Kemba Walker Is Just as Elite as He Is Electric!
Kemba Walker has heard all the knocks in his basketball career. He is too short; can’t shoot the three, can't finish at the rim, not a real point guard. Every year Kemba crossed one of those off. In his seven-year career, he has improved every year and adds something new to his game every year. Last year he made his first all-star game. This year he looks even better. His improvement has cemented him as a top ten point guard in the league.
Last week in a win over Orlando, where Walker dominated, Magic coach Frank Vogel said: " Kemba is just as tough of a cover as Steph and Kyrie." People finally recognize Kemba as an elite player, not just a fun player. However, he is as fun and as electric as it gets. His game is unique and now complete. Kemba's got all the tricks in his wheelhouse now. From pull up threes to lefty finishes at the rim, filthy step backs and master of using ball screens, Kemba has a dangerous arsenal to choose from. His electric nature to which he plays now makes him elite. Not only does it help him, but also it makes the Charlotte Hornets better than you think.
Kemba on Offense!
Charlotte is a pick and roll team because that is Kemba's bread and butter. According to Synergy Sports, he is the ball handler in a pick and roll 53% of the time. In his seventh year, Kemba has become a master of the nuances of a pick and roll. He knows how to manipulate defenders get them leaning one way and then getting creamed by a Dwight Howard or Cody Zeller pick. That's why he has a score percentage of 50 percent, and he ranks in the 89th percentile in pick and rolls. Back in the day defenders would just go under screens, that doesn't work anymore. Kemba's pull up three is a weapon, and if you go under, you're done. Go over, and Kemba is so quick he will just blow past you at the slightest glimpse of daylight. His in and out dribble has become dangerous in particular. Watch this!
Kemba starts the play getting a double screen from Dwight Howard and Frank Kaminsky. He chooses to use the Dwight screen. Dwight decides to slip the screen forcing LaMarcus Aldridge to stay with him. Kemba uses an in and out dribble to get Patty Mills on his hip. He does that so LaMarcus can’t commit to him and stay with Dwight. Now Kemba has plenty of space to shoot a little floater for an easy two. It may look easy, but this is advanced and for the crafty point guards. Kemba may want to thank Mike Conley for this move.
Kemba's talent is matching his work ethic and basketball I.Q. You can see the benefit that has on his offense. His scoring is down from 23.2 points per game to 21.9, but he has been better this year. Part of that is Charlotte now has more capable scorers around Walker; he is taking three fewer shots per game. Walker is shooting a career-high 45% from the field, and that's with his three ball dropping from 39 to 35%. Once he gets that back up, watch out. He is making up for it by getting to the free throw line a career-high 7.1 times per game and shooting 90% from the line.
Plus his playmaking has improved. Kemba has tied his career high by averaging 6.1 assists per game. He will never be a John Wall passer, but he is still good. His assist ratio is 23, which would be the second-best mark of his career. Most importantly he has got the lob chemistry down with his new best friend, Dwight Howard. Here's a clip from the preseason that shows their chemistry.
Kemba first uses a screen from Kaminsky then gets another one immediately from Dwight. The second screen allows Kemba to get ahead of steam and go downhill, which forces Al Horford to help, once he does that Dwight rolls to the rim and Kemba throws a perfect lob pass for the easy slam. They have already connected on a few of these this season, and I expect more going forward.
Kemba has always been electric, but now he is also efficient. His true shooting percentage is a career-best 60.1%, and his PER is a career-best 22.88. That mark is 23rd in the league among players who play at least 20 minutes a game. This guy is an all-star.
Going Forward for Kemba and the Charlotte Hornets!
Currently, the Hornets are 5-5. For Kemba to get more notoriety, his team must have more success. Unfortunately, Charlotte has been devastated by injuries early on. Nicolas Batum is out at least another two weeks; Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Michael Carter-Williams have all missed significant time. Once Charlotte gets all its guys back, they should be a deep team and make the playoffs in the east. Howard has given them a dominant inside presence, and Jeremy Lamb is one of the most improved players in the league. If healthy and with the right matchup this team can win a playoff series.
Right now Kemba must keep his team above water amidst all the injuries. That requires elevating his play even more. It won't be easy, but he is capable. You know how many players average at least 20 points and six assists? The answer is eight, and yeah Kemba is one of them.
The other seven are Russell Westbrook, John Wall, LeBron James, James Harden, Dennis Schroeder, Steph Curry and Damian Lillard. Not bad company to be in. To be recognized amongst this group Kemba must continue to elevate his play and lead his team to wins. I wouldn't bet against him, every year he has added something to his game and made himself better.
This year just may be his masterpiece. Then he will be more than a fun, electric scoring guard who hits some excellent step backs. He will be an elite player regardless of position and a no-brainer when it comes time to pick all-stars. Enjoy the Kemba show, everybody, there are few like it, and its just getting started.