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Season Report Card: Kemba Walker

PER PER Against (Net)
Kemba Walker 14.78 17.07 (-3.24)

Strengths: Ball handling and ability to create his own shot. Even though Kemba struggled at the PG position for much of the season, he showed us flashes of what we knew he could do well. Kemba is lighting quick in the open floor and has a first step that most defenders can’t stay in front of. Kemba is also a good shooter, but this season he found that creating his own shot is much tougher in the NBA than in college. 39.1% of Kemba’s 3PM (3-pointers made) this season were unassisted on, while 60.9% were assisted on. Even though Walker only shot 30.5% from behind the arc on the season, the stats prove that he’s a better shooter when he’s able to play off the ball. 2PM were a different story because of Kemba’s ability to beat defenders to the rim regularly. Only 25.5% of Kemba’s 2PM were assisted on this season. A healthier lineup and more overall scoring depth will help Kemba get more open shots in the future, so I think it’s safe to say that the lackluster shooting numbers from this season are a product of a lot of forced shots at the end of shot clock.

Weaknesses: Distribution, getting team into offensive sets and getting his teammates involved. Kemba will be the first one to tell you all of this too. When I asked Kemba what part of his game needed to improve the most back in March he provided me with the following:

“Probably just getting everybody involved more. You know, my decision making could get a lot better.”

“I’ve had my ups and downs, but when it comes down to it I’m just trying to learn.”

In short, Kemba needs to become more of a true PG. Most people’s concerns with him coming into the league were whether or not he’d be able to convert into a true PG since his game clearly modeled more a combo/scoring guard at UConn. After last season those concerns are still the same. Kemba averaged just 4.4 APG this season and 1.8 TO/game. The learning curve for Kemba is still very high, especially at the PG position. Walker needs scorers around him in order to make the transition easier, it’s really that simple. The longer that Kemba is forced to be the only guy on the floor who can create his own shot, the longer this transition is going to take. If the lottery falls through and Charlotte ends up with the second pick, Bradley Beal is a guy who could really help this team in the scoring department and also speed up Kemba’s progression at the point.

Reason for Optimism: Kemba can be a great player in this league once he learns to make the correct decisions with the basketball. That’s a PG’s job and he’s obviously learning that the hard way. No one knocks this kid’s potential, but there are pieces missing around him that could make the game easier. With Kemba’s ability to get into the lane with ease, he has the skill set to open up the floor for teammates- a huge PG asset. In order to use that ability you need shooters to surround him, though. There is plenty to look forward to with Kemba Walker and he’s definitely got the potential to be an electric starting PG in this league, but until Charlotte starts putting pieces around him I don’t think this franchise is going to know what they’ve got in him. A lot is going to depend on what happens with Augustin this summer in free-agency, but if D.J. doesn’t return to Charlotte then next season could go a long way in determining whether or not Kemba is the PG of the future for this franchise.

Reasons for Pessimism: I’m not sold on Kemba as a PG in this league. It’s very difficult to mold a ‘score first’ player into a player that is looking to get his teammates involved before himself. One thing is for certain- Kemba has the right mindset and knows exactly what he must improve in his game in order to make the next step, but to be a PG in this league you must have the capability to read how the defense is reacting and instinctively attack their weak spot. Not sure Kemba has this. Can and will he develop this into his game? Well, he certainly could, but I’m not sold that he will.

Forecast: 12.5 PPG, 6.5 APG, 45% FG%, 30 MPG. This would be the ideal line for Kemba when we’re recapping/grading him at the end of the season next year. This team rising in the PACE category next season will be vital for Kemba in order to get his assist numbers up- more possessions/fast break opportunities is where I believe he’ll have best chance as PG. Kemba also must improve the FG%. 36% from the field and 30% from behind the arc just isn’t going to get it done. He’ll improve next season, but again, without pieces around him the struggle is going to continue for this guy.