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NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on Kemba Walker, Possible Jimmy Butler Trade and More

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 26, 2019

Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) goes to the basket past Detroit Pistons guard Bruce Brown (6) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, April 7, 2019, in Detroit. Walker scored 31 points in a 104-91 win over the Pistons. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Duane Burleson/Associated Press

Once NBA free agency begins, the Boston Celtics may be forced to scour the market to replenish their roster after an possible high-profile departure.

Boston is reportedly lining up a top target to replace Kyrie Irving when free agency begins Sunday, but it will not be the only team interested in the services of Kemba Walker. 

Another Eastern Conference contender, the Philadelphia 76ers, has a huge offseason on the horizon, but holding on to its top targets will be far from an easy task with a few potential suitors lurking for Jimmy Butler. 

Over in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers are exploring all options to bolster their roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and one of their reported targets is a former teammate of James from his time in Cleveland. 

                   

Latest NBA Buzz

Kemba Walker

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, Boston and Dallas are at the top of the list of teams that will try to lure Walker away from the Charlotte Hornets. 

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer followed up on Stein's report by confirming Boston's strong interest in the point guard. 

Walker's decision-making process will be one of the most intriguing things to watch during free agency because of the options in front of him.

Duane Burleson/Associated Press

Charlotte is in the best position from a money perspective, as it can offer Walker a supermax contract that no other team can. 

However, the Hornets are limited in the number of potential moves they can make because they have five players set to make over $10 million during the 2019-20 season, per Spotrac.

If Walker returns to Charlotte, there is no guarantee the franchise will make a significant improvement in the Eastern Conference standings from its ninth-place finish a year ago.

Sure, the Hornets could jump a few teams at the bottom half of the playoff spots and turn into a tough out in the playoffs, but they can't match the high level of talent on the rosters of Toronto, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and others. 

That is where Boston comes into play as an intriguing option for Walker because the Celtics need an experienced point guard to run the show with a handful of young stars on the court. 

If Walker is brought in to replace Irving, whose preferred choice in free agency is Brooklyn, per ESPN.com's Zach Lowe, the Celtics should put themselves in the conversation of elite teams in the East alongside Toronto, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and possibly Brooklyn.

However, Dallas could present Walker with a compelling case to sign as well. Pairing Walker with Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and a healthy Kristaps Porzingis would significantly improve the franchise's chances of moving into playoff contention in the Western Conference. 

While Dallas appears to have an upward trajectory, Boston presents Walker with a more immediate chance to contend for an NBA championship, which is why the Celtics should be strongly considered by Walker if he decides to decline the supermax deal in Charlotte. 

                  

Jimmy Butler

According to ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets are planning to push for Jimmy Butler through a sign-and-trade deal with Philadelphia. 

Acquiring Butler comes with some obstacles for the Rockets, who can't sign Butler straight up as a free agent because of salary-cap constraints. 

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

In order for a deal to work, the Rockets might have to include another team, and they would likely have to part ways with two of Clint Capela, Eric Gordon or P.J. Tucker to land Butler, per Wojnarowski's report. 

But there is a chance Houston can't even get a seat at the negotiating table since the Sixers are expected to be aggressive in their attempts to re-sign Butler. 

Philadelphia can make a strong case to Butler by offering him a max deal of five years and $190 million to continue a three-pronged attack with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. 

With Butler in the fold last season, the Sixers took Toronto to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they were eliminated by Kawhi Leonard's Game 7 buzzer-beater. 

If Houston successfully recruits Butler, it could form its own three-pronged superstar core with him, Chris Paul and James Harden, but it would come at a cost. 

The Sixers might be satisfied with a trade haul that includes Gordon, Capela or Tucker, but they would have to be completely sold on it to even act on a deal since one bad move could take them out of the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. 

From Houston's perspective, acquiring Butler would be a statement of intent to the rest of the Western Conference that it is going nowhere, even with the Los Angeles Lakers and a few others upgrading their rosters.

Adding Butler would make the Rockets one of the top title contenders, and they could be viewed as one of a few realistic potential champions depending on how the rest of the offseason plays out. 

                            

JR Smith 

The Lakers already made their most significant move of the offseason by agreeing to a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis.

Scott R. Galvin/Associated Press

Now the task for the Lakers is to build a competitive roster around Davis and LeBron James, and it appears that JR Smith is one of the targets of the franchise. 

Yahoo's Chris Haynes reported Tuesday that he believes Smith will end up with the Lakers after he is waived by the team Cleveland trades him to.

"Cleveland, right now, they are trying to trade J.R. Smith," Haynes said. "Whichever team trades for JR right now most likely he will be waived. When he is waived, it is my belief that he will end up with the Lakers." 

Smith would a good fit with the Lakers because of his familiarity with James and ability to provide scoring in a complementary role. 

But there could be some concerns about Smith's durability, as he played in 11 games for the Cavaliers last season and only appeared in 41 contests during the 2016-17 season.

When he was healthy during the 2017-18 campaign, Smith averaged 8.3 points per game while averaging 28.1 minutes per game. 

Smith might not be able to produce at an incredibly high level if he joins the Lakers, but he would provide James with some comfort on a team that is expected to feature plenty of new faces for the second straight year. 

                            

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from Basketball Reference