It has been just two games since New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau made the surprising move to drop four-time All-Star Kemba Walker from his rotation. However, the early returns seem to indicate that it was the right move for the team.
After beating the Atlanta Hawks by nine points on November 27, the Knicks only narrowly lost to the crosstown, East-leading Brooklyn Nets three nights later in a game the New York Post reverently described as being “worthy of the city, worthy of New York.”
Meanwhile, Walker’s replacement at the point, Alec Burks, has scored 20-plus points in back-to-back contests.
With Thibodeau having established a new direction for his club, the big unknown now is probably what the Knicks plan to do with Walker. Does he simply sit back and collect checks to not play for the foreseeable future or is there a move to be made by the team?
SportsNet New York’s David Vertsberger explored the latter strategy, breaking down a handful of trade scenarios involving the 31-year-old.
Kemba to the Mavs
Vertsberger noted that unloading Walker would likely require finding “a franchise desperately seeking out additional scoring and creation in the backcourt at the cost of defense and some consistency.”
As he sees it, the Dallas Mavericks may just be that team. He writes:
Perhaps a team like the Dallas Mavericks, seeking out additional help for Luka Doncic, would be interested. Their star’s secondary offensive playmakers are Jalen Brunson and a mix of Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s best nights.
Walker would provide somewhat of a scoring and handling punch from the one, for a return Knicks fans would enjoy. One trade that matches up cap-wise is Walker in return for Reggie Bullock and/or Frank Ntilikina, two contributors to last year’s Knicks.
Although the idea of a Bullock (and, to a lesser degree, Ntilikina) homecoming intrigues, the Mavs may be loath to part with either, even as both have struggled to find the net this season.
Meanwhile, Brunson’s emergence this season and Trey Burke’s efficacy off the bench probably puts a serious cap on Walker’s ability to even get court time in the Big D. Furthermore, the Mavs seem like a team desperate to find “defense and some consistency,” not sacrifice it.
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Could the Lakers Be a Possibility?
Another team that was pitched as a potential trade partner for Walker was the Los Angeles Lakers. And the return Vertsberger talked about is definitely one that could pique the Knicks’ interest.
A better place to look might be the Lakers, reeling from a host of injuries and getting little spacing from their point guard position. It’s a realistic destination for older, talented players known for their former glory and the Knicks should be happy with getting Kendrick Nunn back as a flier.
Where LA is concerned, he hits the nail on the head when he mentions things like “older players” and “former glory.” In that regard, Walker is perhaps the textbook example of the kind of player Rob Pelinka has gone after since assuming responsibility for the team’s player personnel decisions.
However, that’s also the exact reason the Lakers would be wise to avoid a deal for Kemba. That star-chasing strategy hasn’t exactly paid off for them this season; it has just made them less versatile and a lot older.
Other teams mentioned by Vertsberger include the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets, although he was careful to note that any John Wall chatter should probably be discarded. Walker’s post-buyout salary doesn’t approach the same universe as Wall’s monster deal where money matching is concerned.