The New York Knicks may have a crowded backcourt, but that doesn’t mean changes won’t have to be made. The Knicks will enter the 2018-19 NBA season with either Emmanuel Mudiay or Trey Burke leading the way. However, if the playoffs are their goal with the possible return of Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks will need to make an upgrade at the position. This is where Kemba Walker comes into play.
While the Charlotte Hornets have yet to come out publicly and say Walker is available, it’s time they decided to move their best players and build toward the future.
What makes Kemba Walker so appealing for other teams and not the Hornets is what the future holds regarding money. Michael Jordan is trying to shed salary, and while Walker is on the books for only $12 million in 2018, he’s a free agent in 2019.
The more significant issue here is that the Hornets are already paying a small fortune to players like Nicholas Batum ($24 million), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13 million), Bismack Biyombo ($18 million), Cody Zeller ($14 million), and Marvin Williams ($13.6 million). Ouch! But who on that list is Walker and how many of those players mentioned have worn the All-Star jersey in the last two seasons?
With their high contracts, Walker’s may be the only one who can be dealt with a high return. And this is where the New York Knicks come into play.
If the Knicks are serious about contending, they will need to provide Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Porzingis with a floor general who knows how and when to take over when the time is necessary. I’m big on Burke after he transformed his game, Mudiay is still too wishy-washy, and Frank Ntilikina is still developing and can play at least some two-guard. However, adding Kemba Walker will give the Knicks their version of a “Big 3.”
In 2017, Walker averaged 22.1 points and 5.6 assists while shooting 43.1 percent from the floor, including 38.4 percent from three-point territory. The closest point guard on the Knicks to match Walker’s production from deep was Burke who shot 36.2 percent. While the Knicks’ bad season can be attributed to many things like injuries, coaching, and the front office, the truth is, there was no stability at the point guard position.
What Scott Perry could do is offer the Hornets a package that includes Burke, Lance Thomas, Courtney Lee, and the Knicks’ first rounder in 2019. While the Hornets may scoff at the mention of Lee, there is always the possibility they could buy him out. The Knicks don’t have much to offer the Hornets so they will need to get real creative with what they would offer. The only players who should be safe are Porzingis and Kanter.
The New York Knicks shot 35.2 percent from beyond the arc in 2017, and much of that was due to Porzingis being out and the inability of Hardaway and Lee to knock down open looks. However, the main reason for this is the unstable point guard play to draw in the extra defender and kick out to shooters on a consistent basis.
With Walker, breaking down the defense is his specialty. While his assists are not up there with the elite guards, Walker hasn’t had the type of teammates who love to slash to the basket or pin-point marksman on the perimeter. Pairing him in the backcourt with Hardaway Jr while giving him an inside presence like Kanter who does the dirty work could turn Walker into another Damian Lillard type player.
If James Dolan is all about making the Knicks faithful happy, then why not bring a hometown kid back to his roots? Walker ruled the playgrounds of the Bronx then did the same at Madison Square Garden while a member of UConn during the Big East Tournament. To have him in the Orange & Blue would send shockwaves through NYC.
Will Walker’s presence be enough for them to win the East? Maybe not but his addition would be seen as a stepping stone in the right direction. Right now, Knicks fans need a reason to cheer as they have watched the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and now the Brooklyn Nets make significant strides after dealing with their own darkness.
If a trade can’t be done, then the New York Knicks may have to wait until the offseason when Walker is a free agent. Will he be in the market for a max deal? Yes, and he deserves every penny of it. Winning starts with the front office and the Knicks next big decision should be finding a way to acquire Kemba Walker.