Well folks, the wonderful spectacle of the NBA trade/waive/buyout season is officially upon us. And what team could ring in the best time of the year better than the Dallas Mavericks?
On Monday morning, NBA insider Marc Stein broke the news that the Mavs plan to sign former All-Star Kemba Walker, who was waived by the Detroit Pistons.
As a result, the Mavs are also without Facundo Campazzo, who signed for Dallas in the summer and played with Luka Doncic in the Real Madrid EuroLeague days. In Walker, the Mavericks get a player whose best days are unquestionably behind him, but who nonetheless represents an upgrade over Campazzo, who was Dallas’ only real non-wing guard option off the bench.
Despite the benefits, many fans wondered how much Walker’s addition will really impact a team that has lost four straight games and is 11th in the Western Conference.
In a way, bringing the struggling Walker into the herd of a struggling Mavericks team is only appropriate. Unfortunately, two mistakes rarely make one right, and Walker’s fit at Dallas seems a lot better on paper than it is in practice.
At his peak, Walker was a dynamic, light-footed playmaker who kept defense honest through the arc. In 2018-19, for example, he averaged a career-high 25.6 points and nearly six assists per game. But in the three years since, Walker has only played in 55 percent of his teams’ games, often missing time from nagging injuries. In fact, he has yet to play this season, although that was more of a factor in Detroit’s focus on a younger roster than any injury worries.
And then there’s the defense. Suffice it to say that as a point guard, Walker was never a real threat either way. While Walker was a decent defensive point guard for the Charlotte Hornets six years ago, he’s been in the bottom half of the league in terms of steal rate ever since. Fortunately, Dallas is currently fourth in the league in steals, but still has a defensive rating that’s just outside the top 10.
But the defense probably isn’t why Dallas signed Walker in the first place. Dallas need a reliable secondary playmaker who can ease some of the Herculean burdens Doncic has carried so far this season. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, reliability hasn’t been Walker’s forte lately.
Despite his shortcomings, Walker still has many fans on and off the floor. Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, for whom Walker last played, said injury concerns were the only limitation on Walker’s game.
“We thought (the big money signing) was worth it. There were some good moments. If he’s healthy, he’s fine. So that’s it.”
Right now, it makes sense for the Mavericks to get Walker back into game shape. Barring an unforeseen disaster with Spencer Dinwiddie, Walker will most likely come off the bench. It’s an ideal low-stakes role, suited for someone like Walker, who could use some time away from the spotlight after an awkward ending in New York.