Cleat Geeks

Why Kemba Can Be Elite

Last season Kemba Walker was an All-Star for the first time since he was drafted by the then Charlotte Bobcats in 2011 from Connecticut. He had a breakout season last year in several categories. Walker averaged a career high of 23 points a game, up from 20 the previous year, shot nearly 40% from downtown and averaged over 5 assists a game. Long time NBA small forward Caron Butler explained why Walker is an All-Star when he wrote in the Player’s Tribune in 2016. One of the descriptions that stood out to me and couldn’t have been explained any better was when Butler said, “He possesses a basketball combustion engine that you just can’t teach.”

Walker tends to get overlooked because he plays in a small market and college basketball is considerably more popular in the Carolina’s. I argue that he has some of the best handles of any NBA player today. The key to this is to have good footwork and that is what makes him a lethal scoring threat when he can step back and drain a long shot. Defenders have no option but to respect the ability to drive to the hoop and give him space. When a defender is on his heels and is going backwards, he gets you and when he plants, defenders are in a no win situation.

Butler compares Walker’s game to that of Chris Paul and the ability to execute the pick and roll. Walker is more of a scorer while Paul is a facilitator, but what makes Walker stand out is his killer instinct, the ability to take a tough shot in a close game especially in a hostile road environment. An area of improvement for Walker for next season is his defense. Last year, he averaged 1.1 steals a game, which is down from his career high of 2 per game. If he can improve on his down year on defense, that alone will make him even more valuable to his team.

Besides being an upcoming star, he has shown incredible maturity on and off the court. In June, he won the 2017 NBA Sportsmanship award.

I’ve written about other NBA players and their ability to think on their feet as the game is going on and that is his best quality, a quality that I wish more NBA players had. His head coach Steve Clifford confirmed this when he said back in January. “Some guys get determined to score anyway. He’s never been like that. As long as he’s willing to make the right play, which is one of his strengths, then we’re good to go.” The NBA has become a super-star, super-team league, but he has proven to be a legit point guard while somewhat defying the trends of the league. He is not about himself, rather he is about the team and only if he had a better supporting cast around him would he garner more nationwide attention. His instincts are among the best of any NBA player and what is even better, he is still in his prime. He is a must see not just watching from a TV at one’s home, but when you see what he has to offer, you would be impressed. If I were an aspiring basketball player, I would look up to Kemba Walker. The season he had last year was no fluke and he is only getting better.

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