It’s no secret that the Chicago Bulls front office has made it their mission to revitalize the team going into this upcoming season. Offseason acquisitions like Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and DeMar DeRozan have not only energized the Bulls’ rabid fanbase but also sent a strong message to the rest of the Eastern Conference that Chicago is no longer interested in rebuilding.
The Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks stand alone as the class of the eastern conference, but the remaining six seeds are up for grabs, and the Chicago Bulls’ recent moves have firmly placed them in the heart of this competition. The New York Knicks, also looking to keep pace with the rest of the conference, are now slated to sign Kemba Walker (once he clears waivers) to replace Elfrid Payton in their starting backcourt.
While a good signing, Kemba Walker does not drastically change the landscape of the eastern conference or impact the Chicago Bulls outlook in 2021.
Kemba, now 31, is similar to Derozan in that he is a 20-plus point per game scorer that is an instant boost to any offense he joins. However, unlike Derozan, he comes with a significant injury history that plagued him during his two-year stint in Boston and is also undersized for his position which makes him a defensive liability.
Should Kemba Walker be healthy all season, he definitely makes the Knicks a much better basketball team – one that could definitely help reignite the Knicks rivalry with the Chicago Bulls as both teams grapple for positioning within the middle of the eastern conference standings.
Furthermore, despite having defensive shortcomings (no pun intended), Tom Thibodeau’s defensive genius will be able to help the rest of the team overcompensate for Kemba and keep the defense playing at a high level.
However, this is where I still feel the Chicago Bulls have an edge over the Knicks despite them adding Kemba to a roster that was the fourth seed in the East last season. The Chicago Bulls added Lonzo Ball, a 6’6 guard who can match up well with every single guard in the conference. This will definitely be the case when the Bulls play the Knicks and Kemba Walker will have to contend with someone six inches taller shadowing him for the whole game. Not to mention, the Bulls also have Alex Caruso coming off the bench who has made his name for being a defensive menace.
All in all, NBA free agency thus far has shown that the teams in the eastern conference are no longer content perpetually rebuilding till a superteam falls in their lap. Teams like the Bulls and Knicks which have suffered in basketball purgatory for the better part of this decade are finally making moves to bring them back to consistent relevancy and the Knicks’ recent signing of Kemba Walker re-emphasizes this exact mission.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, I don’t see the signing as significant enough to elevate them above their competition in the conference or even significantly alter the Chicago Bulls’ outlook this upcoming season.