Kemba Walker’s tenure with the New York Knicks has not even reached 20 games yet and his departure is apparently already being discussed.
Multiple league sources told A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report on Tuesday that the Knicks will look to trade Walker, though his value is at an “all-time low.”
It’s a swift and dramatic fall from grace for the 31-year-old four-time All-Star that was given a hero’s welcome when acquired over the summer. Walker, a Bronx native and Rice High School alum, was expected to be the missing link that has been the ever-elusive franchise point guard while helping his hometown team take the next step.
That hasn’t been the case in the slightest.
Walker is averaging eight points fewer this season (11.7) with the Knicks than his career average of 19.7 points per game to go with 3.1 assists.
While his offensive production has lagged, his defensive contributions have been non-existent. It prompted head coach Tom Thibodeau to keep Walker on the bench during the fourth quarter — opting to use the likes of Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, and Alec Burks instead.
After posting 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting in a loss against the Phoenix Suns, Walker was pulled out of the Knicks’ rotation beginning with Saturday’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
“It’s a tough decision to make, but you always have to do what you think is best for the team,” Thibodeau said on Monday when discussing his decision. “I view Kemba as a starter, and so it’d be tough to play three small guards together.
“I gave it consideration, and I’ve got great respect for who Kemba is as a person and all he’s accomplished in this league. But I have to do what I think is best for the team.”
It’s a clear message that Thibodeau won’t give a player minutes if they can’t stick to his rigid system that helped yield the NBA’s best defense last season. Especially when the difference in defense is so clear.
New York’s defense is ranked 17th in the NBA this season. With Wall off the floor, their defensive rating of 99.0 would be the best in the NBA, per Blakely.
Now, the look for trade partners might commence.
With his value so low, the belief, per Blakely, is that the Knicks will wait closer to the Feb. 10 trade deadline before pulling the trigger on a deal; allowing Walker to rebuild his value.
A potential candidate could be the Houston Rockets for John Wall — another All-Star-caliber guard that has had a career derailed by injuries before making the decision not to play for the Western Conference side to start the season. While conversations are ongoing to potentially get him back on the floor in Houston, it could be to build his trade value similarly to Walker.