Steph Curry is getting all the love these days (just ask LeBron James), but it’s 25-year-old crossover magician Kemba Walker who is silently annihilating unsuspecting opponents while becoming a forgotten superstar.
Despite the bevy of concerning cons scribbled on scouting reports entering the 2011 NBA Draft, the flashy point guard was drafted No. 9 overall by the then-Bobcats-now-Hornets. Thanks to an early-season injury to D.J. Augustin, Walker was soon handed the starting role and flew with it - literally. The 39.52 percent shooting Walker displayed during his first four seasons painted him as a free and inefficient-shooting role player on a talent-thin team - talent thin in the sense that Gerald Henderson was a preferred scoring option.
This offseason, the Hornets made quiet yet positive waves by acquiring underrated stretch man Nicolas Batum, Kemba's former UConn teammate Jeremy Lamb, and once-Linsane Jeremy Lin; who now seems ok with being a role player. Finally.
As a result, Kemba Walker has naturally taken his game to the next level in terms of efficiency, value, and of course signal calling. Through 70 games this season, Walker is averaging career highs across the board - 36.1 minutes per game, a .429 field goal percentage, an unholy .371 three-point percentage, a .842 free throw percentage, and 21 points per game. Again, all career highs by a (somewhat) long shot. So maybe the assists are down, but the overall efficiency is clear. I guess you really are the shooting doctor, Bruce Kreutzer!
One of the stats used to highlight a player's team value, nERD (crafted by numberFire) measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on their efficiency (basically an approximation of how many wins a team would have above or below .500 with that player). According to this season's power rankings, Kemba ranks No. 20 with a nERD of 7.9.
But he's also a leader on the court. It's an asset that requires video evidence to confirm, instead of the usual number crunching..
As the icing to his value, NBA.com shows us that Kemba Walker has handled the third-most possessions (687) and scored the fourth most points on those plays (613). Not bad for the former chuck artist with a wild-and-free focus, though he does take an unnecessary jog sometimes (or yog in case you're Ron Burgundy)..
With playoff tickets already flying off shelves, the Hornets can fondly marinate in their brilliant development - from beleaguered underdog to high-flying riser.
— NBA (@NBA) March 14, 2016
Kemba Walker, though close to exploding on everyone's scene, remains the NBA's best kept secret. For now.