Kemba Walker trade: Why dealing star may actually not be so easy for Hornets

Two seasons ago, the Charlotte Hornets won 48 games, took the Miami Heat to seven games in their first-round series and looked to be a team on the rise in the Eastern Conference.

Now, after failing to make the playoffs in 2016-17, and this season looking like it will send them to the lottery once again, the Hornets seem resigned to their fate. According to a report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Charlotte is encouraging teams to make offers for Kemba Walker, with the hopes it could also offload a hefty contract in the deal. 

Of course they haven't made a trade yet, but by so clearly making Walker available, the Hornets have made their decision. This team, this group, is done -- at least in terms of ever doing anything meaningful together in the playoffs. And really, difficult as the decision may be, it's probably the correct one. The Hornets are 11th in the East at 18-25, have a massive payroll and other young teams have already passed them by.

No trades in the NBA are ever easy, but at first glance, it might seem dealing Walker would be one of the simpler moves to pull off. He's on a very friendly $12M-per-year deal that includes next season, he's just 27 years old and is quietly putting together yet another strong season for the Hornets. His efficiency has slipped just a bit from last season, but he's still averaging 21.7 points, 5.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 35 percent from 3-point land. 

If you told teams they could just add Walker, every single one would jump at the chance. But, of course, trades don't work like that, and when considering a few factors, it becomes clear that moving Walker won't be so easy after all.

For one, so many playoff teams are already set at point guard. The Warriors have Stephen Curry, the Rockets have James Harden and Chris Paul, the Celtics have Kyrie Irving, the Raptors have Kyle Lowry, the Wizards have John Wall, the Timberwolves have Jeff Teague, the Thunder have Russell Westbrook. The same can be said for the Heat, Bucks, Trail Blazers and Pelicans

Therefore, those teams don't really have any incentive to give up assets to go and get Walker. And as good as Walker is, he's not really a player you can build around as your No. 1 guy, which makes it harder to envision a rebuilding squad giving up what few intriguing young players or picks they have in order to acquire him. 

And that doesn't even take into account that the Hornets are reportedly trying to shed salary in the deal as well, which would make things much more complicated with how little cap space there is around the league. Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are all making at least $13M until at least 2020 (MKG does have a player option for 2019-20). Plus, there's Dwight Howard's $23.5M on the books until 2019. 

So, along with Walker, you're talking about a team acquiring at least $25M in salary in the deal. Unless a third team is involved, that's just tough to do in this marketplace -- especially given the players the Hornets are trying to shed are all role players. 

Take a team like the Spurs, for example. They make sense as a potential destination for Walker, but including, say, Marvin Williams in the deal for example, would make things a lot trickier to pull off. 

Now, teams can get crafty with deals, and you never know which rebuilding team might decide to go and get Walker with the expectation they can re-sign him in two years and build something with him. Walker is good, and there will be teams interested. The Cavaliers, in particular, make sense given their timeline and some of the contracts they could include to make a deal work money-wise. 

At this point, it seems a deal will get done, as it will be hard for the Hornets to reverse course on trading Walker now that all of this has been made public. However, actually completing the trade is going to be complicated, and the return might not be quite as fruitful as the Hornets anticipate. Especially if they stick to their goal of dumping salary in the move. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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