Photos Courtesy of Getty Images // Spark Sports Illustration

Kemba Walker is the face of the Charlotte Hornets. However, with the team floundering, it is time for the Hornets to part ways with their young star.

Kemba Walker is one of the NBA’s best success stories. After leading the Connecticut Huskies to the 2011 NCAA championship, Walker was drafted ninth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by Charlotte. He has steadily improved every season and was deservedly named an all-star for the first time last season.

With his star power, the Charlotte Hornets would love to build their franchise around him. At 27-years-old, Walker is still in his prime on a team-friendly deal of $12 million with one year remaining. But with only 18 months left on his current contract, the Hornets find themselves near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

Charlotte is also muddled in deep pockets on their salary books. After eating up the final two years of Dwight Howard’s $20+ million contract from the Atlanta Hawks for dead money, the team finds themselves in a situation where they have never been before: paying the luxury tax.

What’s worse is the ten players that are on the books for next season with guaranteed contracts are expected to make a combined $116.4 million. Add in the salary of their first-round pick – currently the No. 10 selection – which would be around $2.9 million and three to four minimum contracts at $1.5 million each, and the franchise finds themselves a few million dollars into the luxury tax.

Let’s breakdown the salary situation for a second; Charlotte will be shelling out a combined $62 million to three aging players (Howard, Marvin Williams and Nicolas Batum) over the next two to three seasons.

Now if the Hornets were contending for a playoff spot, it would not be a problem. However, they find themselves closer to the bottom of the conference than they are to the eighth seed.

Going back to Walker, who is the franchise’s lone star, is having a solid season, averaging 21.7 points per game and 5.8 assists. With the direction Charlotte is headed, there is very little to convince him to re-sign when his contract expires after next season.

So… the question is, who should Charlotte look to make a deal for Walker with?