On May 23rd, the NBA released its All-NBA teams and, with it, the Suns could shift its free agent priorities around. Point guard Kemba Walker was chosen on the All-NBA third team, reaching a milestone that allows him to earn a supermax contract with the Charlotte Hornets.
The supermax was created as a way for teams to entice their star players to stay by giving them deals that other teams can’t match. Hornets could offer Walker a five year deal worth $221.3 million. Even if he didn’t receive the honor, Charlotte could’ve offered $190 million over five years. With a deal like that on his table, it’d be tough for Walker to walk away from all that money. Especially when the max any of the other 29 teams in free agency could offer is $140 million over four years.
The question now becomes: will the Hornets offer that money to Walker and lock its salary cap and future to him?
But this question doesn’t seem like a no brainer on the teams’ part. Giving him the supermax would practically cripple Charlotte’s chance to improve the team via free agency since much of the cap will be eaten. Walker is good but he’s not LeBron James, he’s not able to take a team to the playoffs and thrive by himself. They’ll be stuck in this mode of fighting for the eight seed and mediocrity.
The team could embrace it and go all in on Walker but it’s not a guarantee that they would even win. In the eight years of his time in Charlotte, he’s been to the playoffs just two times, both ending in the first round. Why lock up the future when it might not even secure something more than sub .500 seasons and not just rebuild right now? The first step to that rebuild is letting go of its star point guard.
This is where the Suns come in with its desperate need for veteran leadership and a point guard, Walker should be the team’s top focus. We all know the guys like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have most likely made their decisions, the Nets are likely to match any offer on D’Angelo Russell and after Walker, the point guard pool isn’t that deep in terms of star talent. So Walker is the point guard and star the Suns should gun for if it plans to be involved in free agency.
The Suns do have to do some cap magic and not bring back Kelly Oubre Jr. to make this happen but the team can open up $35 million in cap space, just enough to sign a max-level player. Though the Suns could make the offer, it won’t be the only team fighting to get Walker.
Both LA teams will most likely try to sign any big name player this offseason, Dallas and Indiana are rumored to try and sign Walker, and if Irving doesn’t go to New York, the Knicks could be in play. The Suns will have a lot of competition to get him but could still come out on top with its positive traits.
The Suns have a great young core that could help alleviate the scoring pressure off Walker, an experienced coach in Monty Williams who can get the most out of him and a budding superstar in Devin Booker that could create a dangerous backcourt. We just saw the Portland Trail Blazers make it to the Western Conference Finals with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Suns could try to follow that formula. The Suns haven’t been good for a while but Walker could be convinced by Williams and general manager James Jones that the team is in good hands.
Out of all the top free agents this season, Walker seems to be the one that any team really has a shot of getting, as long as the Hornets don’t offer the supermax. If the Hornets make the offer, it’ll be tough for Walker to walk away from that. Rumors and reporting have basically told us where the other top free agents plan to go, whether it’s factual or not. Kemba isn’t a superstar like Kevin Durant or a marquee name but he’s a terrific guard who can bring wins to whichever team he signs for. The Suns should try everything in its power to bring him to Phoenix.