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Report: Kemba Walker more likely to leave Hornets than stay

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Sam Amick of The Athletic is hearing recent news around the league suggesting Walker might bolt for greener pastures. Could Phoenix become the destination?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Well, this bit of news is interesting. Per Sam Amick of The Athletic, he’s hearing through the NBA grapevine that the Charlotte Hornets’ star point guard might be leaning towards leaving rather than staying put long-term.

At this point, based on scuttlebutt around the league but without direct clarity from his side, it feels like he’s more likely to leave than stay.

If Walker actually doesn’t end up staying with the Hornets — it seemed like a foregone conclusion he would be up until this with the supermax possibility still looming — his free agency could be filled with teams chasing after him with plenty of cap space available. Leaving Charlotte probably opens the door for big markets like New York (Knicks) and Los Angeles (Lakers and Clippers) but also teams close to championships with one final piece (Pacers and 76ers).

So far this season, Walker is averaging 25.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists while carrying a 55.7 true shooting percentage. Walker has been the heart and soul of professional basketball in Charlotte, becoming their first true star over his tenure leading them to a few playoff berths.

However, the top-tier point guard has yet to see real success. The Hornets are a middling franchise right now with little direction outside of Miles Bridges and maybe Malik Monk panning out. Outside of those two young prospects, though, Charlotte’s roster is filled with bloated contracts that won’t be off their books for at least another season.

Depending on if Walker makes All-NBA, which is still possible, new general manager Mitch Kupchak might get cold feet on paying Walker true superstar money well past his prime. Completely resetting seems like the smartest option for the Hornets, but who knows until July actually rolls around.

From the Suns’ point of view, this matters. Walker would be a true bluechip talent that’s worth ponying up big bucks for.

Adding Walker next to Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr. is certainly a tantalizing idea. All it would take to reach max space is salary dumping Tyler Johnson’s $19.2 million expiring contract. And if the Suns decide to keep their draft pick, adding in one of T.J. Warren or Josh Jackson alongside Johnson also reaches that $32.7 million threshold required to obtain Walker.

All of the sudden, this recent surge by the Suns winning five of their last seven games also matters too. If they can maintain this positive momentum through the rest of this season playing .500 basketball along the way, that makes Phoenix even more appealing for a name like Walker to seriously consider.

You also couldn’t dream up a better fit for head coach Igor Kokoskov’s system than pairing Walker and Booker together in the backcourt. Similarly to how Goran Dragic and Luka Doncic sliced and diced defenders on their way to a title in EuroBasket under Kokoskov, the duo of Walker and Booker would immediately become a supercharged version of that.

Add in a dynamic scoring threat down low with Ayton and now the Suns are truly cooking with gas and ready to ascend as a true contender in the tough Western Conference.

Just throwing this out there, but when James Jones helped out Tyson Chandler with his early buyout to the Lakers a connection arises. Jeff Schwartz, Chandler’s agent, also represents Walker.

The 2019 offseason has now become even more interesting for the Suns. Now, the question is will it end up being successful or not.