There is a flurry of movement going on in the Eastern Conference in 2021 free agency.
The Nets and Sixers are adding to their bench, while the Bulls are swinging deals left and right to load up. Now, according to ESPN, the Knicks are reportedly set to acquire four-time All-Star point guard Kemba Walker.
Walker's contract is being bought out by the Thunder, who added the 31-year-old from the Celtics via trade in June. The Thunder sent Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick to Boston for Walker and a 2021 first-round pick.
Less than two months later, Walker is on his way out of Oklahoma City and back to the Eastern Conference where he has played his entire career. He was due to make about $73 million over the next two years.
Last season, Walker averaged 19.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.0 rebounds for the Celtics while shooting 42.0% from the field and 36.0% from deep. Though those numbers were not far off what he produced during his best years in Charlotte, Walker received a good deal of the blame for the Celtics' shortcomings. He was traded away soon after Brad Stevens took over their front office, which many took as a sign he was past his prime.
But Walker can still score and that's what the Knicks need the most. Last season, they were third in defensive rating but 23rd on offense. They were 26th out of 30 teams in points per game.
Though they re-signed Derrick Rose, the Knicks had a hole at point guard that Walker can now fill. He will also play his home games at Madison Square Garden where Walker famously led UConn to the Big East title in a record-setting performance that included a buzzer-beater against Pitt. Walker caught fire and took the Huskies all the way to the national championship.
Walker is also from New York. He was born in the Bronx and starred at Rice High School.
The Knicks made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2013, in the first year with Tom Thibodeau as head coach. They have an emerging core of young players led by R.J. Barrett, plus All-Star Julius Randle.
New York was the fourth seed in the East at 41-31, equal to a 47-win pace over a full season. Walker should only make them better and help deepen the Eastern Conference in the process. For a team like the Wizards, which made the playoffs as the eight-seed last year, the road may only get more difficult.