Jones: If LeBron stays, look for Cavs to deal for Kemba

Kemba Walker is puzzled why Jamal Crawford is still a free-agent.

There has been plenty said about Kemba Walker and the Cleveland Cavaliers, dating all the way back to the days leading up to the NBA trade deadline last Feb. 8.

A deal that would send Walker, a two-time All-Star point guard for the Charlotte Hornets heading into the final season on a contract that will pay him a modest $12 million has not come to fruition.

Not yet, anyway.

But we all know the old saying, “Where there’s smoke… ”

Which is why I offer this — Kemba Walker will be a Cleveland Cavalier sometime this summer.

If, that is, LeBron James decides to remain a Cavalier, be it by picking up his $35.6 million player option by the deadline (Friday at 11:59 p.m.) or signing another short-term (more likely) or supermax (less likely) deal to remain in Cleveland if he declines the option and hits free agency.

This is simply an opinion, mind you, but that’s the idea. It’s formed by reading between the lines, especially from the Charlotte side of the equation.

New Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak has been glowing in his praise of Walker the past week.

“I think he is revered in this community. I know ownership, and myself included, look at him as the focal point of this franchise going forward,” Kupchak said.

“(Walker) is a player that we hope is with us, not only for the next couple of years, but he ends his career here.”

That’s all well and good, but the fact remains the Hornets face the daunting task of losing the franchise’s all time leading scorer after next season and receiving nothing in return other than a “thanks for the memories” card.

To which even Kupchak even admitted when asked about the future of the 28-year-old Walker in Charlotte.

“He is on a (contract) that may make it a challenge going forward to figure out (the best course) before he becomes a free agent,” Kupchak said.

Translation: Charlotte signing Walker to a contract extension before he hits free agency on July 19 is practically impossible because the Hornets don’t have room under the salary cap to do so.

“I think everybody is aware of the situation,” Kupchak said. “If you follow basketball a little bit, it is unique that he is on an extension that may make it a challenge going forward to figure out before he becomes a free agent.

“I don’t think it is anybody’s goal to lose him in free agency.”

Sound familiar, Cavalier fans?

If James decides to remain with the team for which he’s played 11 of his 15 NBA seasons, Cleveland will remain in win-now mode.

Even though everyone from owner Dan Gilbert to general manager Koby Altman to head coach Tyronn Lue has all but gushed in heaping praise on Collin Sexton — who the Cavaliers selected with the eighth overall pick out of Alabama in the draft Thursday night — if James stays put and the cost of adding Walker includes Sexton, well, it’s a no-brainer.

Not that Sexton won’t become a solid NBA player. He’s strong, aggressive, an excellent defender, full of confidence and says all the right things. However, his jumper needs work and he’s a ball-dominant point guard.

If LeBron returns, Sexton could indeed back up veteran George Hill at the point for the Cavs and lead the second unit while James gets his 10 minutes or so of rest each night, akin to what Terrell Brandon, taken with the 11th overall selection in the 1991 draft out of Oregon, did for the Cavaliers behind All-NBA point guard Mark Price almost three decades ago.

But it became obvious, painfully so many times, that the Cavs sporting LeBron and Kevin Love as the top two scoring options in the playoffs this season were in desperate need of another All-Star level scorer, something Sexton cannot and should not be expected to do.

A career 18.9-point scorer, Walker has averaged more than 20 points per game the last three seasons with the Hornets. This season, he averaged 22.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 34.2 minutes in 80 games, shooting 43.1 percent from the floor, including 38.4 percent from deep.

Adding Walker to James and Love would give the Cavs three guys capable of scoring 20 a night, similar to what they had before Kyrie Irving asked out of town last summer.

Behind Walker at the point, the Hornets have last year’s first-round pick, Malik Monk, and Devonte Graham, selected in the second round out of Kansas on Thursday night, meaning Sexton would have ample opportunity to develop his game to compete at the NBA level with fellow rookie Miles Bridges out of Michigan, taken in the first round Thursday, for new coach James Borrego.

What could a potential deal for Walker look like? Something along the lines of Sexton and Jordan Clarkson for Walker, or if the Hornets insist on attaching Nicolas Batum’s awful contract to any deal involving Walker, the Cavs could include Tristan Thompson to make the numbers work.

But those details for Altman and Kupchak to decipher. They will find a way to make the money match. If James returns to Cleveland, it says here they will find a way to make the deal for Walker happen.

It would benefit both franchises.

If James heads elsewhere, none of this matters.

“Winning championships is still our goal and will always be our goal,” Altman said at Sexton’s introductory press conference Friday. “But through that process we wanted to focus on long-term success, sustainability. Going through this year we were able to get younger and talented and athletic and have some real momentum going into the future.

“For the first time in a long time, we’re going to be in the player-development business.”

Walker is already developed. Like James and Love, he’s an All-Star. If LeBron returns, the future is now, anyway.

9 Comments on "Jones: If LeBron stays, look for Cavs to deal for Kemba"

  1. That would not be a good move its time to stop 1 year planning what happens next year when James decides to leave who would then be more valuable Hill (20 mil) and Walker (12mil) or Hill and Sexton (rookie scale contract)? Will Walker bring them any closer to a Chip than Sexton? At the very least see how Sexton plays, think about this what if this was Donovan Mitchell he would have been traded just because he was a rookie and the rest would be history.

    • I think Kemba will be a better player than Collin Sexton next season, and probably for a year or two after that. My hope if I’m the Cavs is that Sexton turns into Donovan Mitchell. But if I’m the Cavs, I also know the odds are against it. There are 60 players drafted every year — and one Donovan Mitchell. So I’d go for the sure thing if LeBron comes back. Your window to compete for a title is very, very tight. That said, I certainly understand your point too! If Sexton beats the odds and becomes a Mitchell and makes an immediate impact, I’d want to keep him! (But I wonder how Mitchell would have fared on a big stage such as The Finals. I bet like James Harden a few years back vs. the Heat.) Anyway, great thoughts and keep them coming! Always appreciate you following and sharing!

      • Good points, Sam, and glad to see you in the mix in the comments section. Donovan Mitchell is the next big thing… we can all see that now. He is balling in Utah, good karma after the Gordon Hayward departure. Utah has a new life with Gobert, Rubio and Donovan. Great team out there. Better than Houston Rockets, lol

  2. Colton, does any trade for Kemba have to include Sexton? I mean for example, its well known that Atlanta have made Schroeder and Bazemore available. Why couldn’t we orchestrate a three team trade with them? Say send them Hill and JR and their non guaranteed final year contracts, which they can buy out for around 4 mil at the end of 18/19, clearing a crap load of salary cap for them while they are rebuilding, they can send Schroeder, a good young PG to the Hornets, leaving Kemba to join LBJ and KL in Cleveland, along with Bazemore? Seems to work cap wise. I mean I think there are more options than simply trading away Sexton.

  3. The deal would not need to include Sexton. And to think the Hornets would rather have Clarkson/Thompson back for Batum defies logic. Trading Batum huge contract for the same amount of money, for the same amount of years, makes absolutely no sense for a team in rebuild. The best trade for Hornets would be Clarkson, Hill, and Zizic FOR Kemba and Batum. Cavs probably throw in a few picks or overseas guys to sweeten it. Hills contract is really only guaranteed for next year then he is cut. Hill is the exact type of veteran to run that team while mentoring and bringing along the young guys. Zizic is high potential Big. Clarkson is Clarkson. This gives the Hornets a chance to rebuild with cap flexibility. The Hornets would be bad enough to be a high lottery team while building with young guys. And have cap room to add the right veterans and be flexible when it’s time to compete. Cavs adding Sexton to this trade is horrible business. Celtics were loaded on the wings last year and look how Tatum still played his role. Sexton could be great as a second wave energy scorer while he develops. Feels like little to no thought was put in this article.

  4. Whats to stop The Lakers from signing James and George as I believe they have enough for 2 max contracts and then trading Ball or whoever else to the Hornets for Walker. Now you have George,Walker, and James in LA! Not a Lakers fan Cavs all the way but just saying.

  5. Thomas Nguyen | June 24, 2018 at 1:35 pm |

    Even if Sexton turns out to be pretty good, I would rather have kemba. Go for it koby.

  6. Kemba Walker does not make this a championship team with Lebron. Roll with Sexton, give Cedi time at the SG. It’s time to move on. Too many holes on this team to keep giving away young talent.

    • I agree. The Cavs need more than 1 player to win a Chip and how the Cavs cap space is it is unlikely to be able to do it this season. They need to develop their own players. If Cedi and Zizic were developed their value might have been enough for a good trade at the very least their value would have been known to both the Cavs and other teams. 8 points/per on a LeBron team is more valuable than 18 points on a non-playoff team.

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