In the end, Kemba Walker may turn out to be the man who jump-starts a number of transactions before the NBA trade deadline.
The rumor mill is churning after the Charlotte Hornets announced Monday that Walker will undergo knee surgery which may end his season, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
For a team with the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference in its grasp, the loss of a superstar such as Walker may spur a ripple effect on the market that makes the deadline more interesting than it has been for quite some time.
Buckle your seat belts, as the silent passing of the deadline may be a thing of the past.
Stingy Brook Lopez Suitors
Brook Lopez may as well change his name to Trade Block.
The 18-26 Brooklyn Nets want to rebuild, and the 26-year-old center is one of three players on the roster with a max deal.
While he averages a 14.6/6.0/1.6/ slash line and a 19.07 PER, according to ESPN.com, his contract and injury past make him an asset the front office would like to ship away.
Add the Denver Nuggets to the suitor list. In fact, the Nuggets are not going anywhere in this pursuit, as explained by Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post:
The Brooklyn Nets recently tried, unsuccessfully, to deal center Brook Lopez, which led to the franchise putting the brakes on the whole trading him concept in total.
But when those wheels get back turning again — and they will — there will be no shortage of suitors, and the Nuggets are expected to be among them. They’ve already made one run at it, but were rebuffed along with everyone else by the Nets in favor of negotiations with Oklahoma City, and those talks got intense before breaking down.
But there remains plenty of time before the Feb. 19 trade deadline, and the Nuggets have a lot to offer if they want to gamble. The question is how much to put on the table to entice Brooklyn to get into serious talks. There are inherent risks: Lopez has a player option after this season, so there would have to be some sort of assurances from his representation that he wouldn’t just walk and leave the Nuggets lighter on assets and out one big-time center at year’s end.
Denver is another 18-win team, but per Dempsey, it sounds as if the front office would like to get out of JaVale McGee's contract, which pays him $12 million next year before expiring, per Spotrac.
The problem for the Nuggets is that the Nets are another team hoping to shed as much cash as possible to rebuild. It will take something extra to keep the Nets at the table before a team such as Oklahoma City jumps into the lead once again.
Replacing Kemba Walker
Again, replacing Walker is no easy task.
The loss of 18.8 points and 5.2 assists per game is a major hurdle, but according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Charlotte front office has a few names in mind:
The interest in Ramon Sessions makes loads of sense.
For one, he knows a thing or two about the Hornets, having spent the 2012-13 season there as a rotational piece who averaged 14.4 points per game.
Now 28 years old, Sessions excels at slicing to the rim and doling out assists, hence his average of 2.6 per game.
The 26-year-old Norris Cole is a bit more confusing. Miami's point guard has appeared in 39 games this year and posted a 6.2/3.4/2.3 slash line while shooting 24 percent from deep, down from his 35 percent conversion rate from long range last season.
Then again, this drop in productivity may make Cole the cheap option the Hornets prefer, especially if the coaching staff believes he will better mesh with their schemes and players.
No matter which way the Hornets decide to go, it is clear the team has a plan in place and will act in a swift manner.
The Lance Stephenson-Joe Johnson Connection
Now for a marriage of the first two points.
The Nets may have something the Hornets want dearly: a way to unload the polarizing Lance Stephenson.
The cost is steep, though, as Joe Johnson, one of Brooklyn's max-contract players, would be involved in the deal. Wojnarowski has the scoop:
The Hornets and Nets are discussing a larger package that would likely include guards Lance Stephenson and Gerald Henderson and forward Marvin Williams, league sources told Yahoo Sports. ...
Charlotte owner Michael Jordan has been intrigued with the possibility of Johnson, who has struggled recently with tendinitis. Johnson, 33, has one of the three major contracts that the Nets would ideally like to unload, what with the $23.1 million on his 2014-'15 deal, and $24.9 million in the final season of his 2015-'16 contract.
Johnson is quite a costly way to erase what some in the Charlotte front office seem to perceive as a mistake. That said, the veteran does offer more consistency than Stephenson in any number of ways:
Keep in mind, though, that Johnson is now in his third year with his current team, while Stephenson continues to struggle to adapt to the Hornets.
In theory, the move makes a ton of sense. Charlotte wants a more stable presence to push for the postseason. Brooklyn would like to break down Johnson's contract into more manageable pieces to create other trade opportunities, and Stephenson is only 24 years old and may fit better with the Nets.
The hiccup, of course, will come with actually finalizing a deal.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.