Four-time All-Star guard Kemba Walker has agreed to a contract buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and upon clearing waivers, plans to sign with the New York Knicks, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 4, 2021
The four-time All-Star took a buyout from the Oklahoma City Thunder after landing there in a draft-day trade with the Boston Celtics.
The buyout paved the way for Walker to return to familiar stomping grounds, allowing him to sign a two-year, $18 million deal.
He joins a Knicks squad that made a surprise run to the playoffs last season.
Some Of Walker’s Best Moments Have Come At MSG
A journey 🗽 pic.twitter.com/V14KpvQH7S
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) August 22, 2021
Having played at Harlem’s Rice High School, Walker is no stranger to the bright lights of the Big Apple.
Aside from his more memorable game-winning shot in the Big East Tournament while with the University of Connecticut, Walker helped his high school team defeat his now-teammate Derrick Rose in a memorable battle in the Garden.
The Knicks introduced Walker, alongside former Celtics and now New York teammate Evan Fournier, with a highlight package that included some of Walker’s most memorable moments, chief among them that Big East Tournament run in Madison Square Garden.
Walker led the Huskies to that unlikely Big East Championship, then an even more unlikely NCAA title, earning Most Outstanding Player along the way.
“Everything is perfect. Perfect timing. I’m really motivated. Super excited that these guys have belief in me.” — Kemba on the opportunity
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) August 17, 2021
The 31-year-old no longer has to shoulder the bulk of the offensive burden, considering the rest of New York’s core.
And that’s good for Walker, considering the 6-foot-1 guard dealt with knee issues while with the Celtics.
Walker Can Recapture That All-Star Form In New York
Walker shot his way to four All-Star berths over the last five seasons.
But last year, Walker’s knee issues limited him to just 43 games, as well as missing time in the playoffs.
Over 99 games with the Celtics, Walker averaged 19.9 points per game on 42.3 percent shooting and 37.2 percent from three.
When he’s playing, he’s a potent offensive force that should help mitigate some of New York’s offensive struggles.
The Knicks paved the way to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference last season on the back of their top-5 defense.
Unfortunately for New York, their offense lagged behind, ranking just 22nd in the league.
Those struggled seemed to be magnified during the team’s first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
But having Walker in the halfcourt will provide the Knicks with a talented shot creator who can hit consistently from three-point range.
He’s immediately more of a pull-up threat than Rose, who opposing defenses could drop off of.
This gives Randle and Mitchell Robinson a more dynamic pick-and-roll partner who opponents need to account for in every action.
Walker also stands as an intriguing option for inverted pick-and-rolls, where Randle acts as the primary ball-handler and Walker the screener.
Those actions can create mismatches and leverage New York’s offensive tools in a way that was limited a season ago.
Walker providing the Knicks with anything close to his 19 points, five assists, and four rebounds average from last season could see the guard make his fifth run at an All-Star berth.