Kemba Walker Out Of New York Knicks’ Rotation — Is He Done?

Kemba Walker, New York Knicks, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

The New York Knicks picked up an impressive victory on the road over the Atlanta Hawks during Saturday night’s NBA action. Despite playing short-handed, as Kemba Walker, Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel, and Taj Gibson were all sidelined, on the second night of a back-to-back after getting blown out by the Phoenix Suns on Friday night at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks picked up a 99-90 victory.

With a record of 11-9, the Knicks have had some bright spots, but there have also been some struggles. The starting five, in particular, has not produced at the level Tom Thibodeau had hoped that they would.

We have seen struggling units get time to figure things out, but Thibodeau has decided that 20 games into the season are more than enough time and a change is needed. He revealed on Monday that Kemba Walker would be removed from the starting lineup in favor of Alec Burks.

This is a huge move for the Knicks, as their five-man rotation of Walker, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson had played the most minutes in the league but was the worst-performing five-man lineup in point differential. While each had their struggles, it was Walker who stood out the most.

LATEST NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: 3 Trade Targets For New York Knicks — Pass Or Pursue?

New York has been outscored by 122 points in the 441 minutes that Walker has played this season. As Tommy Beer pointed out, the -122 is the worst plus/minus of any player on a winning team this season.

For perspective, the other guards on the team, Derrick Rose, Burks, and Immanuel Quickley, all have positive plus/minus ratios. The Knicks bench has been one of the best units in the league thus far this season, and those three are a big reason why.

Rose leads the way with a +113 in his minutes. Quickley isn’t too far behind at +100 and Burks is +46.

This could not have been an easy decision for Thibodeau, as Walker’s signing was lauded by many people. But, it became clear throughout the early part of the season that Walker’s best days are likely well behind him.

LATEST NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: 3 Trade Targets For New York Knicks — Pass Or Pursue?

While things could change down the line, Walker will be removed from the rotation for now. Part of the reason for it is that finding minutes for three smaller guards was going to be difficult.

Walker, Rose, and Quickley are all 6’3” or shorter. Inserting Burks into the starting lineup should help the team on the defensive side of the ball, providing them with some more versatility and length on that end of the court.

LATEST NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: 3 Trade Targets For New York Knicks — Pass Or Pursue?

The Knicks knew they would take a hit defensively with Walker and Fournier replacing Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock, but it has been a more significant downgrade than anticipated. Burks’ presence will certainly help as he will be tougher to pick on than Walker was.

With Kemba Walker removed from the rotation, this likely means 2021 first-round pick Quentin Grimes will get his first shot at consistent rotation minutes. He will likely fill Burks’ role on the bench, providing the team with a lot of the skillset they lost when Bullock departed in free agency with his 3-and-D style of play.