Keeping Up With Kemba: Will the All-Star Finish the Season With the Hornets?

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 2: Kemba Walker /

Kemba Walker has been the face of the Charlotte Hornets (and Bobcats, when that was a thing) for almost a decade now. He has been here through the good and the bad, aka the 2011-2012 season, always being consistently good for the franchise. Walker has been vocal about being loyal to the team, but now that he is on the last year of his contract, will this be his last in Charlotte?

Where does one begin on Kemba Walker. A national champion at UConn, top 10 pick in the NBA Draft, and (potentially) the best player in franchise history. He has dedicated his NBA youth and prime to a team that has had limited success, something that is becoming more and more rare. Kemba Walker built his NBA resume in Charlotte, and has become an All-Star known for incredible handles. Truly one of the classiest, talented stars in the NBA.

But as we head into the 2018-19 season, Walker and the Hornets are going to come to a crossroad. While there are high hopes for Charlotte this year, the team still has a plethora of question marks. Can they be more competitive this season? Will the Hornets make a playoff push? Will role players step up around Walker? All of these will factor into the biggest question of the year: will Kemba Walker end the season end the season a member of the Charlotte Hornets?

Will the Hornets be good enough to keep Kemba in town?

Walker has vocal about his love and loyalty to the Hornets, but that might not be enough of a reason for management to keep him. Coming off two straight All-Star appearances, Walker’s value is as high as ever right now. He is only 28 and has several years left in his prime, so it will be interesting to see who will be looking to get him at the NBA trade deadline.

Realistically, it will depend how successful the season is in Charlotte at that point. The Hornets only won 36 games last season, but can be exponentially better next season. Veterans Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams are still serviceable, and 26 year-old wing Jeremy Lamb is coming off a career year last season. Dwight Howard is now a Wizard, so big men Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky will be better utilized this season. Malik Monk ended his shaky rookie season strong, and will look to build upon that. Rookie Miles Bridges is a wild card, but his potential is incredible due to his athleticism and scoring ability. It may not seem big, but I believe the addition of Tony Parker will make the Hornets second unit one of the best in the NBA. Charlotte might not be great, but they can definitely be good to have a reason to keep Kemba for the playoffs.

Maybe the better question is will Walker want to be in Charlotte beyond this year?

In an ideal universe where the Hornets bounce-back from last season and make the playoffs, Walker’s future is still in jeopardy. He will have gone his eight year NBA career with an average team at best, baring any crazy post-season run by the Hornets. Now being 29 years old and approaching a decline in his career, this off-season will be his last to play for a winner and also get paid.

The Hornets will have the money to pay him, and I am sure they will be looking to get Walker a contract extension during the season. Here is the problem; will that even be enough? Kemba has made a little money already in the league, but hasn’t won much. At some point of financial security, players begin to want to win as well. If Walker doesn’t believe he can do that in Charlotte, he will have high value on the free agent market next July.

All in all, when it comes to Kemba’s future in Charlotte, Hornets fans should hope for the best but respect his decision.

Do we want Walker to end his career a Hornet? Of course. Would it be disappointing to see him leave right around the peak of his career? Absolutely. But when it comes down to it, Buzz City has to respect his decision because he has already done so much for the franchise. He would leave as the Hornet’s all-time leading scorer and top-3 in numerous other categories, and has given it his all every year in Charlotte.

Hopefully the team is able to step up and assist Walker in a playoff push, maybe even taking a series in the post-season. However, whether it ends this season or years down the road, let’s just be glad we were here to enjoy the Kemba-era of the Charlotte Hornets.