Boston Celtics

Apr 7, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) gives high fives to teammates as he walks to the bench during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

By Ty Anderson,

Perhaps the reports of the Celtics’ return to an asset-accumulating middler were premature.

With both Kyrie Irving and Al Horford expected to officially leave when free agency next Sunday night, and with the Celtics feverishly clearing cap room at last week’s 2019 NBA Draft in Brooklyn, Danny Ainge and the Celtics have emerged as a ‘stealth suitor’ for Kemba Walker, according to NBA insider Marc Stein.

The 29-year-old Walker averaged a career-high 25.6 points per game for the Hornets last year, shooting 43.4 percent from the field (35.6 percent from deep), and finished the year with the third-most points in the NBA (2,102) en route to an appearance on the All-NBA Third Team.

A 6-foot-1 guard, adding Walker to the mix would likely take some additional cap space created by the Celtics, which can be generating by renouncing the rights to pending restricted free agent Terry Rozier. It’s just one of the options that makes the Celtics’ situation a ‘fluid’ one, according to Stein.

The most any non-Charlotte team can offer Walker is a four-year contract worth $140 million, of course, whereas the Hornets can offer Walker a supermax contract worth up to $221 million over five years.

Walker has stated that he would take less to stay with the Hornets, but hasn’t shut the door on exploring potential new destinations as a free agent, especially given Charlotte’s struggles to consistently build around Walker throughout his tenure.

“That all factors in [to my decision] when I sit down with the teams and hear what guys have to say,” Walker said of his upcoming options in free agency. “I think that will all come into play. I’m not really sure right now. Like I said Charlotte is my first priority and I have to see what [the Hornets] have to offer, as well as other teams.”

NBA free agency begins on June 30.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.

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