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Are Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker untouchable?

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Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker are reportedly not part of any trade discussions, but what scenario could make them available this season? And what about MKG?

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Grantland's Zach Lowe wrote about the Hornets terrible start, and included this little snippet:

2. The Hornets have been aggressive making trade calls, according to sources across the league.
The Hornets are searching for upgrades on the wing and at power forward, per those sources, and they are willing to talk turkey on basically anyone other than Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson.

There is nothing startling about this news. The Hornets are struggling, so it is in the team's best interest to look at every avenue to improve. As Lowe reported, Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are off the board, which on the surface makes sense considering they are the team's two biggest names.

Still, Walker and Jefferson are not untouchable. Teams place this label on franchise players, but if a strong enough offer comes along the untouchable tag can be removed. There are maybe four or five players that would remain untouchable no matter the offer. The Hornets are in win-now mode, so a trade to collect assets is off the table.

With that in mind, what would it take to trade away either player? To trade Walker, the Hornets would likely have to receive an upgrade at point guard in return. Walker is a talented enough starting NBA point guard, but even at his best there are a handful of point guards better. If a team with one of these better point guards was willing to trade, the Hornets would have to deal Walker, along with one of the more valuable assets, such as a draft pick or a young talent.

Another option would be to deal Walker for an upgrade at the wing or power forward spot, and depending on who gets dealt with him, ride with Brian Roberts and Jannero Pargo the rest of the season. If that's the case, the player in return would have to significantly add to the Hornets on both sides of the ball. An All-Star or near All-Star talent would be required for this scenario to be worth it.

Both scenarios however, are highly unlikely. With Walker's recent four-year extension, the team and player are committed to one another. Trading Walker a few months after signing an extension is bad business, and would reflect poorly on the organization.

The same could be said for Jefferson. Trading the best player on the roster would turn the fan base against the team only months after attracting much of them back to the team with the re-branding. Despite how liable he is on defense, there are few big men in the league that can score as well as he can. A more logical move would be trading for a player that could help cover for Jefferson's poor defense. It's becoming increasingly clear that Josh McRoberts helped in this area to a degree last season. Clifford spoke often last season about hiding Jefferson's weaknesses on defense, and this could be done with the right players around him.

Lowe's comments left Michael Kidd-Gilchrist off the untouchable list, causing a wave of panic, and leading Lowe to send out this follow-up tweet:

This makes a lot of sense — the Hornets have invested a lot into MKG's development, and bailing on him just as he is turning the corner would make selecting him in the draft one of the biggest wastes in team history. It's no coincidence the Hornets have lost ten straight in Kidd-Gilchrist's absence; his defense, intangibles, and improved offense make a difference. In six games this season, MKG is attempting 5.3 shots a game, with a field goal percentage of 62.5 percent. That percentage will drop as the season goes on, but such a high percentage early in the season is indicative of good shot selection. The numbers support this, as over 53 percent of MKG's shot attempts are coming at the rim, and he is shooting 64.7 percent from that range. In fact, he's shooting greater than 60 percent from every spot on the floor aside from beyond 16 feet, which is still high at 57.1 percent.

These numbers show just how important MKG was to this team early in the season. Even if he wasn't the team's go-to scorer, he was providing over five additional quality shot attempts a game. Looking back at some of the close losses, and those high percentage shots would have been helpful.

The point is, the Hornets undoubtedly realize the impact he's had this season, so any trade offer would have to be really good for the Hornets to depart with him just as he starting to realize his potential.

The Hornets' current 10-game losing streak has been a nightmare. The trade rumors are a response to that, but knowing Walker, Jefferson, and MKG aren't on the block indicates the front office isn't ready to give up on this season or this core. It also indicates the team doesn't see these three as part of the problem. If they did, Lowe wouldn't have stated they were off the board. Ultimately, a trade would be risky for Charlotte, particularly one that is a quick fix. Even with the current losing streak, the front office shouldn't rush on this if they do decide a trade is necessary.