With John Wall’s game in the tank, and Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma slowing down in year two, a lot of attention has suddenly landed on Kemba Walker, the free agent to be point guard who is balling out of his mind. Kemba is leading the NBA in scoring, a little shy of 30 points per game.
To refresh for those not paying attention to Charlotte, Kemba is having him a year which conveniently coincides with the last year of his very, very underpaid $12 million salary. How big is Kemba putting it on whoever he plays? This big.
41 points on opening night (Milwaukee). 60 points against the Sixers. Two nights later, he dropped 43 against the Celtics. He’s averaging a career high 29.6 points. His 6.1 assists, 16th in the league, ties a career high and is something he hasn’t done in 5 years. His 46% field goals are flat out the best of his career. His offensive rating is 120 and his PER is 26.4. He is ranked 7th among point guards (Real Plus-Minus). It’s not reworking the wheel to say he is the best point guard in the East.
Explaining why Kemba has to stay in Charlotte is like explaining spots on a leopard. It’s stupid to explain the obvious. Repeatedly, Kemba has said he wants to stay in Charlotte, despite the organization’s less than frugal financial moves.
Kemba Walker is the 6th highest paid player on the Hornets. He is due, especially with the season he is having. For sure, there is an All-Star bid coming , perhaps an All-NBA selection for the first time in his career and possibly a supermax deal. Kemba is feeling his NBA life. And so is everyone watching.
To be clear, it’s not whether Charlotte wants to pay Kemba a max deal but rather the impact of the max. John Wall is a cautionary tale, set to make $40 million in two years; his game is in free-fall and on the precipice of disaster. No team wants the Wall truth staring them in the face. But, here is the basic fact.
Kemba Walker is better than John Wall. He is a better scorer and clutch player. He is a better teammate. He is a better leader. He’s not the defender Wall used to be and probably will only be an average defender over the course of his career. But Kemba has never, not once, been accused of selfishness. Kemba rises above Wall in the important character test. It’s not just can you lead but does anyone want to follow you?
This season Kemba is showing he can be that player the Hornets build around once they get rid of their wreckage. He is 28 years old and just entering his basketball prime. He has become what the critics said he never would be, a star. A deep threat every time he touches the ball. In a scoring point guard league, Kemba is what every team is desperately tanking and searching for. A scorer with handles who makes clutch shots and is box office.
I’ve heard the Brandon Ingram speculation. Get North Carolina in the house. Give up the Bronx. Sure, Ingram has intangibles and he is local. But he shoots 46% on layups. Walker shoots 53%. In the 4th quarter, Ingram makes 45% of his shots and 25% of his threes while Walker makes 52% of his shots and 52% of his threes. Ingram is a sad three point shooter overall, 30%. He only scores 15 points. With LeBron on the roster, he has regressed. Everyone is waiting for Ingram to be a star, to show a high motor, to attack the rim, to be aggressive throughout the game- Kemba things. He just isn’t that guy. He is the 78th ranked small forward, (Real Plus-Minus).
John Wall is that guy but on the selfish end of the spectrum. I know why the Wizards would want Kemba Walker. But Michael Jordan and Mitch Kupchak need a MRI on their brain if they let $40 million dollar curse out the coach and can’t lead a group of second graders into recess John Wall into the Hive. The Hornets have the point guard they need. That is why they are 8th in scoring, 10th in assists, with a winning record.
Last I checked, you trade problems. Those that want to flee like Jimmy Butler. Kemba Walker is not that brand of selfishness. He is not the Hornets problem, just the opposite is Kemba Walker. He is the Charlotte Hornets savior.