Kemba Walker may not be the most sought after free agent on the market this offseason, but he is widely considered among the inner-circle of elite players available. The Charlotte Hornets have the ability to offer Walker more money than any other team, but at the moment, according to a report from Shams Charania, a sizable gap exists between the money Walker is looking for and the money the Hornets are willing to offer him.
Right on the heels of Charania's report came one from Adrian Wojnarowski, who identified the Boston Celtics as the new front-runner to acquire Walker's services when the free agency period opens on June 30.
The Boston Celtics have emerged as the frontrunner to sign Charlotte All-Star guard Kemba Walker once free agency opens Sunday at 6 PM ET, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 27, 2019
With Kyrie Irving's departure from Boston seeming like a near certainty as free agency approaches, the Celtics have an obvious need at the point guard spot. Al Horford's departure appears imminent as well, and that opens up some cap space for Boston. The Celtics opened even more with a draft night trade that sent Aron Baynes to the Suns. If they renounce Terry Rozier's cap hold, they can open up enough space to offer Walker a maximum contract.
The Mavericks have been rumored to be heavily interested in Walker all season with several reporters noting that the team feels he would be an excellent fit with both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks have also been connected to Walker frequently, though recent reports have indicated they would prefer to nab Walker alongside another All-Star like Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard, rather than on his own.
Charlotte can top any offer made by any of those teams, but doing so would bring major luxury-tax implications. Giving Walker a supermax deal would likely necessitate finding takers for several of the team's negative-value contracts in order to duck the tax, but sacrificing assets and/or players to save money would also result in weakening the team, which would work against the team's goals in re-signing Walker in the first place. And if they don't come correct with the full max offer -- even though Walker has expressed a willingness to take less -- that may open the door for some other team to come sign him.