With none of the top prospective free agents in the 2019 offseason looking like favorites to end up with the Los Angeles Lakers — and the chances of a successful trade for Anthony Davis still up in the air, and possibly slim — a new report suggests that Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker could be a worthwhile target for the Lakers as a “Plan B,” if the so-called “Plan A” doesn’t yield any results.
While Forbes‘ Gabe Zaldivar wrote on Tuesday that the Lakers should “continue their fantasy” of signing someone like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Kyrie Irving in free agency this summer, it was also noted that the team may likely need a “realistic” backup plan as they hope to make the right roster moves to end a six-year playoff drought. Shifting his attention to Walker, Zaldivar pointed out that the Hornets guard is one of the better “secondary superstars” that the Lakers could target in the offseason, especially since Charlotte fell just two games short of making the 2019 NBA playoffs.
As the Hornets will have to choose between potentially overpaying by signing Kemba Walker to a maximum or super-max contract, or letting him walk away from the team this summer, other teams — the Lakers included — might be willing to pay a “tier-one” price for a player merely capable of “tier-two” production, Zaldivar speculated. The Forbes columnist added that the odds of the Lakers trading for Anthony Davis are looking “grim,” something which could make Walker the ideal player to move to Los Angeles. Walker could serve as a productive scorer who might relieve some of the offensive pressure on last summer’s top acquisition, four-time MVP LeBron James.
“There’s no risk for the Lakers in overpaying for someone like Walker when he is the only game in town. That’s if, and it’s a big if, the Lakers can convince him of some key elements,” Zaldivar wrote.
Talking about the potential selling points the Lakers could emphasize if they want to land Walker, Zaldivar opined that the team should convince the 28-year-old point guard that their promising youngsters — Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball — will stay healthy and continue to improve. He added that the maturation of these three players would represent the “best shot” the Lakers have at contending for a championship, with Walker serving as the “perfect bridge” from the current era to “whatever happens next.”
Forbes‘ Zaldivar isn’t the only NBA writer to bring up Kemba Walker’s name as a potential free agent target for the Lakers if they aren’t able to land any top-tier superstars in the offseason. Last month, The Ringer‘s Kevin O’Connor suggested that Walker would be “more likely to leave” the Charlotte Hornets if they miss the playoffs — which they ultimately did — and added that he could be an “option” for the Lakers if he chooses to take his talents elsewhere.
Should the Lakers miss out on Walker — or choose not to sign him — the team could have at least one more alternative option to chase this summer. Last week, Bleacher Report’s Ken Berger cited an unnamed Western Conference executive, one who reportedly told him that injury-prone Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins could be a good “consolation prize” for the Lakers, or the New York Knicks, if either team isn’t able to acquire any of their top offseason targets.