Don’t count on a sign-and-trade as the last resort when the Charlotte Hornets deal with Kemba Walker’s free-agency.
ESPN front-office insider Bobby Marks says NBA rule changes make sign-and-trades so problematic that they seldom happen anymore. So if All-Star point guard Walker, who becomes a free agent in July, chooses to go elsewhere, it’s probably too late for the Hornets to get any compensation.
Marks, formerly a longtime executive with the Brooklyn Nets, notes that under current rules, the extra guaranteed year and larger raises the Hornets can offer Walker can’t be conveyed to another team in a sign-and-trade. That wasn’t the case in 2010, for instance, when LeBron James and Chris Bosh came to the Miami Heat via sign-and-trades.
Also, there are base-year compensation rules that would seriously complicate any matching of salaries between the Hornets and a team looking to acquire Walker. With those factors in place, sign-and-trades have become all but extinct as a tool for managing stars’ free-agency.
Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said at the end of the season that the franchise intends to do “everything we can” to re-sign Walker. The Hornets can offer up to $190 million over five seasons ($221 million if Walker qualifies for a super-max contract by being named All-NBA). Other teams with the cap room to do so could offer Walker up to $140 million over four years.
At least a half-dozen teams are expected to have the cap space to make a maximum-salary offer to one or more players this summer.
The Hornets explored Walker’s trade value in the winter of 2018, before owner Michael Jordan told the Observer he wouldn’t consider dealing Walker for anything less than a comparable All-Star level player.
Kupchak said in April there was a lot of interest from other teams over the past year in trading for Walker.
The Cleveland Cavaliers spoke with the Hornets before the 2018 draft, and the Dallas Mavericks reportedly approached the Hornets at the February trade deadline.
“I think our position has been unwavering,” Kupchak said of playing out Walker’s free-agency to its conclusion. “That was the decision that we made.”
Walker’s decision, it appears, will be an all-or-nothing gamble for the Hornets come July.