The Utah Jazz would likely love to add free agent Kemba Walker to their mix. But it’s looking probable that the superstar could stay put in Charlotte.
It really isn’t a debate – the Utah Jazz need a significant upgrade at the point guard position moving forward if they’re going to move to the next level as a team. With Ricky Rubio under-performing and recently stating that the Jazz have let him know that re-signing him isn’t a priority this summer, the team could very well be on their way to doing just that.
One potential free agent that several members of the Utah faithful have been pining after and that could be a dream fit in Utah’s backcourt is Kemba Walker. As a prolific scorer and shot-creator, Walker would take a significant load off the shoulders of Donovan Mitchell and would open up Utah’s offense immensely. His ability to shoot the three and get into the paint with ease would add a whole new dimension to this Jazz team.
Unfortunately, adding him in free agency was always going to be somewhat of a long shot. The Jazz aren’t known for being a popular free agent destination and they’d be far from the only competition in vying for Kemba’s services.
But it’s also looking like the Jazz may not be alone in a potential failed pursuit of Kemba Walker. What I mean is that there is ample reason to believe that Kemba could very well stay put and simply re-sign with the Charlotte Hornets.
As reported by J-Notes alum and current Swarm and Sting contributor Zack Padmore, Kemba Walker recently told Jared Weiss of The Athletic that Charlotte will be his first priority this offseason. Adding that Charlotte is ‘all that he knows’, it feels quite possible that Kemba could very well stay with the Hornets where he’s been beloved his entire career.
If such ends up being the case, in some ways it comes as little surprise. Despite the Hornets’ on-court struggles and over-reliance on Kemba, he’s no doubt shown nothing but admiration and respect for the organization. He’s become an absolute legend in Charlotte (and for good reason), could earn the highest possible paycheck by staying put and could build a legacy for himself as a pillar in that community.
While the frustration of being eliminated from the postseason resulted in him making some noncommittal comments at the end of the regular season that led some to believe that he’d lean towards leaving Charlotte, his latest comments appear as if he’s potentially overcome that disappointment and is back to wanting merely to stay in his precious Charlotte.
In a lot of ways, despite my admiration for Kemba Walker and desire to see the Jazz land a flashy free agent, I’d love to see this happen. Loyalty is largely a lost art in today’s NBA and seeing it out of Kemba for a team that he’s meant so much to would be the definition of a feel-good story and an awesome sight to behold.
The only reason it would be disappointing is because I’d love even more to see Kemba Walker in the playoffs, ideally with the Jazz but truly with any team. Considering how poorly the Hornets are currently constructed, how many bad contracts they have on the books and how much space Kemba will command, they’ll be hard-pressed to make the necessary improvements to do so this next season.
For that very reason, many thought Kemba could indeed aim to join a different team so he could finally play for a contending squad. That still may very well be the case, but it’s feeling more and more like he may stay in familiar Charlotte instead. If he does, hopefully the Hornets will find a way to surround him with a better supporting cast.
The last theory that exists is that while Kemba stated that Charlotte is his top priority, that could mean he wants to make sure the Hornets are taken care of even if he leaves the team for a chance at a new opportunity. This could mean that Walker seeks a sign-and-trade to bring some value back to his team, not unlike what Chris Paul helped arrange between the LA Clippers and Houston Rockets or what Jazz fans hoped could take place with Gordon Hayward‘s departure.
However, those can be tricky to put together, and given Charlotte’s already precarious contract situation, it’s hard to see anything panning out quite that nicely. My guess is that if Kemba truly makes Charlotte his top priority, he’ll aim to re-sign with them so long as they extend him that opportunity along with a supermax contract on top of that.
So, while Utah’s odds of landing Kemba were likely always low to begin with, his presumable desire to remain with his familiar Charlotte Hornets team could very well eliminate those odds entirely. Nevertheless, the Utah Jazz still need to do their due diligence in seeing if there’s any hope they can pry Kemba Walker away as he would be a huge upgrade.
While Walker is very much beloved in Charlotte, if the playoffs and a magnificent fit to compete at the highest level are his true desires, he would do well to at least give some consideration to Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and the rest of the Utah Jazz squad.