Charlotte Hornets star Kemba Walker is set to hit free agency this summer, and the team may regret not trading him when they had the chance.
As of today, the Charlotte Hornets sit three games out of the 8th seed and have a 2.2% chance to make the playoffs according to ESPN’s BPI playoff odds. They presumably will miss out on postseason basketball once again for the third straight season.
In addition to missing the playoffs, the Hornets are once again hovering around the 36 win mark for the third consecutive season which shows how consistently mediocre the team has been despite several stellar seasons from their captain, Kemba Walker.
The city of Charlotte has grown to love Kemba over the years, and we’ve been fortunate enough to watch one of our own develop into a perennial All-Star and even an All-Star starter this year in his city.
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Kemba loves Charlotte and the fans and has expressed his desire to stay and build a winner here. By now we’re all aware that the franchise star will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Walker will be left with a tough decision this off-season that will shape the future of his career and the organizations future. From what I’ve seen and heard as of late, Kemba is expected to walk in free agency and personally, I don’t blame him.
The reality is that the Hornets front office have failed their star player and left him with no other choice but to leave. Kemba can’t wait forever, he’s in the prime of his career and is eager to be on a contending team.
As Kemba has asserted himself as one of the top guards in the league, the organization lags behind him and might be in a worse position now than they were three years ago thanks to some dubious contract extensions.
The front office simply hasn’t been able to provide Walker with the adequate help he needs. They’ve made lackluster trades and signings over the years, as well as being unable to draft and develop young players.
The Hornets have tried, and Kemba has been patient, but it’s time for both parties to split and go their separate ways.
Barring an unexpected and questionable decision from Kemba to stay, let’s assume he leaves in free agency. The Hornets roster without Kemba would look bad. So bad, that the Hornets would almost have to go all in on tanking.
Tanking sounds miserable from a fan perspective as there would be few reasons to watch the poor product that would be on the floor for a long 82 game season. However, that appears to be the best route the Hornets could take.
If done right, tanking won’t take quite as long as most think. For example, look at the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers really went all in on the ideology of tanking and after a few terrible seasons, they now find themselves with a legitimate chance to reach the finals this year.
The Sixers secured three consecutive top three picks in the draft, hit on two of those picks, cleared cap space, made a couple of savvy trades and now are one of the favorites in the east. If and when the Hornets do start tanking, it would be wise for the front office to use a model similar to one of the Sixers.
The Hornets impending rebuild could have gotten a significant jump start if they would’ve made the tough call and pulled the trigger on a Kemba Walker trade. At the trade deadline, the Hornets were in the thick of the playoff race, and trading Kemba would’ve sounded odd.
It wouldn’t have sat well with fans, but in hindsight, it would’ve been the best thing to do. Kemba is in the midst of a career year, and the Hornets could have gotten a decent return for the star point guard.
They probably could’ve gotten a lottery protected pick and more from a desperate team in need of a top point guard. Instead of trading their best asset and getting a head start on the rebuilding process, they’ll get nothing for him if Kemba leaves this summer.
Now the Hornets find themselves in a predicament with the playoffs looking doubtful, and their franchise player likely headed elsewhere. The future of the Charlotte Hornets looks gloomy, but they have no one to blame but themselves.