Kemba Walker will be in Boston tomorrow to finalize a deal with the Boston Celtics, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal will be a max contract for the former Hornets guard, meaning a 4-year, $141 million deal. The Athletic’s Shams Charania also reported the signing.
The 29-year-old made $12 million a year the last four seasons in Charlotte, per Spotrac. The Hornets offered less than $170 million to resign Walker, which opened the door for the move up to Boston.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer wrote Friday that a full max contract (five years, $221 million) to stay in Carolina would’ve set off the luxury tax for the franchise.
However, the Hornets have such a clogged payroll — the five highest-paid players combine to make $84 million next season — that re-signing Walker could set off a luxury tax, the NBA’s penalty for bloated payrolls, and reduce the team’s revenue-sharing payment from the league after next season. That would cost owner Michael Jordan millions and might be the difference in a profit or a loss for the 2019-20 season.
The deal can’t be officially agreed upon until free agency opens up at 6 p.m. EST on Sunday. With that said, our own Jeff Smith pointed out how Boston’s backcourt could look with Walker replacing Kyrie Irving, who is very likely out the door.
Assuming the signing of Walker does indeed pan out, Boston will have a loaded backcourt with young talent. They added Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards, Ty Jerome and Tremont Waters through the draft.
Meanwhile, Wojnarowski reports that Charlotte will target a slew of cheaper guards in free agency.
Walker scored a career-high 25.6 points per game last season for the Hornets and has averaged just under 20 per game over his career. He has also dished out 5.5 assists per contest since joining Charlotte in 2011.
He was the 2011 NCAA Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player for Connecticut en route to the program’s fourth national championship. This earned him a first-round selection (No. 9 overall) to the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Boston’s Remaining Cap Space for Free Agency
Walker’s salary will be $35.25 million a season. However, without the details of the contract, it’s unknown if he will make that much in 2019-20, or if the salary will increase each year.
One has to assume that this is the desired goal for Boston, who had $34 million in cap space before the Walker signing.
This limits the options for any more movement on the Celtics roster. In terms of the frontcourt, there is no more Aron Baynes or Al Horford manning the interior, so someone has to give Semi Ojeleye some assistance. Danny Ainge will have to do this on the cheap.
As Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reported, the team is eyeing former Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez with the $4.6 million room exception.
“For Boston, the next step — barring a significant trade — will be finding a big with the $4.6 million room exception,” Mannix tweeted. “Robin Lopez — who has killed the Celtics in recent years — is a possibility, though he may reel in a bigger offer.”
This seems to be the only option that doesn’t dip into the luxury tax for Boston. Otherwise, Ainge might have to rely on undrafted free agents such as Tacko Fall for frontcourt reinforcements.