Plenty of NBA and College Basketball players have gone on to be known for a certain moment in their career. Others go on to still be known for their entire body of work, but some are only known for that single moment and not much else at all. One of those players that seems to only be known for one moment is Kemba Walker. The casual fan will always remember his devastating stepback that crumpled a defender and gave him the space to knock down a dagger. If you’re one of those fans, however, you better stop sleeping on the always improving, current version of Kemba Walker.
Throughout his first few seasons in the league, many fans already started to write off Walker as just another average player who wouldn’t make much of an impact. Charlotte fans, especially, were hungry for a superstar caliber player. As the newest expansion team, they had to endure a lot of losing and rough seasons especially when their very first team showcased one lonely All-Star in Gerald Wallace. So, with the arrival of Kemba Walker, they had a dynamic guard that they wanted to invest some hope into.
Walker’s averages were hovering in the range of 12-17 points and 4-6 assists per game while shooting under 40% from the field in all but one of those first few seasons. Surely, any fan would hope there was some more production coming from their team’s first pick in the draft. Especially after watching him average close to 24 points per game in his final year at UConn, plenty of people were a little disappointed.
Then, the unmeasurable stats came into effect. Potential and growth are given a grade in NBA 2K, but in reality, none of us truly know a player’s potential. Kemba Walker knew his own potential though. He’s quietly grown every season, and so far this year, he’s enjoying the best season of his career. Right now, through 24 games, Walker is averaging 23.3 points, 5.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game while shooting a scorching 47.4% from the floor. To top it all off, he’s shooting the most shots per game of his career so far and making them at a higher clip than ever before too. Since the 2014-15 season, Walker started increasing his field goal attempts by one per game, and his field goal percentage increased 4.2 and 4.7 percentage points in each respective season.
Enough about comparing Kemba to himself though. Let’s compare him to other top tier point guards in the league and guys who play similarly to his style. If you’re wondering what that means exactly, we’re looking at players who are offensive-minded and score a bulk of their points from stepbacks, pullups, and driving layups. To make things a little easier, here’s a chart!
As you can see, the two players who are most known for a deadly stepback jumper, have the lowest of the percentages in this small group. Of course, more teams are ready for it after watching film, and they’re going to take a lot more of them since it’s their main weapon. However, when everyone brings up stepbacks, most people automatically think of James Harden. Walker is neck and neck with Harden, while making a much higher clip of his pullups and driving layups. The same goes for Walker versus Damian Lillard. So, we have to take into account one of the best shooters we’ve ever seen in Steph Curry. Oh, your eyes don’t deceive you by the way. Kemba is quite close in terms of pullup jumpers, and while attempting almost 60 more driving layups, Walker is still just 8 percentage points away from Curry. How about some advanced stat comparisons with Curry?
Sooo, Kemba Walker's been almost as good Stephen Curry this season… pic.twitter.com/suuPbA0bvX
— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) December 11, 2016
You know what’s funny? We haven’t even talked about his stellar play in the pick and roll. Walker is in the top three of pick and roll ballhandlers in terms of number of possessions per game that the pick and roll is used. The only two guards above him are Russell Westbrook and John Wall. Even though they average more possessions running the pick and roll, Walker scores more points out of it, has a higher effective field goal percentage, and turns the ball over a lot less. (See below for more)
Are you starting to believe in Kemba Walker yet? Well, if not, you should take the time to think about it again. Maybe even catch a Hornets game or two and see what all this hype is about. I ensure you that you won’t be disappointed, and that you will be surprised at the improved play of the UConn product.