Team success has not coincided with Walker's ascent. The Hornets failed to make the playoffs each of the last three seasons. What to do with Walker became the biggest decision for new general manager Mitch Kupchak.
Walker made just $12 million in 2018-19, the final year of his contract. He was one of the most sought-after players in free agency, and it was fair to wonder whether the best player on a non-playoff team should command $220 million.
Walker said he would be willing to take less than the supermax to stay in Charlotte and would give the Hornets first priority.
“How can they not be?’ Walker told reporters. “I don’t understand how they can not be my first priority. I’ve been here eight years. They were the team that drafted me.
“I don’t know if I’ll sign back with them. I’m not sure. But they are my first priority.”
Walker looked enough into his future and decided it was time to move on from the only NBA organization he's ever known. This Hornets core isn't working. Doubling down again on a player who, at most, is only on the borderline of the top five at his position would be a bad basketball move for the Hornets, as well.
Walker needs to be on a playoff team where he's the second or third option. It was better for both sides to move on.
Boston provides that, and he's presumably being brought in with plans to make a deep postseason run.
The Celtics provide a promising young core that includes Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown but have been mired in turmoil. They already lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency, which is the only reason they have salary-cap space available.
Boston has a better supporting cast than Charlotte, but Walker isn't leaving for anything resembling a title contender. One also has to wonder about fit in terms of age, with Walker rapidly approaching his 30th birthday while Tatum and Brown are well shy of 25.