- Kemba Walker signed with the Boston Celtics on a four-year deal worth $141 million in free agency, leaving the Charlotte Hornets after eight seasons.
- The move is a good one for the Celtics and highlights how badly the Hornets misplayed the valuable asset they had in Walker.
- If the Hornets were unwilling to pay Walker a near-max deal, they could have traded him during the past two seasons to get assets back. Instead, he left for nothing.
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NBA free agency started with a bang on Sunday with plenty of talented players either re-signing with their team or taking their talents to a new city.
One of the biggest names to change teams at the start of free agency was former Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker, who after eight seasons with the club, opted to sign with the Boston Celtics on a four-year deal worth $141 million.
Keeping Walker was never going to be easy for the Hornets. Charlotte was already strapped for cash due to some painful contracts still on the books. And thanks to his All-NBA selection this year, Walker was eligible for a super-max contract from the Hornets that could have paid him as much as $221 million over five years.
But according to the Charlotte Observer, the Hornets offer was for roughly $160 million over five years — a lower annual salary than his deal with the Celtics by more than $3 million.
That the Celtics outbid the Hornets on their superstar should rattle whatever faith fans had left in the team’s front office.
If the Hornets had concerns about paying Walker a huge sum that might take the team over the cap, they could have traded him away at any point over the past two seasons and received assets back from a team looking to make a run at the title.
Further, if a deal to their liking didn’t materialize, the Hornets could have at least exceeded any offer Walker received in free agency and attempted to sign him back even if it meant Charlotte had to go into the luxury tax for a season. By 2020, some of their most burdensome contracts would come off the books, and Walker would still be seen as an asset that contending teams would be interested in trading for mid-season.
There were plenty of ways to make sure that the Hornets got something in return when Walker left the franchise. Instead, the team was outbid by the Celtics with an offer they easily could have exceeded.
Understandably, Charlotte might not want to hamstring themselves with another goliath contract, but in letting Walker leave for the Celtics, the Hornets showed just how badly they misplayed their most valuable asset in years.