Kemba Walker has been having a great start to the 2016 NBA season. After improving bit by bit throughout his career, Walker has really broken through this year in almost every facet of the game, leading his team to an 8-3 start despite inconsistent play from the team’s second best player, Nicolas Batum.
One reason Kemba has been so much better this year is his three point shooting. Throughout his career, teams have been going under screens and daring him to shoot. The UConn product has been making them pay for that this year, hitting an astounding 46% of his threes. His career percentage is about 33%, so this is a major step up in one of the most important aspects in basketball. When a defense has to switch or fight to get over screens, it opens up so much more for an offense.
It’s not just his outside shot that have improved, either. Walker has managed to increase his percentage around the rim to 62%, an elite number for a point guard, especially one of his size. Walker has gotten stronger and craftier with his finishing, and it shows in the box score. Layups and three-pointers are the most efficient shots in basketball, and Walker has shown so far that he can hit those shots at an elite rate. I wouldn’t be too surprised if these numbers start to regress, but even if they drop to 40% from three and 60% around the rim, he will still be one of the most efficient scoring guards in the league.
Something people might not notice is his improvement on the defensive end. Defensive rating measures how many points per 100 possessions a player allows while on the floor. In his first two seasons, the Hornets guard allowed 111 points per 100 possessions, which is definitely below average. In the last three seasons prior to this one, he moved that number to the 105 range. This season, it’s all the way down to 101 points per 100 possessions. Combine his transformation into a plus defender with his efficient scoring ability, and Walker is a surefire All-Star in the East. He could even be a starter on the official All-Star team if he keeps his numbers around where they are.
In terms of where he ranks among other point guards, he is definitely still a tier below Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and James Harden. Harden is having an outstanding year after switching positions. But, right now, I would argue that he is playing better than Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Isaiah Thomas and even Damian Lillard. After five seasons of being simply an above average point guard, I think Kemba has made the leap into being at least a top-7 or so point guard and is playing like a top-5 guy right now.
I don’t know if he can keep this efficient scoring up throughout the whole season, but if he continues to play like he does, Charlotte could end up being the three, or even two, seed in the East. It’s great to see a hard worker like Kemba finally have the work pay off.
Collegian Blogger John Scriffiny can be reached online at email@example.com or on Twitter at @JScriff. Read more of his content here. Leave a comment!