Four-time All-Star guard Kemba Walker is no longer the player he used to be. Injuries and age have caught up to the former top-10 pick of the then-Charlotte Bobcats.
This doesn’t mean the 32-year-old Walker can’t be a contributor for a contending team. He’s still averaging 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 36% shooting from distance over the past two seasons.
Walker was just acquired by the Detroit Pistons in a three-team trade during last week’s NBA Draft and is working on a buyout with his new team. Here, we look at three ideal Walker landing spots in free agency this summer.
Kemba Walker returns to the Charlotte Hornets
Wouldn’t it be something if Walker returned to an organization that he starred for during an eight-year span to open his career? From 2015-19, he was legitimately one of the best point guards in the NBA while acting as the Hornets’ franchise cornerstone.
This time around, Walker would act as LaMelo Ball’s backup and the Hornets’ first guard off the bench. He could also back up Terry Rozier at the off-guard spot. Having played for “new” Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford in the past, this would be a seamless transition.
Golden State Warriors sign Kemba Walker
Depth wasn’t necessarily a concern for the defending champion Warriors in the frontcourt last season. However, they were forced to rely on some less-than-quality point guards in the backcourt when Stephen Curry either needed a rest or missed time to injury. If Golden State hopes to repeat as champions, it can’t have that in 2022-23.
Rising star Jordan Poole can play point in a pinch, but he’s seen more as a two-guard. The Warriors non-tendered veteran journeyman Chris Chiozza and could very well move on from Damion Lee. Even in his current form, Kemba Walker would be an upgrade over both. A second unit consisting of Poole and Walker in the backcourt would provide the scoring punch Golden State needs off the bench.
The only question here is whether Golden State would go into its $6.48 million taxpayer mid-level exception or ask Walker to take the veteran minimum. Using the midlevel would cost Warriors’ ownership nearly $38 million in cold hard cash. Walker obviously isn’t worth that in a vacuum.
Kemba Walker to the Los Angeles Lakers
These are the type of players Los Angeles will go after in free agency. Without cap room to spend and boasting the $6.48 million taxpayer mid-level, figuring out a way to add depth has to be a major priority for the Lakers after a disastrous 49-loss season.
Perhaps, Los Angeles looks to split that mid-level between two players. If so, Walker would make perfect sense behind the struggling Russell Westbrook at the point. He could also play the two in the same backcourt with Russ given the Lakers’ issues at that position.
- Kemba Walker stats (2021-22): 11.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 40% shooting, 37% 3-point
Even last year’s watered-down version of Walker in New York would act as a major upgrade out on the perimeter in Southern California. In fact, he shot better than LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook from three-point range in 2021-22. This just tells us how much spacing was one of the major issues for a struggling Lakers team last season. This seems to be an ideal fit for both sides.