Would the Chicago Bulls be willing to take on New York Knicks guard Kemba Walker? That could be the cost of both moving up in the 2022 NBA Draft on June 23 and getting off of Coby White’s contract as he heads into the final year.
The Bulls have been bandied about in rumors of varying degrees since they were summarily dismissed from the postseason in five games by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Since then, Bulls vice president of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas’ intentions of continuity have been repeated ad nauseam. But the outside world continues to include them in rumors for Rudy Gobert, P.J. Tucker, and even Nicolas Batum.
Walker would be wild even by the most lenient of metrics.
Cardiac Kemba to See Red Nation?
This suggestion comes via Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes who offers up one move each team in the NBA can make on draft night. For the Bulls, Hughes ties several rumors into one with the result being Walker in Chicago.
The rest of the package makes more sense with the Bulls shedding an expiring contract to bring one back while also improving their draft position.
Walker’s Knicks tenure has been bad. He signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Knicks in free agency on August 11 after being waived by the Oklahoma City Thunder on August 6. That was following a trade from the Boston Celtics who got him via trade from Charlotte in July of 2019.
He appeared in 37 games last year missing time with injuries and after being taken out of the rotation by current Knicks and former Bulls head coach, Tom Thibodeau.
The benching did not go over well with Walker, wrote Ashish Mathur for Sportscasting.com.
An 11-year NBA veteran and four-time All-Star, Walker averaged the fewest points per game of his career on his worst overall efficiency since 2015 all while making the fewest total appearances of his career.
Hughes suggests he is more salary-matching fodder than contributor at this point.
“In a perfect world (for the Bulls), they’d convince the Knicks to include Nerlens Noel instead…With Mitchell Robinson‘s free agency looming, though, New York might be unwilling to part with Noel, who…is simply a more valuable player than the officially washed Walker.”
The Real Prize of This Deal
Hughes’ centerpiece for the Bulls is Baylor forward, Jeremy Sochan. The worldly combo forward has drawn raves for his defensive potential as his stock rises amid the pre-draft process. Some projections even have him going in the top six, says Locked On Baylor host, Drake Toll.
He would slot into the Bulls’ current defensive framework quite nicely, writes Hughes.
“With the 11th pick, the Bulls could target Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan, a 6’9″ wing with great feel who can defend across the positional spectrum. Adding him to lineups that include Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball would help Chicago rediscover the defensive disruption that keyed its hot start last season.”
Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported that the Bulls are expected to show interest in Batum, the Los Angeles Clippers’ free agent. He also says the expectation is for Batum to re-sign in L.A. leaving the Bulls still searching.
Unless, of course, they can complete a deal such as this.
SB Nations’s Ricky O’Donnell joined the “Bulls Talk Podcast” on June 21 and expressed concerns over expecting a 19-year-old prospect to contribute immediately. Sochan just turned 19 on May 20.
After Wendell Carter Jr. blossomed in his fifth season but for another team, and with Patrick Williams’ development staggered, the Bulls find themselves asking familiar questions.
White on His Way Out?
As the rumor mill has continued to churn, White’s name has become more of a constant. The belief that they would move him turned into a package with the 18th overall pick. But the popular notion was that the package would be used for a veteran return such as a big or a wing.
Walker is neither of those things. His clutch shot-making would serve the Bulls well if he could rediscover that form.
White would get a fresh start on a team that is looking for what he offers.
“White would have a larger role on the New York Knicks, who need spot-up threats and shot creators. Depending on how they feel about the difference between picking 11th and 18th, the Knicks might find the drop in draft slot worth the trouble for a guy in White who came off the board at No. 7 in 2019.”
Interestingly, both White and Walker should be what their incumbent teams are looking for this offseason.
It will be even more interesting if one is moved while the other stays put this summer.