The Charlotte Hornets have suddenly become the center of recent trade rumors as reports went out that the team had made starting point guard Kemba Walker available for interested teams.
Walker, 27, has been one of the top point guards in the Eastern Conference for the past few years. The seven-year veteran was drafted ninth overall by Charlotte during the 2011 NBA Draft and has been with the franchise ever since.
Last season, Walker averaged a career-high 23.2 points along with 5.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game. At the same time, he also shot career-highs in overall shooting percentages with 44.3 percent, 39.9 percent, and 84.7 percent from the field, three-point range, and charity stripe respectively.
This season, Walker is averaging 21.7 points, 5.8 assists, 3.4 boards, and 1.2 steals in 34.6 minutes a night for the Hornets. He continues to be the team’s leading man despite the arrival of eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard via a trade with the Atlanta Hawks last summer.
The Hornets are rumored to be planning to rebuild after several failures to reach the playoffs in recent years. The club has only advanced to the postseason three times in the last 13 years, with their most recent appearance in 2016, losing to the Miami Heat in the first round, 4-3. It was the second time Walker led the Hornets to the playoffs as he helped the team advance in 2014, also losing to Miami in the opening round via a 4-0 sweep.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Charlotte’s plan to trade Walker, saying that the Hornets are forced to make their All-Star point guard available in the trade market because the team is “overloaded with bad contracts and untradeable assets.”
There are a number of squads linked to Walker right now, including the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, and New Orleans Pelicans. However, the Detroit Pistons appears to have the upper hand at the moment, according to the Detroit Free Press‘ Vince Ellis.
Ellis reported that the Pistons are “indeed interested in Walker,” citing a source that said the team would “certainly look at it (Walker trade)” before the NBA’s trade deadline on February 8.
Ellis said that Walker would likely command a package that includes Pistons starting point guard Reggie Jackson, a young player such as Luke Kennard or Stanley Johnson, and a future first-round draft pick in return. He noted that Charlotte might also include Howard or Nicolas Batum in the deal to unload salaries, but Detroit is expected to turn it down except if the transaction goes a three-team route.
Jackson is currently out with a Grade 3 right ankle sprain and has yet to have a timetable for a potential return.