Although guard Kemba Walker expressed his utmost desire to remain in Charlotte, team owner Michael Jordan and the Hornets offered him a five-year contract worth $170 million to re-sign with the team instead of the maximum contract amount worth $221 million.

Kemba Walker
Point guard Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets exploring free agency this offseason. (Image: Rogelio Aranda/AP)

The Hornets offered him $51 million less, or approximately $10 million per season, than he should garner.

The Boston Celtics or any other team can sign Walker for a max contract of $140 million over four years. With the Hornets offered falling way below Walker’s price point, this means that the Boston Celtics have the inside track to signing him when free agency begins on Sunday evening.

The Celtics need a point guard with Kyrie Irving heading to NYC to play with the Brooklyn Nets or with Kevin Durant and the NY Knicks. Walker will be a good fit for Brad Stevens and the revamped Celtics.

The Hornets selected Walker with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He grew up in the Bronx and played high school ball in NYC. UCONN recruited him and he played three seasons in Storrs. In his junior season, he hit a buzzer beater to win the Big East Tournament and then led the Huskies to the 2011 March Madness title.

MJ Says No

The Charlotte Observer reported that the Charlotte Hornets offered Kemba Walker  $170 million over five years. That number is much lower than the $221 million max contract.

According to the Observer, “An Observer source confirmed that the Hornets aren’t comfortable paying $170 or more over five years — far less than they’re allowed under NBA rules — over concern they would end up paying the league’s luxury tax. Unless that changes, it looks likely the Hornets will lose Walker with no compensation.”

Essentially, Michael Jordan wanted to retain Walker’s services on the cheap. But a big payday for Walker means he risks paying the luxury tax next season. The Hornets have a bloated payroll which is one of the Top 5 most expensive in the league. MJ owes lots of moolah to the likes of Nicolas Batum ($24M/year), Cody Zeller ($14M/year), Marvin Williams ($13.6M/year), and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13M/year).

Walker posted a career-high 25.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this past season in Charlotte. He even dropped 60 points in a game against the Philly Sixers. Over his eight-year career, Walker averaged 19.9 points and 5.5 assists per game.

The Hornets only made the postseason twice during his tenure and the last time in 2016. In 11 career postseason games, Walker averaged 21.7 points per game.