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Report: Kemba Walker to reach buyout with Thunder, plans to sign with Knicks

The UConn product will head back to MSG to play for New York.

Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics smiles during the game against the Brooklyn Nets during Round 1, Game 3 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 28, 2021 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

PG Kemba Walker is expected to reach a buyout agreement with the Oklahoma City Thunder and plans to sign with the New York Knicks, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Wednesday morning.

This is going to make Knicks fans pretty happy. Walker is a New York native and went to Rice High School in Harlem. He then played at UConn in the Big East, which has a pretty big alumni group from around the tri-state area, most of which are Knicks fans. We all remember what Walker did at Madison Square Garden against Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville in the 2011 Big East Tournament.

Anyway, back to Walker in the NBA. After signing a four-year, $140 million contract with the Boston Celtics, the veteran PG was dealt to the Thunder after the 2020-21 season. Walker played two seasons with the Celtics, averaging around 20 points and 5 assists per game. His addition didn’t translate to playoff success and Walker wasn’t able to stay healthy. Now the Thunder will buyout Walker and he’ll join the Knicks, who brought back most of the players from last year’s playoff team.

The Knicks brought back Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks and Derrick Rose via free agency while losing Reggie Bullock. Taj Gibson was also retained and the big get was SG Evan Fournier on a four-year deal. Add that to the core of Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. Now, Walker is in the mix at guard and you’d think he’d end up starting alongside Barrett in the back court. Rose coming off the bench was always the best option and Quickley and Burks can provide offense as well.

It did get a bit crowded very fast. Rose and Burks aren’t similar players but both are sort of in the 6th-man mold, plus you’ve got Quickley in Year 2. Fournier eats minutes away from Quickley and now Walker will do the same. Walker is a good addition to the core of Randle and Barrett, however. Walker can take some of the scoring pressure off Barrett while giving Randle a pick-and-roll partner at guard.

The other issue is Walker has had trouble with injuries the past two seasons. He’s only played a combined 99 games (granted that’s in two short campaigns). Walker’s knees are not in great shape and the Knicks already have Rose on their roster. It’s unrealistic to think both Walker and Rose play full seasons at their ages. That may be why the Knicks added so much depth at guard with bringing back Burks and signing Fournier.

Right now, on DraftKings Sportsbook, the Knicks are 100/1 to win it all. New York is still a relative long-shot to win a championship in 2021-22, but the team is improved and did get the 4-seed in a tough-ish East last season. The East expects to be even tougher in 2021-22, but we should see the line on the Knicks to win it all move a bit after this transaction. If Walker pans out, we know that Tom Thibodeau will have the team playing harder than most during the regular season. New York will have a better shot at winning a playoff series this time around. Making a run through the East is still pretty unrealistic.

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