It's hard to know what's real and what's smokescreen a few hours before the draft, but there have been persistent rumors the last couple of days that Kemba Walker may slip in the draft. Some have speculated, even within Kemba's own "camp", that he could fall all the way to 17 where the Knicks would pick him up. This would be a huge drop from early mock draft projections which had him going as high as 5 to the Raptors. If you recall my previous post on the tier drafting strategy, I said:
So, when the Warriors are up to bat with the 11th pick, if anyone (ANYONE) from Tier 2 or 3 happened to still be on the board, the tier system would have us take him (and not think twice about it). Yes, that means even if it were Kemba Walker.
Now, this scenario appears to have a somewhat realistic chance of playing out. When push comes to shove, would I follow my own strategy? I guess the real question is whether I actually think Kemba is in a higher tier. Maybe not, afterall, if all these other teams are passing on him (no pun intended). Let's take a look at what various draft sites have said about him.
Draft Express recently did a Synergy profile of the current crop of guards in this draft class. Here's what they said about Kemba:
The second ranked point guard in the class,Kemba Walkerdoesn't light up the charts in every category the way Irving does, but certainly stands out in a few key areas.
Walker immediately stands out due to the number of possessions he uses every game, as his 23.56 possessions per game rank third in the class, trailing onlyJimmer FredetteandAndrew Goudelock, both of whom played noticeably inferior competition. Walker's 0.975 overall PPP ranks seventh in the class, something certainly helped by his 9.5% turnover rate, the lowest of all guards by a wide margin.
Walker ranks right in the middle of the pack in efficiency in spot-ups, isolations, and pick-and-rolls, while having a pretty average distribution of possessions between the three.
Walker ranks poorly in jump shot efficiency, with his 0.89 PPS ranked 15th of 20, though having the fifth highest percentage of off-the-dribble jumpers definitely doesn't help him. Walker doesn't stand out with his scoring efficiency on either pull-ups or spot-ups, but adjusting to a more natural distribution in the NBA could help his overall efficiency on jumpers.
The positive take-away (again, no pun intended) is that his turnover rate (9.5%) is very low compared to the other guards, including Kyrie Irving (15.4%). But he's not a great shooter. Maybe not even a good shooter. Even in isolation, he ranks in the middle of the pack, which suggests that he won't be a big-time scorer at the next level. A guy with scoring mentality who is not an efficient scorer may not necessarily help you win more games.
So, while his shooting is not great, the main responsibility of a point guard is setting up teammates and acting like a coach on the floor (or if you're really lucky, you'll end up with one of them coaching from the sideline). Can he do that? Here are some opinions on that angle:
Outstanding feel for the game, play maker who knows how to win (2011 NCAA Tournament MOP), clutch shooter who hit number of game winners for UConn
Court vision is fantastic, sets up teammates exceptionally well (4.6 assists per as junior, 5.1 as a soph.)
The Rice High School product was known as an unselfish playmaker earlier in his career. While his stats this season may lead some to the impression that he has gone away from that, his increased production stems from necessity more than anything. UConn cannot survive without Walker scoring in bunches.
Digging deeper into his film, there are still plenty of instances where Walker's outstanding court vision and creative passing shine through. He's capable of threading the needle to teammates rolling to the basket with bullet passes, finding open shooters on the wing, and making fundamentally-sound entry passes into the post for high percentage looks around the rim.
Finds teammates off penetration
Thinks score first, pass second
Seems to be some mixed opinions there. He didn't have a huge amount of talent surrounding him, aside from Jeremy Lamb, who came on late, so to some extent Kemba-ites have a good point that he had to shoulder a big scoring load. Would he be able to "unlearn" that in the pros?
SI just ran a story giving scout's opinions of the top 40 players in this class. Here's what was said about Kemba:
People seem to have him in pretty high company, but I don't see that. I think he's a backup, so how do you take a backup in the top 10? He reminds me of Ben Gordon, and not in a good way. I see him as a point guard, and that's the problem: When your point guard is leading you in shot attempts, you wonder if he's Allen Iverson or Brandon Jennings. Those aren't winning point guards; they're just small guards who can score.
Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/seth_davis/06/22/draft.prospects/index.html#ixzz1Q6M64ZGJ
I have to be honest and say I don't think I would be overjoyed if we drafted him, but I'm not an expert on what his value will be in the NBA. Rajon Rondo was passed over by a bunch of teams, and is still a guy who can't really shoot or score all that well. He gets by on his court vision and playmaking ability (and having 3 potential HOF teammates doesn't hurt him either). And he's a staunch defender. Kemba is not nearly as long as Rondo, but he is very quick. I would venture to guess that he might end up a better defender than Curry, anyway. Having said all that, if I knew that Kemba was definitely in a higher tier than what becomes available at 11, and he's still on the board, I might still take him and view him as a future asset. It might even be useful to have him push Curry, although part of me is afraid that Mark Jackson would love the guy.
After all, Kemba is a flat-out scorer. (Sigh.) So, what do you guys think about this on the morning of the draft? Let your opinion be known!