The Kemba-Walker-to-New-York-Knicks trade rumors are recently gaining traction as speculations that the two-time NBA All-Star may have just played his final season with the Charlotte Hornets are being mentioned in the rumor mill. According to Metro USA, the Knicks could offer Frank Ntilikina or Trey Burke plus their 2018 first-round draft pick to the Hornets in exchange for Walker.
Walker, who turns 28 next month, is in the third year of his four-year, $48 million deal with the Hornets and is eligible for a contract extension this summer. There are no indications that Charlotte plans to give him that and so the 2017 NBA Sportsmanship Award recipient would end up as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018-2019 season.
This dynamic has led analysts to believe that there is a high probability the Hornets would trade Walker this coming offseason rather than risk losing him for nothing in next year’s free agency period.
The Ringer‘s Kevin O’Connor said that “NBA executives expect Kemba’s name to be floating around the rumor mill again this summer.” Not only is Walker one of the best point guards in the league right now, but he also has a team-friendly contract. Any team that would land him this offseason will own his Bird rights as well, which would be an advantage when it comes to re-signing him in free agency at the end of next season.
Matt Burke of Metro USA reported that the Knicks are planning to create their own Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons combo by pairing Walker to Latvian sensation Kristaps Porzingis. By keeping either Ntilikina or Burke on the roster, New York would be forced to utilize two point guards in their starting backcourt, the reporter said.
Burke also said that Charlotte is rumored to be targeting a point guard, Alabama’s Collin Sexton, with their No. 11 pick in the upcoming draft this June. He continued that it was a clear sign that the Hornets are looking to rebuild and that Walker is the team’s biggest trade asset to jumpstart that overhaul.
Walker has recently become the Hornets all-time leading scorer with almost 10,000 points under his name. He finished the regular season with numbers of 22.1 points, 5.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 34.2 minutes a night, the third straight year he averaged more than 20 points per game for Charlotte.
The Hornets failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second straight year this season. In his so far seven-year career, all in Charlotte, Walker has only played twice in the postseason, one in 2014 and the other in 2016. He has a combined average of 21.5 points, 4.7 assists, 3.3 boards, and 1.5 steals in 37.5 minutes per game in those two years.