NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 26: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Kemba Walker #8 of the New York Knicks in action against the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden on October 26, 2021 in New York City. The Knicks defeated the 76ers 112-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
There is a perception that the New York Knicks removed Kemba Walker from their rotation because he was the main cause of the team’s defensive struggles. Fred Katz of the Athletic tweeted on November 29th that one of the reasons the team took Walker out of the rotation was their defensive rating of 116.3 with him on the floor.
The defensive rating was much better with him off the floor as it was 99. Although Katz’s statistics are correct, those numbers don’t tell the whole story behind the team’s defensive issues.
This season, New York has developed a habit of constantly watching the ball on defense instead of paying attention to their defensive assignments.
These types of defensive possessions led the New york Knicks to give up 25 uncontested shots per game with Kemba Walker on the floor – 27.9 percent of the shot attempts that opponents average against the team.
Opponents have done a decent job of converting those uncontested attempts, as they shot 43.3 percent when Kemba Walker was in the rotation. After the Phoenix Suns game, Tom Thibodeau said that Walker would be removed from the rotation because he didn’t want to bring him off the bench, as he sees Walker exclusively as a starter.
The lineup change has not helped New York as they still have the same issues. New York hasn’t stopped watching the ball on the defensive end of the floor.
More importantly, removing Walker from the rotation has hurt their second unit as Thibodeau had to promote Burks into the starting lineup. With Burks in the starting lineup, the Knicks ’ second unit has struggled from behind the arc, as they are only shooting 28.2 percent over the last four games on 9.8 shots per game.
Their three-point percentage over the last four games has significantly declined compared to when Burks was in the second unit, as they shot 36.7 percent over the first 19 games on 15.5 attempts per game.
The decline in three-point percentage has been a factor in the decline of their scoring output as they are only averaging 32 points per game – 21.5 percent less than the first 19 games of the season.
Walker is a player who can help the bench regain its form from the first 19 games as he shot 41.3 percent from behind the arc before getting removed from the rotation on 5.1 attempts per game.
Walker’s three-point shooting isn’t a hot streak as he has shot 36.1 percent during his career, from behind the arc, on 6.2 attempts per game. Therefore, the New York Knicks should consider reinserting Walker into the rotation to improve their bench production.