Friday, 19 April 2019 19:26

'MATTer of Opinion' Sports Column: Kemba needs to leave if he wants to win

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Kemba Walker should leave the lackadaisical Charlotte Hornets for greener pastures this summer.


I hate to say it because he's been the best player (and only superstar) in the Queen City for quite some time, but for the sixth time in eight years of the Walker era, the Hornets' season ended with game 82.

Set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, Walker has a decision to make: does he accept the super-max contract that the Hornets will presumably offer him or does he leave Charlotte and sign with a team that actually has serious championship aspirations? 

Walker's transformation from when he entered the league in 2011 as a first-round pick out of the University of Connecticut to where he is today is incredible. As a rookie, he averaged just 12 points per game on 36 percent shooting overall, including 30 percent from three-point range. Walker was also just a 78.9 percent free-throw shooter.

Flash forward to 2019, and Walker averages 25 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting including 35 percent from the three-point line. And he was also recently selected to make his third consecutive All-Star appearance.

Walker's transformation hasn't been enough to make the Hornets contenders though. To put the blame only on Kemba, however, would be misguided.

The fault here lies in the ownership and the general manager of the Hornets for seemingly refusing to surround Walker with any meaningful talent. Who are the best players that the Hornets have surrounded Kemba with?

A 36-year-old Tony Parker whose quadricep tendon is hanging by a thread? Or maybe Nicholas Batum who has never averaged more than 15 points per game and has not had a PER higher than 15.6? The league average PER, by the way, is 15. Not great when you're paying the guy $20 million-plus every season.

While potentially leaving $80 million on the table may be too much to ask for, consider this if you were Kemba Walker: what do you want your lasting legacy in the NBA to be?

Kemba would thrive in a role similar to the one that Kyrie Irving had with LeBron James during that four-year stretch with the Cleveland Cavaliers. If Walker is willing to leave Charlotte this July, I think one team that he should consider signing with is the Utah Jazz.

Sound a little out there? Maybe. But let's break it down.

The Jazz are looking to upgrade from Ricky Rubio at point guard. Not that Rubio is a bad player, but for a team that is already offensively limited, a player like Rubio, whose PER this season was 14, does not really help them.

Utah is already one of the top five defensive teams in the league led by Rudy Gobert and get plenty of playmaking from small forward Joe Ingles. What the Jazz need more than anything is another scoring guard who can complement Donovan Mitchell, hence why the Jazz would've probably traded for Mike Conley Jr. at the trade deadline had he not publicly stated that he didn't want to play in Utah.

As of right now, the Jazz are, in my opinion, one of the top five teams in the Western Conference. With the future of the Golden State Warriors really up in the air with Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins and Draymond Green all set to become free agents within the next two summers, the Jazz should look towards the free agency window this summer to add a high-profile star to complement their already terrific core of players.

Signing a player with the ability to score at will like Kemba Walker would convert the Jazz from a team that can win a playoff series to a team that can actually win an NBA title.