Is The Kemba Walker 'Supermax' A Mavs Free-Agency Problem, Or A Hornets Problem?

May 24, 2019 - 11:53 am

The fact that All-NBA Team voting qualifies guard Kemba Walker for a new "supermax'' contract means his present employer, the Charlotte Hornets, can pay him $80 million more than the Dallas Mavericks can pay him.

But that doesn't mean the Mavs are the only ones behind the 8-ball here. The Hornets are back there, too.

Before Kemba's honor and the "supermax" contract that can come with it cause problems in Dallas, they cause problems in Charlotte. Why? Before the vote, the Hornets could have planned to try to retain the standout guard with a five-year deal worth $190 million. That would've been their advantage over a Mavs franchise that by rule can only offer four years to someone else's free agent, with a contract totaling $141 million.

Was Kemba going to turn down that extra year and that extra $49 mil? Maybe, as he's on record as saying money will not be the driving force in his July 1 free-agency decision.

But would the extra $80 mil -- the difference between a Charlotte supermax and a Dallas max -- be easy to turn down? One would assume not, even though the Luka Doncic/Kristaps Porzingis Mavs would seem to be a more attractive destination than a small-market Charlotte team that in Kemba's eight stellar seasons there has only qualified for the playoffs twice and never won a series.

But before this becomes Dallas' issue, it is Charlotte's. Are they really prepared to fork out $221 million over the next five years to a smallish 29-year-old guard? GM Mitch Kupchak has called Kemba a "once-in-a-generation kind of player." But there are risks that come with paying the supermax, and they include a franchise's finances spilling over into the luxury tax, a highly-punitive CBA factor that owners tend to wish to avoid. Of course, there are risks in not doing so, too; do they wish to insult their best-ever player by not bothering with his max? How will that reflect on their attempts to do deals with players in the future?

Walker is on Dallas' wish list. (As he has been in offseasons and trade deadlines many times before.) Is he the "perfect'' solution''? No. But the Mavs do not see great problems in pairing him with Doncic, as while he's a "scoring point guard'' he's also an unselfish distributor and what coach Rick Carlisle would call "Our Kind of Guy.'' And Luka/KP/Kemba is a legit "Big 3.'' ... meaning a big step.

Keep in mind two under-publicized options here, one for each team: For Charlotte, they don't have to offer "either/or.'' They can offer any dollar figure and any number of years, just not to exceed the aforementioned supermax. And for Dallas? If Charlotte and Kemba choose to do business together, maybe there is a clog of pricy talent on the Hornets' roster that they'll wish to move, "Nuclear Winter''-style.

Kemba isn't Dallas' only target, of course. But the Mavs' attraction to him, combined with the fact he's represented by Dallas-friendly agent Jeff Schwartz, combined with some realities of what the likes of Kevin Durant will say when Dallas calls (that is, "No'') merits study of the situation on our part ... and on the Mavs' part.

Walker himself has sort of put the onus on Charlotte management to come up with a plan.

"I think now the work begins for those guys," Walker recently said of the franchise attempting to become a winner. "They'll figure it out."

The Dallas Mavericks pretty much hope they don't.

By Mike Fisher