Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker was named to the All NBA Third Team on Thursday. The honor earns Walker more than just bragging rights. It significantly alters the course of his offseason and in turn, the Charlotte Hornets offseason as well.
Prior to this announcement, Walker was eligible for three different maximum contract values this offseason, depending on who he signed with and whether or not he made All NBA.
- If he were to sign anywhere but Charlotte, Walker’s maximum deal would be 4 years, $141 million- a starting salary at 30% of the cap plus 5% raises each year.
- If he were to re-sign in Charlotte having not made an All NBA team, Walker’s maximum deal would be 4 years, $192 million- a starting salary at 30% of the cap plus 8% raises each year.
- If he were to re-sign in Charlotte having made an All NBA team, Walker’s maximum deal would be 4 years, $221 million- a starting salary at 35% of the cap plus 8% raises each year.
It’s worth noting that the All NBA honor does not change how much money another team can offer Walker. That means the Hornets can offer Walker one more year and 80 million more dollars than any other NBA team. That’s a lot of money.
First off, congratulations to Kemba Walker for going out there and earning himself a boatload of money. I know we as fans tend to think of these things from a team and salary cap perspective, but this is an amazing achievement for Kemba Walker as a person. He can make over thee-and-a-half times the average annual salary he was making on his old contract, and his play this season upped his maximum value by $30 million. He’s going to have enough money to provide for himself and his family for generations.
Now, it’s possible the Walker and the Hornets agree to a deal somewhere in between the regular max and the super-max, but I wouldn’t pin my hopes to it. Walker holds all the leverage, as his departure would immediately tank the Hornets’ chances of fielding a competitive roster in the near future. If the Hornets want him to stay (they do and they should), it’s very likely that they’re going to have to pony up the full amount of money Walker can receive. If Walker takes anything less, he deserves a medal and a statue outside the Spectrum Center immediately.
If the Hornets and Walker do the expected and ink a full super-max deal, this is what the Hornets’ cap situation will look like heading into the summer:
With Walker’s super-max in place, the Hornets will be over the luxury tax before signing their first round pick and bringing back Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky (this would still be the case with Walker on a regular max contract, albeit to a lesser extent).
That roster is not a competitive one, which is why it’s likely we’ll see the Hornets front office pursue big trades this summer. Their top priority will probably be to get out from Nicolas Batum’s contract, either by trading him for an expiring (looking at you Chandler Parsons), or using him to make money match in a trade for a misfitting star like Kevin Love, Andre Drummond, Bradley Beal, DeMarcus Cousins (if you can get behind Zach’s idea), etc.
The Hornets will probably try to unload two of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo, and Marvin Williams (the first two being the most likely) while taking back as little salary as possible to get under the luxury tax this season while keeping the players that actually play. The unguaranteed contracts of Avery Bradley and J.R. Smith are enticing here.
If the Hornets can swing all or at least some of that, they can comfortably afford Walker’s super-max deal without getting heavily penalized by the luxury tax. The team also has until the end of the season to get the salary sheet in order, so there’s no rush to get everything done over the summer. Even if they can’t finagle their way under the tax, the penalty for first time luxury tax offenders isn’t that harsh, especially if the team doesn’t stray too far over. Besides, it’ll be worth it to keep the franchise’s first homegrown star since...¯\_(ツ)_/¯