Kemba Walker has never had an All-Star teammate. For someone as established as Walker, that’s unprecedented.
The Hornets nearly paired Walker with a former All-Star, though. Shortly before the trade deadline, they reportedly nearly dealt for Marc Gasol. But talks stalled, and the Grizzlies instead sent Gasol to the Raptors.
Unsurprisingly, that didn’t go over well with Walker, who was trying to lead a playoff push before entering free agency this summer.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
I got the sense in talking to people, that trade deadline really deflated him. When they were pretty close on a Marc Gasol deal, and it fell apart. It didn’t happen. He goes to Toronto. And he looks around and goes, “Come on, what are we trying to do here?”
The reported outline of the Gasol deal: Gasol for Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a protected first-round pick. The hang-up was reportedly on the specifics of the protection.
Which is important!
The Hornets shouldn’t have relinquished too high of a pick for a 34-year-old center just for a likely first-round loss.
Making the playoffs matters. Keeping Walker happy matters. But so does keeping draft picks to build the team going forward. Without knowing the exact line of the protection being haggled, I can’t say whether Charlotte erred by not making the trade. But there’s plenty of room to make passing the right call.
Shortly after the deadline, a rumor emerged Walker would likely leave the Hornets in free agency. This probably explains why.
But a lot has and will happen before Walker makes that call. Charlotte still made a strong late playoff push, though fell short. Walker could make an All-NBA team, which would make him eligible for a super-max contract.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he re-signs. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves, either.
What’s clear: He wants to win right now. Though it certainly won’t be the only factor, the Hornets’ stagnancy looks like a real negative when Walker ultimately decides.