New Orleans Pelicans: Imagining a trade for Kemba Walker

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images /

As the New Orleans Pelicans struggle to move up the Western Conference standings, the possibility of bringing in another star, namely Kemba Walker, could help them compete down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs.

The New Orleans Pelicans fell this past Monday night to the Boston Celtics, who are on a hot streak. The loss, which still saw Anthony Davis put up 41 points, brought the Pels to just under .500 on the season, sitting in 11th place in the Western Conference at 14-15. After starting the season with high hopes and a four-game win streak, New Orleans is facing some familiar worries.

Over their last 10 games, the Pelicans are 4-6, despite Anthony Davis putting up averages of 28.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 3.1 blocks and 2.0 steals through this run. The consistent theme among the four wins for New Orleans was team scoring outside of Davis and the ability to get some defensive stops.

In their four wins, the Pelicans averaged a defensive rating of 103.8 — much more favorable than their ninth-worst average of 110.7 over the full 10-game run. With a 111.3 defensive rating on the season, there isn’t much indication they will be able to trademark winning games with defense, leaving them with one go-to option: outscore every opponent.

While this is a viable strategy for this team, the roster is slightly lacking in the firepower to make it happen regularly. Holiday and Julius Randle have been able to score with at least moderate consistency, and contributions from Nikola Mirotic have helped, but it hasn’t quite been enough.

Making an aggressive move for Kemba Walker, however, could provide the Pelicans with the extra scoring they need.

The Charlotte Hornets point guard is putting up 25.8 points per game so far this season. He is exactly the type of consistent scorer the team needs, having only tallied less than 20 points in seven of 26 games so far this season. He’s only scored in single digits once. Even games where Davis isn’t a go-to scoring option, Kemba could easily pick up the slack, having put up 30 or more multiple times this season, including a 60-point outing.

The only drawback to Walker’s game is that he isn’t an elite defender. This would less of a problem for the New Orleans Pelicans, since he’d easily be an upgrade over Tim Frazier and Frank Jackson, and would likely be on the court with Jrue Holiday most of the time. Holiday would not only be able to take on tougher defensive assignments, but would have more defensive energy to expend if he wasn’t expected to be the second option on offense.

Adding Kemba to the Pelicans’ roster is a no-brainer for New Orleans. The tricky part would be ensuring that Charlotte is willing to part ways, and, more importantly, at what cost. At this point, there’s been no indication he is available or will be available, so it’d take Charlotte falling apart for owner Michael Jordan to decide to move him before February’s trade deadline.

On the last year of his deal, Kemba Walker is making $12 million this season and will enter free agency in the summer. The Hornets would need to fear losing him for nothing if they were to make him available. Matching his salary in a trade wouldn’t be difficult to do. Julius Randle or Solomon Hill could be used to do so, but trading for Kemba straight up would likely cost the Pelicans at least two first-rounders in the process.

Since Charlotte is stacked with hard to swallow salary, New Orleans could take other players back with Walker and give the Hornets some lesser deal or expiring salary in return. The Pelicans could package together players like Randle, Hill, Wesley Johnson and Darius Miller to take back another player, such as Nicolas Batum or Marvin Williams.

The Hornets would still likely expect a first-rounder in that scenario, plus maybe some combination of second round picks as well, but this trade could be a better option for New Orleans. They would retain as many first round picks as possible, while also adding a player they could give some type of minutes to. Batum would likely see a decent number of minutes in the rotation, as wing depth is an issue for New Orleans too.

Walker may be a free agent in the coming offseason, but acquiring him in a trade would give the Pelicans his rights, and thus an ability to offer him a longer contract than other teams, as well as the ability to go over the cap to re-sign him. With little cap flexibility moving forward and a track record of not being a big enough market to chase marquee names, this alone could be a beneficial part of making the deal.

Next. NBA history - Best player born in each state. dark

Kemba Walker has developed into a fringe star player in the league, and if New Orleans wants to keep moving forward and the Hornets’ season goes south, giving Davis another player like Walker is a must.