An Argument for Going All In On Kemba Walker

Years of mediocrity has some Charlotte basketball fans pushing for MJ to go full tank mode, but after consecutive games of scoring 40+ points, now is the time to go all in on Kemba Walker.

As a young lad centuries ago, I loved the Charlotte Bobcats and watched every game I could no matter how bad we were. But, there was one day during one of those dreadful Bobcats years (they are all a blur) where I didn’t really think about Bobcats basketball. Instead, I decided to watch Zoey 101: the greatest show ever aired and the greatest show to ever be cut off mid-series due to a pregnancy (thanks Jamie-Lynn Spears for ruining my childhood). As I was deep into Chase going on one of his awkward rants with Zoey, my older brother ran into the room and shunned me: “Wow. You are really watching Zoey 101 instead of the last Bobcats game of the season?! Fake fan, man.” I felt so ashamed at this moment. I remember instantly flipping to the channel of the game and watching the season-ending highlight reel, sulking in my realization that I was a fake fan.

I honestly just wanted to share this story with everyone, and although it has nothing to do with this article, I’ll try to loop it in somehow.

After back-to-back 40 point games, Kemba Walker has finally been getting the national recognition he has earned. These performances are nothing new to Charlotte basketball fans who been around since he was wearing #1 for the Bobcats. As of November 24, Kemba Walker is top five in scoring across the league. The problem is that the Hornets are still just 9-9 on the season.

Mediocrity has been something all Charlotte fans have battled with, and last year I became all for joining #tanknation. I believed trading all our assets, including Kemba, for high draft picks was our only hope at competing in this league. However, after seeing Kemba absolutely terrorize defenses during the first several games of the season, my mind has changed. I like the attention the Hornets are getting now. I like that we are actually competing with the top teams in the East, even if it means getting heartbroken on overtime buzzer beaters. We can wait to tank - now is the time to go all in on Kemba.

Pulling a Hinkie isn’t Easy

Pulling a Hinkie essentially means letting go/trading away every asset, playing years of awful basketball and being the laughing stock of the Association in hopes that you add franchise players through great draft picks. The Sixers executed this plan well and has every mediocre team in the league pondering whether to do the same. However, it wasn’t so simple for the Sixers.

The Sixers #tanknation plan gave them five consecutive top-six picks in the draft from 2013-2017. As promising as it looks on paper, in reality, only two of these players (Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid) ended up being cornerstones or even long-term contributors to the franchise.  The Sixers traded away their best player, Jrue Holiday, in 2013 to acquire the draft rights to Nerlens Noel. Noel battled injuries throughout his tenure in Philly and ultimately was traded away after a couple years. Jahlil Okafor was their pick in the 2015 draft, but he also battled through injuries and was traded away after two years. Of course, Markelle Fultz might be the biggest question of them all. The Fultz story has been confusing even to the Sixers' standards, so much to the point that he has asked to be traded from the team.

Hornets fans who are on board with #tanknation as I was at one point should take note of the Sixers' struggle to draft generational talent.  We've learned this lesson several times (thanks Adam Morrison) and at this point understand that lottery picks do not guarantee franchise players. In addition to this, there is also the risk of bad luck in the lottery. Hornets fans also know this struggle far too well thanks to the rigged 2012 NBA Draft lottery that left us with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead of Anthony Davis.

Go All In on Kemba

My argument for tanking was always that even though we could get better by signing proven veterans, there is no real point in spending money if we cannot attract enough star power to become a championship contender. I still believe this to be largely true, but after seeing what we (and I mean Kemba when I say “we”) have done these past 18 games, it feels good to actually compete every night. It’s thrilling to see us keeping up with the top teams in the league and actually having a shot at making a run in the playoffs.

The Blazers are a realistic example of what our potential could be if the Hornets add another star to our team. The Blazers are a deep team with an amazing fan base that has made the playoffs for five consecutive years. Yes, the Blazers haven’t gotten past the conference semifinals in any of these years, but they’ve given Portland a myriad of unforgettable games and regular seasons that, frankly, I’m jealous of. I’d be happy to see us become the Blazers of the East (I’m going to regret saying this).

The Wizards are currently imploding and are reportedly willing to trade everyone. Bradley Beal has been on every Hornet fan’s mind since this news broke. Beal, who is just 25 years old, could be the second scorer we have been desperately looking for. It would take a lot for us to acquire Beal, including giving up picks and young assets, but the return of acquiring a proven scorer and All-Star is worth the risk.

A Kemba Walker/Bradley Beal duo could be the next Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum. Now is the time to go all on while we have a perennial All-Star on our team. This trade probably won’t make us conference contenders this year. To be real, it may never make us true contenders in the East. But, there is a chance. If this trade proves us to be a top-four team in the East for several years, major free agents will be more inclined to come to Charlotte - a destination that is rarely ever at the top of the list for big name players. Maybe one of our recent draft picks becomes a legitimate third-option scorer and we hit on a future draft pick that leads our second-unit. Maybe we can develop a legitimate team right now that can take us further than any Bobcats/Hornets team has. These aren’t far-fetched hypotheses, but rather, realities we can reach if we play our cards right.

Tying in Zoey 101 Somehow

In the 15 years since the Bobcats era began, this is the first time we have had a legitimate star. With a trade for a player like Bradley Beal, the Hornets could become a contending team in the East for the next several years. As a fanbase who are accustomed to mediocrity, we all deserve some hope.

Watching Zoey 101 didn’t make me a fake fan - it was the effect of feeling emptiness from witnessing mediocrity for so long. Maybe, if we go all in, we all might stop forgetting games instead of watching Zoey 101.

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