Kemba Walker Out of the New York Knicks Rotation
While some of us were polishing off our leftover Thanksgiving Turkeys, the New York Knicks made a shocking announcement regarding Kemba Walker‘s status on the team. Head Coach Tom Thibodeau has announced that as of right now, former All-Star Kemba is out of the Knicks rotation. “It’s a tough decision to make, but you always have to do what you think is best for the team,” said Thibodeau. “I’ve got great respect for who Kemba is as a person and all he’s accomplished in this league.”
Replacing him will be combo guard Alec Burks. It was clear from Kemba’s struggles so far, that a move was eventually going to happen. Although the timing is surprising that it was this early. However, approaching the quarter mark of the season and sitting at 11-9 and in the middle of a tough stretch, every game matters in solidifying a playoff place.
Kemba struggled immensely defensively, and he lacked explosion in the paint. He was only able to create his own shot. In consequence, the whole offense stagnated. His shot wasn’t falling either, shooting just 29% from range in November.
This move was always risky due to his knee problems and it has clearly not worked. Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley will share the point guard duties along with Burks, and the Knicks will be back on the point guard market moving forward.
Knicks Plans Moving Forward
As of right now, Burks will be the starting point guard. Whilst he is not a conventional point guard, he provides what the Knicks are looking for in a combo guard. He has size, defends well, and offensively he is a solid ball-handler and has plenty of range. Shooting 45% from the perimeter so far this year. He’s been one of the Knicks’ best players to this point, coming off a 23 point night in their win against the Hawks on Saturday.
Quickley continues to be a shining light for this team, and Rose continues to be the team’s most important player in terms of ball movement, transition, and scoring. They have also recently given increased minutes to first-round pick Quentin Grimes due to his defense.
I expect Julius Randle to go back to being the ball-handler he was last season. He didn’t mesh well with Kemba on the court chemistry-wise as both struggled without the ball.
Stats tell the story of why Kemba Walker fell out of the New York Knicks rotation
Per Fred Katz of the Athletic, the Knicks were last in the league in defensive rating with him on the court. They were also 27th in the league in offense with him on the court, ninth in the league with him off it. With Kemba on the court, the Knicks were being outscored by 13 points per 100 possessions.
Furthermore, his 11.7 points per game and 3 assists are all massively off his career averages. Let’s not forget it was only in 2018 that he averaged 25 points per game for Charlotte. For once being one of the finest point guards in the NBA, his knee problems have affected his game to this point.
Feel-Good story goes awry for Kemba Walker
Former All-Star Walker was the highlight signing of the off-season. He came with great fanfare. Returning to his hometown, Knicks front office were hoping that they could catch lightning in a bottle by bringing him to MSG. However, the move has not worked and the Knicks are still searching for their starting point guard. This is a now perennial problem for this franchise, which does raise the question as to why the Knicks weren’t more active in the off-season to get younger at the position. For instance, Lonzo Ball prior to his move to Chicago could have helped with his defense and playmaking.
In fairness to Thibodeau, deciding to move on from a player of Walker’s caliber for the betterment of the team isn’t easy. It is the right decision however, the Knicks have the depth and talent to be a strong playoff team in this deep Eastern Conference with more consistency. They simply couldn’t afford to sustain the nightly chemistry and defensive issues in the first unit, bailed out by their tremendous bench. This move should help even out the disparity in the short-term until they find their long-term point guard answer.
There must be an element of sympathy for Walker who is a great professional and wonderful talent when healthy. Knicks will likely try and do right by him and find a good situation for him by the deadline. As for the Knicks, increasing minutes for talented young scoring guard Quickley can only be a positive as they plan ahead. All in all, this was a tough decision but likely the right one for Thibodeau and the Knicks.
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