Should The Charlotte Hornets Bring Back Kemba Walker?

Last year did not go according to plan for Kemba Walker, or for the New York Knicks. The 32-year-old Bronx native was supposed to come back to his hometown and turn around his career, but instead he finds himself looking for his fifth home in two years.

Walker should soon be striking a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons and once that happens he’ll be free to sign elsewhere. Finding a team that could utilize his strengths while hiding his weaknesses isn’t easy, but there are surely teams that could benefit from the veteran being a part of their guard rotation.

Charlotte Hornets

There’s no place like home, right? Obviously this isn’t a perfect fit — the Hornets struggled defensively last season languishing in the bottom portion of the league on that side of the ball. Walker certainly won’t aid in making a difference on that side of the court, but he can help the young team in other ways.

There is more smoke to this possibility after The Athletic reported that the Hornets are interested in re-uniting with the veteran.

The Hornets struggled when LaMelo Ball was on the bench. They had a negative point differential while he sat and couldn’t find a rhythm for when he wasn’t in the game. They gave a lot of minutes to Ish Smith and Isaiah Thomas last season, which are two players that they can improve upon by adding Walker. Ball would benefit from playing with a player of Walker’s pedigree- Immanuel Quickley spoke highly of his time with the four-time All-Star.

Steve Clifford being brought back as the head coach of Charlotte is another reason for why a return would make sense for Walker. Their five year tenure together made them tight, and the respect seems to have remained strong:

“I think what people there will find is that he’s not only a terrific player and a great competitor, but he’s team-first,” Walker’s coach of five years said. “It means a lot to him to be a good teammate and to play in a way that the team plays well when he’s on the floor.

Clifford is a defensive maestro and helped orchestrate three top-10 defenses while he was in Charlotte during his first run. He should be able to work around Walker’s weaknesses to make the fit ultimately work for Kemba and the rest of the team.

Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks thrived last year with a group of guards that could complement Luka Doncic while also surviving on the court without him. The organization obviously has huge, Jalen Brunson-sized shoes to fill after he departed for New York, but it doesn’t seem like they have prioritized replacing him. Trying to replicate that level of production on the cheap is nearly impossible, but it can be cobbled together in a multitude of ways.

For instance, Walker would be able to be a guard that could run some pick and roll on the bench units. Last season, one in which most would consider an unmitigated disaster for the veteran, he ran six pick and rolls per game and scored at a .96 points per possession on the play type. That figure was better than Darius Garland, James Harden (on the Brooklyn Nets) and Damian Lillard. Compared to the league as a whole, Walker ranked in the 80th percentile.

The Mavericks have the option of playing with a more open court and that could be something that helps Walker. He was hesitant getting to the rim at times because of his lack of explosiveness. It also could have been because the lane was always clogged with a center hanging around the basket. Pairing Walker to play with a stretch five could be a smart way to maximize the veteran.

The Mavericks defense was top-10 in the NBA last season, even though they didn’t have the stingiest personnel. Sean Sweeney and Jason Kidd did an excellent job of piecing together concepts that helped unleash a potent defense. Walker wouldn’t help in this regard, but it would give the coaching staff an opportunity to continue showcasing what they do best.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are notorious for their short rotations so it would be helpful for the team to have another reliable rotation player to add on the cheap. Similar to the Mavericks, the Raptors have a swarming defense that could make up for the addition of a player that has been a liability on that side of the court for years.

The team had one of the worst half court offenses in the NBA last season. Walker could juice up the 2nd unit by running pick and rolls to bump up the offensive efficiency a bit. He’d also be a boon to the shooting as a whole. The Raptors had a poor shot chart and placed in the bottom 10th in the league in 3-point percentage. Walker isn’t a lights-out shooter, but his production came through his hot shooting last season. He drained 37% of his 3-point shots last season, which is the 7th year in a row he has shot above 36% from 3-point range. On top of that he posted a 34.8 shooting percentage on pull up attempts. That level of creation could be wildly beneficial to a bench unit for Nick Nurse.