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