The Story: The Charlotte Hornets are reportedly putting star point guard Kemba Walker on the trade block a few weeks prior to the deadline. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Hornets are open to attaching Walker to a larger trade in which they would be able to get rid of some of their less desirable contracts (cough, cough, Dwight Howard and Nic Batum).
The Importance: Though Walker isn’t an All-NBA caliber guard, he is the Hornets’ best player. He’s averaging 21.7 points and nearly 5.8 assists per contest, and though his shooting from the field has decreased from 44 percent to 42 and his 3-point percentage has declined from 40 percent to 35 percent, his value to a team with playoff aspirations is clear: He’s a player that can be a difference-maker, especially when he’s not the offensive focal point.The Hornets are 17.6 points better per 100 possessions when he is on the floor than when he’s not. Without Walker, Charlotte would likely be one of the worst teams in the NBA. Which means …
The Takeaway: Charlotte is blowing it up, which, given its current position in the standings, seems like the smart move. The Hornets have been long stuck in the East’s middle class, and getting rid of Walker would give a team that never had a chance to compete for a title the opportunity to compete for a top pick. Though Walker, 27, isn’t in the upper echelon of point guards, at $12 million a year through the 2018–19 season, he is heavily underpaid, making him an even more valuable trade piece — even if, emotionally, he might not be ready to leave Charlotte.
Kemba Walker: "I would definitely be devastated if I was to get traded."— Dan Feldman (@DanFeldmanNBA) January 19, 2018
Charlotte will host the NBA All-Star Game next season. Surely, the team is hoping to have a representative in that contest. But perhaps by that time, they’ll be cheering for somebody more promising than Walker like, say, Marvin Bagley III.