NBA Rumors: Celtics, Suddenly, Are Kemba Walker Favorites

Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets attempts a shot.
Patrick Smith / Getty Images

Kemba Walker is expected to be one of the top NBA free agents available this offseason, once the free agent signing period opens on Sunday. For most of the last year, it’s been assumed that Walker would remain with his current team, the Charlotte Hornets, going forward, with Walker even saying in interviews that he would like to say.

But on Thursday, multiple reports emerged that the Hornets are no longer the frontrunner for Walker. The Boston Celtics “have emerged as the frontrunner” for Walker, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted Thursday morning, citing “league sources.”

Another top NBA reporter, Shams Charania, reported on Twitter that Walker and the Hornets “have sizable gaps and stalemate in talks so far,” which has opened the door for Walker to consider other teams in free agency.

The Hornets can offer Walker more money than any other team, but the Charania report indicates that Charlotte is offering less than the max for their star guard, who had the best year of his career last season.

The Celtics had not been considered a player for major free agents this offseason, but that changed following the announcement earlier this month that Celtics big man Al Horford was opting out and would likely leave left a surprising amount of cap space for Boston. There’s also the assumption that unrestricted free agent Kyrie Irving and restricted free agent Terry Rozier might both leave.

Per The Inquisitr, reporter Marc Stein of The New York Times reported earlier this week that the Celtics were planning to pursue Walker, and that Boston was “emerging as a stealth suitor.”

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Walker has also been mentioned as a possibility for the Los Angeles Lakers, where he could play guard alongside Lebron James and Anthony Davis. But the Lakers, once the Davis trade with New Orleans is completed, will not have as much salary cap space as some other teams.

“That all factors in (to my decision) when I sit down with the teams and hear what guys have to say,” Walker said of his upcoming free agency process in an NBA.com interview earlier this month. “I think that will all come into play. I’m not really sure right now. Like I said Charlotte is my first priority and I have to see what (the Hornets) have to offer, as well as other teams.”

Even if Walker leaves, the Hornets won’t get cap relief. In fact, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks on Twitter, Charlotte “would still be operating as a team over the cap” in the event that Walker signs with another team.