With no trade assets to offer except for young star Kristaps Porzingis, the New York Knicks are reportedly looking to continue their rebuild by exploring the coming draft and free agency market. However, Metro USA’s Joe Pantorno predicted that the team will be focusing on this year’s draft and next year’s free agency with Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker emerging as one of their top targets.
The Knicks tried to close a deal with the Hornets for Walker before last month’s trade deadline, but negotiations fell through when New York decided to conserve salary cap space and get Emmanuel Mudiay from the Denver Nuggets instead.
Porzingis, who is currently out with an ACL injury, has one year left in his rookie deal before becoming a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019. The Knicks are reportedly reserving cap space to sign the Latvian sensation to a long-term contract extension this summer as they believe he could be their future face of the franchise.
After staying put at the trade deadline, the Knicks were able to keep their 2018 first-round draft pick. They now have a chance at getting a higher selection in what was reported is going to be a deep draft class. The team is said to be planning to pair Porzingis with an elite rookie that they can draft in June before they try to lure a star free agent next year.
Pantorno listed a handful of 2019 free agents that New York could pursue by that time. The last one on the list was Walker.
Walker, 27, has been one of the best floor generals in the Eastern Conference in the past few years. The two-time NBA All-Star has averaged more than 20 points and five assists in each of the last two seasons. Currently, his averages are 22.9 points, 5.7 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals in 34.8 minutes per game for head coach Steve Clifford.
Pantorno said that the Hornets’ willingness to trade Walker before the deadline is a clear indication that the ballclub is not planning to re-sign him in 2019. There are rumors that Charlotte is preparing to move on from the former Connecticut standout after several seasons of underachievement.
Walker has been with Charlotte in all of his seven previous seasons in the league. Last year’s NBA Sportsmanship Award winner was able to lead the squad to only two postseason appearances in that span, losing in the first round both times, even while playing in what is considered a “weaker” Eastern Conference.