|PER||PER Against (Net)|
|Kemba Walker||17.1||16.5 (+0.6)|
After a solid 2012-13 campaign in which he improved in almost every area, many were looking for Kemba Walker to take the next step this season. While Walker’s game didn’t regress after his successful sophomore season, it didn’t appear to make significant strides either. Overall, his play appeared to plateau, and his statistics stagnated.
The team found some success, making their second playoff appearance, and new addition Al Jefferson seemed to gel with Walker; a relationship that can be built upon. Overall however, Walker didn’t demonstrate the development that he did between seasons one and two. He continued to show that he belongs in the league, but he didn’t separate himself to provide a definite answer to the lingering question of if he is a long-term starting solution at Charlotte’s point guard position.
Strengths: Walker continues to possess one of the tightest handles in the league, as well as having one of the game’s most killer crossovers. Coupled with blazing speed, Walker can get just about anywhere he wants on the court in a matter of seconds. Very few defenders can stay in front of him, and when he chooses to, he can use this ability to get into the paint and breakdown the defense. It also makes for some great highlights.
Another solid aspect of the season for Walker was his continued improvement as a passer. Walker has improved upon his assists numbers each of his first three seasons in the league, and he averaged a career high 6.1 assists per game (up from 5.7 last season). While that number will need to continue to increase if Walker is going to become one of the league’s elite, it was good enough for 14th overall in the NBA last season.
Going hand-in-hand with his improved passing is the fact that he continues to take relatively good care of the ball. Walker averaged only 2.3 turnovers per game; his lowest mark as a pro. Considering how often he has the ball in his hand (he is 29th in the NBA in usage rate), that is pretty impressive. As a result, he was 34th in the League in assist-to-turnover ratio; a number that could be improved upon, but is a solid sign.
Weaknesses: Defense has never been Kemba’s calling card, and at times he struggled this season. Although he has made improvements in the area, Walker remains undersized, and sometimes has difficulty matching up physically with some of the league’s bigger guards. In the past he has been able to make up for some of this by using his speed and anticipation to get into the passing lanes and secure steals, but he feel to 51st in the league in total steals after being in the top ten last season.
One of the more glaring flaws in Walker’s game continues to be his shot selection. He loves the mid-range jump shot, and after take some strides last season to improve his shot selection, he regressed this season. His field goal percentage fell from a passable 42% last season to a chilly 39% this season. A lot of that has to do with his shot selection. Last year, Walker took almost 38% of his shots in eight feet or closer to the basket, and converted those shots at almost a 50% clip. This season, Walker took only 28% of his shots from eight feet and in, and his efficiency fell. The rest of those attempts were allocated to midrange jumpers, which were converted at a much lower percentage.
2013-14 shot distribution chart:
2012-13 shot distribution chart:
Reasons for optimism: At only 23 years old, Walker is far from a finished product, and still sits several years away from his prime. If he can continue to improve areas of his game, most noticeably his defense, shot selection, and efficiency, he could be a very productive point for a long time. He remains one of the league’s fastest players, and that gives him advantages on both sides of the ball.
Walker’s chemistry with big Al Jefferson this season was promising, as the two formed a pretty potent inside-outside duo. Their play together was a main factor in the Bobcats making their second playoff appearance, and something that can be built on in the future with those two forming the foundation.
Walker continues to show maturity and poise on the court, and has developed into a great young leader for Charlotte. Both Michael Jordan and Al Jefferson have credited Walker with great growth and leadership, as this season he really embraced the role of leader. He is an on-court general, and someone that the rest of the team rallies around. These are great characterizes for a young point guard, and will be important for Walker as he continues to develop.
Most promising, may have been Walker’s clutch play. Time and again Walker hit a big shot down the stretch to keep the ‘Cats in a contest, and it’s a real plus to have a player that is unafraid of the big moment on your team. Walker was 19th in the entire NBA in crunch-time production, and he demonstrated the ability to be a legitimate go-to guy.
Reasons for pessimism: While Walker had a solid season, he didn’t improve to the extent that you might like to see out of a third year point guard. The assist numbers were up, but still need to be improved upon. The regression in shot distribution is extremely alarming, especially after the improvement he showed in that area last year. You want your point guard to penetrate the paint and attack, not settle for shots.
After shooting over 40% from the field last season, he dipped back into the 30%-range, making you wonder if that is as good as it will get with Walker. Mid-range and long two’s are among the least effective shots in the league, and Walker continues to take too many of them. After three seasons, his shot selection and distribution remains a main concern.
Insignificant, but worth nothing: Walker’s ironman steak went out the window this season as well. Walker had never missed a game in his professional career prior to this season, when he was side-lined for nine games. Missing nine games in an 82-game season isn’t an issue, but you hope it isn’t an indicator of future durability problems, especially considering his size.
Walker had a solid season, and played a major part in the Bobcats’ making another playoff appearance. While he didn’t remove all doubt about his game, he took some solid steps, like improving his assist numbers. Walker will have another opportunity to move toward all-star-status next season.
– Stats for this article were compiled from 82games.com and NBA.com/stats