The Knicks are expected to officially announce the signing of All-Star point guard Kemba Walker on Sunday when the buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder finalizes. Walker brings experience, play-making ability, and elite potential at a minuscule price point for Tom Thibodeau this upcoming season.
After starting free agency with a focus on loyalty and retaining players like Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, and Derrick Rose, the front office turned their attention toward upgrades. Depending on Rose to last the entire season without picking up minor injuries is optimistic, so landing Walker provides a nice cushion at point guard to mitigate fatigue and hopefully maintain health.
However, Walker has dealt with left knee injuries in the past, and at this point in his career, they’re considered degenerative.
Marc Berman of the NY Post spoke to Dr. Wellington Hsu, professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Northwestern University, regarding Kemba’s knee and the likelihood of it holding up next season:
â€œHeâ€™ll always have the issue the rest of his career,â€™â€™ Hsu told The Post. â€œHeâ€™s not a spring chicken. Heâ€™ll have some type of lingering issue.â€
Having played in 43 games last season, averaging 31.8 minutes per game, the Knicks are hoping he can split time with Rose and remain in peak form as a result. Ideally, the Knicks would have both during the postseason, which would take a tremendous amount of pressure off Julius Randle and the PG position.
The expectation is that Kemba will likely be on a minute count, but if they can get his All-Star version during that time, the team will improve their scoring production 10-fold.
â€œAny GM would look at history of arthritis knee injuries in guards and would know that heâ€™s on a game count or minutes count,â€™â€™ Hsu said. â€œHeâ€™s not going to be available all the time. I donâ€™t know if you want a max salary on a guy like that, especially if youâ€™re in your 30â€™s. If he was in his 20â€™s, thereâ€™s chance he can regenerate some of that tissue over time. Itâ€™s going to be dicey on how much he plays.â€™â€™
Kemba is only one year removed from a season where he averaged 20.4 points, 4.8 assists, and shot 38% from range over 8.4 attempts. His high-clip from 3-Pt is a big addition to a Knicks team that featured Elfrid Payton and his 28.6% shooting from range last season.
Overall, depending on Kemba to be available the entire season is a bit lofty of an expectation, but if they monitor his minuted apporiorately and balance him with Rose, Luca Vildoza, and Miles, McBride, there’s no question they can get the most out of the Bronx-native.