CHARLOTTE — If there was any doubt that Kemba Walker deserves a max contract from the Charlotte Hornets, he eliminated any traces Saturday night. More importantly, if the Charlotte Hornets are hoping to be a playoff contender within the next five years then Walker needs to be on the roster.
Walker exploded for an NBA-season high 60 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, shooting an ultra efficient 61.7 percent from the field including a 6-of-14 night from three-point range. The only blemish on the night: a team high nine turnovers.
Walker’s impending free agency is not only a topic around the Charlotte but in NBA circles as well. With Kyrie Irving declaring that he’s most likely staying in Boston, Klay Thompson doing the same with Golden State, and everything going swimmingly in Toronto for Kawhi Leonard, Walker might end up behind Kevin Durant as the second best free agent that will actually be available next season.
This provides an interesting conundrum for the Hornets should they continue to hover around .500 for the rest of the season. Do the Hornets trade Walker, the most decorated Charlotte Hornet ever? Or do they go all-in with Walker, and even if they fail to reach the playoffs still offer the five-year max and dare him to say no to financial security?
After Saturday night, Walker made the latter the only option. Trading Kemba would set back NBA basketball in Charlotte, as trading or allowing players to leave in free agency has been a tradition for the Hornets. Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Glen Rice, Baron Davis, Kendall Gill all left in free agency before their prime. Adding Walker to this list would cripple the franchise in more ways than one.
Walker’s departure would short circuit the fragile trust this city has with the team, as the team has finished with the same amount of wins two years straight. Giving Charlotte it’s first ever-present NBA star would be a great way to build faith back into the team while at the same time giving the fans hope that change is in fact on the way.