I’m gonna be honest: I decided to write a Draft Dreams about Kemba Walker today solely because of the above game-winner vs. Pitt he hit yesterday. I’ve watched it like 20 times and can’t stop.
Measurables: 6-foot-1, 172 pounds, junior G from UConn
Key stats: 23.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.8 steals per game while shooting 43 percent and 34 percent from three
Projected: Mid-to-late lottery
How would he help the Pistons?
I know what you’re thinking: just what the Pistons need, another shoot-first guard from UConn. And maybe that’s accurate, I don’t know. But there’s still plenty to like about arguably the second best PG prospect potentially in the draft behind Duke’s Kyrie Irving. Walker arrived at UConn without a reliable perimeter game, and in three years, he’s become at least a serviceable shooter from distance. He’s made himself into a first round prospect by, at times, carrying a UConn team that was expected to be down some this year after losing key players from last year’s team. He’s possibly the quickest player with the ball in this draft, he’s not afraid to take big shots and he’s the type of dynamic playmaker the Pistons have lacked over the last two or three seasons.
If we’re comparing him to what’s on the roster, he has a mix of the skills that Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum possess. He loves to get in the paint, like Stuckey, and he’s fast and explosive despite being undersized, like Bynum. I think he’s probably a better perimeter shooter than either Stuckey or Bynum at this point, but that’s obviously a weakness in the games of all three.
How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?
Walker wouldn’t fill the one gaping deficiency on the Pistons, a lack of size. Drafting him in the lottery would also be an admission that Stuckey is no longer the long-term answer at point guard. Although many fans are ready to make that proclamation, I’m not convinced the organization is yet. And to give up on Stuckey for Walker may not actually provide the upgrade fans seek anyway if Walker, like Stuckey, turns out to be more of a shoot-first point guard than a playmaker at the NBA level. Walker might end up being better, but at this point, I’m not sure there’s a convincing case that he will be.
What are others saying?
Walker wasn’t known as a great shooter coming out of high school, but he has put an unbelievable amount of time into improving his mechanics and increasing his range over the past few years. He’s absolutely deadly now – both with his feet set and off the bounce. The fact that he can find the space to get his shot off whenever he pleases makes him that much more difficult to guard, particularly at this level. It’s also made his shot fake (a frequent part of his arsenal) more credible, which has, in turn, made him an even more effective threat slashing to the basket.
So there’s that — Walker is far less a point guard than (Johnny) Flynn was, but scores more, but does so less efficiently. If there’s a saving grace in Walker’s NBA fate beyond vast personal improvement or some heretofore unseen UConn effect that is preventing Kemba from being as point-guardly as he could be, it’s that Walker rarely turns over the ball despite his massive usage rate.
Walker has steadily improved at UConn and coach Jim Calhoun said he’s the hardest worker he’s ever coached. That’s saying something when you look at the players (Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor) that Calhoun has put in the NBA. Now that Walker is showing a jumper to complement his ability to get to the basket, you have to take him pretty seriously.
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