How the Knicks replaced Elfrid Payton’s minutes in genius fashion

knicks, kemba walker

The New York Knicks had several goals this off-season, but none were bigger than upgrading the point guard position. After selecting Miles McBride out of West Virginia with the 36th overall selection in the 2021 NBA draft, the front office looked forward to free agency to find veteran leadership.

One of their first moves after free agency commenced on Monday evening was to bring back point guard Derrick Rose. The veteran is preparing to turn 33-years-old in two months but was one of the more impactful players for the Knicks last season.

Upon his acquisition, head coach Tom Thibodeau played Rose 26.8 minutes per game on average. He scored 14.9 points, 4.2 assists, and shot nearly 49% from the field. He also hit a career-high 41% from three.

Rose acted as a pure floor general, spreading the ball and leading the offense with vision and efficiency. However, his presence wasn’t enough for the front office; they wanted a bigger name who could share minutes and mitigate fatigue over the course of a long campaign.

In addition to Derrick, they targeted former Boston Celtics PG Kemba Walker. Walker finalized a buyout from the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday and immediately joined the ranks in New York, looking to revive his career in his hometown. As a Bronx native, Walker is 31-years-old and played in 43 games last year before injury got the best of him.

Walker averaged 19.3 points, 4.9 assists, and shot 42% from the field. He is a high-clip three-point shooter as well, connecting on 36% over 8.2 attempts per game. However, the 2020-21 season represented one of his down years, considering he’s earned four All-Star appearances over the last five seasons.

During his most productive campaign in 2018, Walker averaged 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and shot 43.4% from the field over 82 games. His unique athleticism and burst gave him an edge over defenders, but his knees have taken a beating the last few seasons. The Knicks don’t want to rely on him as their primary option, so he will replace Elfrid Payton’s 23.6 minutes per game.

Payton was allowed to walk this off-season after a one-year, $5 million deal came to an end. He logged 10.1 points, 3.2 assists, and shot 43% from the field. He was borderline useless as a three-point shooter and was quickly replaced after the acquisition of Rose. The Knicks hoped he could provide some value during the postseason to help give Rose time to rest on the bench, but he simply couldn’t handle the load.

Fast forward to present day, and the Knicks have a point guard room consisting of Rose, Walker, McBride, and Luca Vildoza. Some might even categorize Immanuel Quickley as a PG, but he fits the role of a shooting guard moving forward.

The best part about the team’s moves is the contracts they handed out. Rose is essentially on a two-year, $20 million deal, as the third season is not guaranteed. Walker is set to earn just $8 million per year over two seasons, representing an absolute steal if he can remain healthy. Keep in mind, Walker is only one year moved from an All-Star appearance, and if he can return the form, the Knicks could find themselves pushing even further in the post-season next year.

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