The Knicks were lauded for signing Kemba Walker to such a bargain contract this offseason: Two years, $17.9 million. If he could just stay healthy and play at the level he did in Boston, this would be a steal of a signing.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
A statistical summary of why the Knicks are pulling Kemba Walker from the rotation:
Knicks have the best defense in the league when he’s on the bench (99.0 DRtg) & are dead last (116.3 DRtg) when he’s on the floor.
They are 27th in offense with him playing, 9th with him off.
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) November 29, 2021
After Walker didn’t play against Atlanta and the starting lineup looked better with Alec Burks in the mix — which kept the strong bench guard rotation of Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley intact (although Rose was out against the Hawks) — coach Tom Thibodeau decided to make the change permanent. Burks starts and Walker is out of the rotation.
Now what for the Knicks and Walker?
As we move toward the February trade deadline, the team will look for a trade, reports A. Sherrod Blakely for Bleacher Report.
Multiple league sources believe the Knicks will look to trade Walker, whose value on the trade market, much like his production, is at an all-time low.
However, league sources believe Walker’s value has the potential to change as the Knicks get closer to the Feb. 10 trade deadline and teams get more desperate to add a veteran who, despite his defensive shortcomings, has shown he can still make shots, albeit in a more limited capacity.
Walker averaged 11.7 points a game and shot 41% from 3 this season, it’s not hard to envision a team talking themselves into him as a 15-minutes-off-the-bench guy who can get a few buckets. Dallas wants more playmaking, as do other playoff teams, maybe there is a fit.
Blakely suggests the Knicks and Rockets may want to talk a “problem for problem” swap involving John Wall, who does want to play and would be interested in helping a playoff team like the Knicks. The problem there is making the salaries match up for a deal: Walker is making $8.7 million this season and Wall is making $44.3 million. New York has only one player hitting the salary cap for more than $20 million, and they aren’t going to trade Julius Randle for Wall, so it would take five players (or more, depending on who), which makes it an impossible deal. (They could try to involve the Thunder, who have cap space, but that makes things more complicated.)
While Walker is out of the rotation now, it’s possible — even likely — that changes at some point, and maybe he can raise his trade value.
Expect to hear some Kemba Walker trade rumors over the coming months, but the Knicks will not get much back in any deal. It would almost be a salary dump.