Legendary UConn point guard Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets is on the trading block and there are several possible landing spots. Pundits speculate he could land in Cleveland to join LeBron James and the Cavaliers, or even the New York Knicks, who play at Madison Square Garden, where Walker had his greatest moment as a Husky. The DC Sports staff debates where the former UConn men’s basketball star will land in this week’s edition of the Roundtable.
Daniela Marulanda, Campus Correspondent
San Antonio Spurs. Plain and simple. Gregg Popovich is a legendary coach in the league and he would be able to take Kemba to the next level. Just this week, Tony Parker was benched because his time had come. So, who could take his place as starting point guard? Well, I believe Kemba would be able to fit that spot.
Brandon Carney, Campus Correspondent
With no substantial trade rumors out there just yet, let me suggest a non-Knicks/Spurs/Cavs option. The Denver Nuggets would be a perfect fit for the UConn legend. Denver was one of the players in the Kyrie Irving sweepstakes this off-season, so they recognize their need for a true point guard. Jamal Murray is great but better suited as a two-guard. And if the Nuggets could avoid trading him in a deal for Kemba? That becomes one of the most lethal back courts in the league. The Nuggets have plenty of pieces to trade aside from Murray as well, including Will Barton, Malik Beasley or even Gary Harris. It's a doable trade that would help the Nuggets become one of the top teams in the West while providing a solid return to Charlotte.
Conner Gilson, Campus Correspondent
Kemba Walker is undoubtedly an all-star talent, he has just been stuck on the wrong team for the past few seasons. What Kemba needs is a young, talented core, one he can lead and develop with as he enters the prime of his career. The Phoenix Suns offer this type of organization to the UConn legend. The mere thought of a one-two punch made up of Kemba and rising superstar Devin Booker is enough to send shivers down your spine. And let’s face it, it’s time for the Hornets to go into rebuild mode, stack up on young players and get high draft picks, this is where Phoenix comes in handy. Full of young talent both in the front and back court with players like Tyler Ulis, Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss and Dragen Bender, just to name a few, they could easily provide Charlotte with the beginning of the rebuild they need while still keeping their incredibly young core. Trading Kemba to Phoenix is a win for everyone, even if the success may not come until the near future.
Matt Severino, Campus Correspondent
Kemba isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, going anywhere. The roster has plenty of talent to win in the East. Dwight Howard has looked like his old self, while Jeremy Lamb and Nicolas Batum have provided the kind of offensive support that the team has lacked in years past. To pull the plug on Walker would be signaling to fans that they aren’t ready to win now. As of Monday night, Charlotte sits four games back of the eight seed in the east. With Milwaukee’s season in jeopardy after firing Jason Kidd, who knows where they will end up. Even if they miss the playoffs, the Hornets are projected to have a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft that is loaded with talent. Their third best strength of schedule doesn’t favor them this year, but will allow them to potentially draft higher and add another complementary piece to an already promising roster.
Zachary Lane, Campus Correspondent
The Hornets have certainly generated plenty of buzz around trading their star player and our Husky savior, Kemba Walker, but the team also made it clear they would try to move on from an undesirable contract in this trade. The team has a few of those contracts, but how many teams in the league are desperate enough to take on one of them? The team would have to need point guard help, be looking to sneak into the playoffs and maybe even be located in Utah. The Jazz sit five games back from the playoffs right now and meet all of those qualifications. A trade involving Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors (whose deal expires at the end of this season), Alec Burks or Rodney Hood, and maybe picks might be able to return Walker and Nicolas Batum, who has looked rough in his return from injury but could theoretically provide the Jazz with extra playmaking and shooting. A backcourt of Walker and high-flying rookie Donovan Mitchell might have enough offensive spark to jump-start this defensive-minded team and get them back into the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Hornets get an expiring contract, draft picks and the suave Spaniard Ricky Rubio, who can lead a low-key tank job in style.
Luke Swanson, Staff Writer
If we’re looking for a likely landing spot for Kemba Walker, we have to find a team with a couple unique characteristics. It has to be a team looking to win now or in the near future, a team that is lacking great guard play and a team that has some interesting assets to go and get an all-star guard with.
The Philadelphia 76ers fit all three of those categories, so they’re the perfect team to go after Walker. With the breakout performances of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Robert Covington, the Sixers are definitely looking to win now and in the near future. They have the assets to go after Walker with a plethora of young players, cap space to eat one of the Hornets’ bad contracts and the Lakers’ first round pick in 2018 along with their own.
The Sixers are also lacking guard depth, as outside of Ben Simmons (who functions more as a forward on defense anyways), their point guards are T.J. McConnell, who has been a decent backup, and Jerryd Bayless, who hasn’t been playing very well at all. With Markelle Fultz’s future up in the air, Walker would be the perfect complement to Ben Simmons, serving as a scoring presence in the starting lineup and a leading ball-handler with Simmons on the bench.
Michael Logan, Staff Writer
The Bronx native needs to come home and bring the New York Knicks to the promised land. After all, the Garden is where Kemba Walker was thrust into stardom. Every UConn fan knows exactly what I am talking about: the devastating crossover against a Pittsburgh defender as time expired in the Big East Quarterfinals to keep the Huskies’ run alive. The Knicks’ playoff hopes continue to dwindle as the team falters with a 21-26 record. Now, Walker is not the star that would put the Knicks over the top, but he would bring grit, grind and familiarity to a New York team that tends to blow early leads and suffer on the road. Who could the Knicks give up? That’s the conundrum that will most likely prevent this trade from ever happening. The Knicks would prefer to hold onto first round picks, but would any first rounder give the Knicks what Walker could? Most likely not, and that is why I would have no problem pulling the trigger on that deal.
Story Salit, Campus Correspondent
There are two main key features that a team must have to land Kemba Walker from the Hornets in a trade. The first is that they cannot already have a star point guard. The second is that they need to have young pieces of talent on their roster, as the Hornets would need to begin a rebuild if they were to trade Kemba. The Orlando Magic are a team with young, raw talent and their point guard Elfrid Payton has yet to prove he will develop into anything more than an average starting point guard, so Orlando could fit the bill. I would imagine the spirit of the Magic franchise is somewhat broken, considering they started the season 6-2 but have since dropped to last place in the Eastern Conference. Trading for a player like Kemba could restore hope to the Magic and its fanbase for the next few seasons to come. Such a trade could also benefit the Hornets, who could rebuild around players like Jonathan Isaac, Bismack Biyombo and Payton himself, among others. The sticking point of the trade would likely center around the Magic’s willingness, or potential lack thereof, to give up young star Aaron Gordon, who the Hornets would likely demand if they were to give up Kemba.
Sean Janos, Campus Correspondent
As a UConn basketball fan, there is nothing that I’d want to see more than my hero Kemba Walker playing alongside LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers would be a great destination for Walker. Walker is 27 years old and should be in a situation to win right now. On Tuesday, Hornets owner Michael Jordan told the Charlotte Observer that he wouldn’t trade Walker for anything but an All-Star player. As it turns out, the Cavs have an All-Star player that they wouldn’t mind flipping for Walker. Though it has only been a month, it doesn’t appear that Isaiah Thomas is fitting in with the Cavs. They have lost four of the seven games that Thomas has appeared in after starting the season 24-12. Sharing shots with the rest of the team has been an issue. If Thomas were on the Hornets, he would have a lot more freedom to showcase his offensive talents. This is a contract year for Thomas, after all. On the other end, Walker would certainly be a step up for the Cavs on defense, which has been their biggest problem this season. Walker would also fill in as the secondary playmaker behind James. Walker has had a higher assist to turnover ratio than Thomas over the past two seasons. I can already picture Kemba up on that stage, standing next to LeBron, holding up the Larry O’Brien trophy for all of us here at UConn to see. A kid can dream, right?
Kevin Arnold, Campus Correspondent
With all the trade rumors surrounding Hornets point guard and UConn legend Kemba Walker, the big question is, “Where’s he going?”. My answer to that: nowhere. The Hornets are not in a position to trade away the face of their franchise being only four games back of the eighth seed in the East with 37 games still to play. This relatively young team has time to turn it around this year and can potentially add another key player in the upcoming draft and/or in free agency to make them a legitimate contender next season. While it’s fun to imagine Kemba playing alongside LeBron James or Joel Embiid or even Kristaps Porzingis in MSG, I don’t think any of those teams are in a real position to make a move for the All-Star point guard. The Cavaliers sample size with Isaiah Thomas is too small to move him just yet and the same is true for the 76ers, who drafted Markelle Fultz first overall (though he has only appeared in four regular season games this year). And for the Knicks, I don’t think they have a player to send to Charlotte as Hornets owner Michael Jordan said he would only trade Walker for an All-Star and there’s no way the Knicks part ways with Porzingis.