The NBA playoffs just got underway, and the competition for top players promises to be just as cutthroat once the offseason starts.
Several big-name players — including Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson — are scheduled to reach free agency. With several teams holding a large amount of cap space, the distribution of those players to different teams has the potential to produce major intrigue.
Another player emerging as a key part of the free agency picture is Kemba Walker, the Charlotte Hornets’ point guard who had a career year this season. The Hornets are known to want to retain Walker, but they’re not the only team interested.
According to The Charlotte Observer, the Dallas Mavericks are seen as the team that’s the biggest threat to poach Walker away from the Hornets.
The report, citing “two sources with knowledge of the Mavericks’ thinking,” says Walker is expected to emerge as Dallas’ top target when free agency begins in July.
The Mavericks, who have enough salary cap space to offer one maximum contract, could match Walker with rookie star Luka Doncic. They might also want to pair him with Kristaps Porzingis, the former New York Knick which the Mavericks acquired via trade. Porzingis is expected to re-sign with the Mavericks after missing this past NBA season.
The Hornets, for whom Walker has played his entire career, are allowed to offer more money than any other team is. They are also allowed the option of adding an additional year to any offers.
The Knicks, Pacers, and Lakers are also seen as possible suitors for Walker this offseason. Hoops Hype, in listing the possibilities, said that the Knicks could land Walker in the event that they “strike out” with higher-profile players — such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
The 28-year-old Walker, who was born in New York, played his college ball at the University of Connecticut, where he won a national championship in 2011. Drafted with the 9th overall pick that year, by the team then known as the Charlotte Bobcats, Walker has improved throughout his career. On November 17, he scored 60 points in an overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The team, however, has mostly underperformed throughout Walker’s tenure, reaching the playoffs only twice — and never winning a playoff series. Walker will likely face a choice between staying in the city where he’s always played, for slightly more money, and a better chance of advancing further in the playoffs elsewhere.