Knights Send Two Picks to Skyhawks for Ajayi, Walls
- By John Comey, Day 107, 2024
The Kansas City Knights waited a year and a half. But they got one of their guys.
The Knights traded two second-round picks to St. Louis for guard Arai Ajayi and combo forward Griffin Walls. The deal, agreed to on Wednesday evening, sends Ajayi to a team that coveted him highly in the 2023 draft.
Blocked by the play of young guard Jamal Johnson, the Skyhawks surprisingly put Ajayi on the trade block Tuesday. The Knights rebuffed the initial asking price of a first-round pick, but found two seconds amenable. The picks, a 2025 selection originally owned by Los Angeles, and a 2027 pick, means the Knights are without second-rounders, as of now, in each of the next three seasons.
The Knights, wheelers and dealers of the last two drafts, made nine selections over the last two events.
Ajayi, 21, started eight games out of his 109 appearances for the Skyhawks. He has averaged 4.8 points per game on 40.2% shooting, as well as 30.9% from three. It is easy to see why teams cooled on him. The Knights, though, remembered the player who wowed them in workouts, and remember the person who seemingly never tires to push himself.
“We kept tabs on him,” said Knights head coach Mitchell Anderson. “We know the kind of person he is. We know he’s going to work. He’s going to get his chances here, easily.”
Ajayi comes to a team with an unsettled shooting guard position. Shandon James has played much better since an absolutely horrid start to the year. But he is aging and not a long-term answer at the position. Latavius Morgan, the 21st selection in this past draft, is a solid prospect who can play at small forward, and displays typical inconsistency for a rookie.
Both Morgan and James can get minutes at SF, while James can also get some minutes at the point. With Dejuan Brooks continuing to struggle mightily with the expectations put upon him, James may slide to the small forward spot to spell him.
It appears, though, that Ajayi is going to be given every chance to succeed in the Knights’ backcourt.
The Skyhawks surprised a lot of teams—and upset many—by selecting Ajayi with the 20th pick in the 2023 draft. But Ajayi could not beat out the rookie Johnson, nor usurp the current starter, defensive stopper Malik Phillips.
The Knights hope that Ajayi and Matt Mueller, the 12th overall pick who took over the starting point guard spot earlier this season, can form solid chemistry together.
Walls, meanwhile, was thrown in to help St. Louis fall under the salary cap. The reserve forward played 14.9 minutes per game for St. Louis, averaging 5.6 and 3.4 rebounds per game. It is unknown as to what role he will play, if any. There are talks that he may be released, though the team is intrigued by his defensive ability and rebounding. With the sudden flexibility at the small forward spot, and the solid play of second-year second-rounder Tyler Smith, it may be tough for Walls to get minutes.
The Knights will have to cut two players as a result of the trade, though rumors swirl that they are pushing for a high profile trade. Details of that were sketchy as of press time.