Kemba Walker

Leading up to Draft Night on June 23, we’re going to profile the draft prospects that we feel are most likely to be on the Raptors’ radar for the fifth overall pick. Going alphabetically, Kemba Walker is our last profile before tonight’s draft.

Height: 6’1″
Weight: 185 lbs.
Date of birth: May 8, 1990
Likely NBA position: PG

In an NBA draft class populated with plenty of unknowns, Kemba Walker is as “known” as it gets among the likely top 10 picks. He played three years at Connecticut — one of the most high-profile US college hoops programs — and led the UConn Huskies to an NCAA Championship in his junior year before declaring for this year’s NBA draft. You already know these things.

In fact, there isn’t much we can tell you about Kemba Walker that you haven’t already figured out for yourself, including his strengths and weaknesses. Where the debate comes in is how well his game will translate to this level, and there is definitely a wide split on this topic. Some people think he’s too small, doesn’t shoot well enough and isn’t enough of a “pure point guard” to be anything more than an NBA backup. Others are convinced that his athleticism, drive and leadership will carry him to greatness even if mostly by force of will.

OK, I can tell you one thing about Walker you might not know. Did you know that he’s a great dancer? When he was in high school in The Bronx, he was part of a hip-hop dance crew that performed three times at the Apollo Theater. I guess we know where his great footwork comes from.

What impresses you most about Walker?

Scott Carefoot: Kemba Walker is very tricky when he has the ball in his hands. He has supreme confidence in his ability to score from anywhere, whether it’s by creating space for himself and getting off a shot or driving to the hole after he’s faked his defender out with a jab-step, change of direction or acceleration into an extra gear. If he doesn’t get the basket outright, his array of moves often draws harm from his defender — he averaged over eight free throw attempts per game during the NCAA Tournament and made 90 percent of those attempts. Defensively, he has quick, busy hands that he used to average two steals per game over his sophomore and junior years at UConn — and once he swipes that rock, you know he’s taking it for an easy basket in transition on the other end.

Joseph Casciaro: I’ll be honest, most of what I like about Kemba Walker has more to do with intangibles than it does with pure basketball ability, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. On the court, I like that Kemba possesses the speed/quickness that most successful young point guards need in today’s NBA. I also like that while he can attack the rim with fearless aggression, he is still a true point guard who will look to get his team going first. In terms of the intangibles, the guy seems like a natural born leader, or at least he seemed that way when I was watching him carry the Huskies on his back. He appears to be the type of player that lives by the “whatever it takes to win” philosophy, and the Raptors badly need young players like that.

What are your biggest concerns about Walker’s NBA prospects?

Scott Carefoot: I’m not as concerned with Kemba’s size as some people are. This isn’t Earl Boykins we’re talking about here — six-foot-one is a perfectly legitimate height for an NBA point guard. I’m also not too scared by his lack of scoring efficiency at UConn since he was forced to take a lot of difficult shots at the end of possessions as the primary scorer on his team. What I wonder is will he be able to sublimate his mindset from being his team’s primary scorer to being a player who needs to focus more on creating more for his teammates? If he continues to see himself as the alpha scoring option for his team in the NBA, the result will probably be a field goal percentage under 40 and a potentially short career as a backup point guard.

Joseph Casciaro: My answer is likely going to be the same as Scott’s and everyone else’s: his size is my biggest concern. Offensively, I’m not too concerned, but I wonder how the heck Kemba will defend bigger, stronger NBA guards without being embarrassed. The last thing the Raptors need is another point guard with permeable defence. Having said all that, I am a firm believer that speed is the greatest equalizer in sports, and Walker seems to have enough of it to overcome some of his weaknesses.

How good of a fit do you think Walker would be on the Raptors?

Scott Carefoot: As I write this on the morning of the draft, Walker has fallen out of the lottery in several prominent mock drafts so it appears increasingly likely that he could be this year’s Jameer Nelson — an undersized guard who performed extremely well in college but gets passed over by most of the first round teams because of a belief that he doesn’t have the upside of other younger, bigger guards. Whether or not this is what transpires, whoever drafts Kemba Walker is getting a young man with a chip on his shoulder and the supreme confidence that he can silence the doubters and show that he can keep on winning at even the highest level of basketball. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t bet against him.

Joseph Casciaro: Jerryd Bayless is still young enough to develop into a star, but until he does that, then the Raptors are in need of a young point guard who can run a team like a floor general and provide leadership on the court. Kemba Walker fits that description. His size is a realistic concern, but if his phenomenal quickness can bail him out, then Walker can be an impact player in the NBA for years to come.

Comments (10)

  1. When the rumours were popping up yesterday about the Raps considering trading their pick for Tony Parker, I wondered why nobody was comparing Kemba’s upside to TP. Doesn’t seem all that far fetched to me. He’s still my 1st choice.

  2. Interesting comparison. I haven’t seem Kemba compared to Tony before, but it’s not bad. I think Tony in his prime was quicker and a better finisher in the lane, though.

  3. Kemba’s stock seems to be falling, and many people are saying Utah likes Enes Kanter. This bodes well for the Raptors since it could allow Brandon Knight to fall to us.

    1) Irving
    2) Williams
    3) Kanter
    4) Valacuinas
    5) Knight

  4. Sports Illustrated’s “Finch” report on Walker was kind of interesting:

    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.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/seth_davis/06/22/draft.prospects/index.html#ixzz1Q7UJbkzO

  5. KWalker will be ROY- book it!

    KWalker is a shorter Gary Payton coming into the NBA- I don’t know why Casey wouldn’t want to potentially work with that at pg instead of Jose.

    Kemba Walker is better than both top draft eligible pgs BKnight, Fredette & KIrving- str8 up & down.

    He’s the most NBA ready to contribute from day 1 player in this year’s draft at any position.

    KWalker is a prover winner & leader plus he has nasty on the ball defensive skills as well.

    KWalker’s swag level is off the charts- he is a gamer.

    KWalker has the ball handling skillz needed to create his own shot as well as create shots for teammates from in the paint penetration on drives & kicks plus can hit the 3 pt shot.

    KWalker is a big shot taker, maker not a faker nor a perpetrator- another Gym Rat, going up the escalator rising like an elevator.

    A future starting backcourt consisting of PG KWalker & SG DDeRozan with Bad News Ed Davis at PF would be worth the price of admission to watch ball.

    @ Noah Body

    Fyi- KWalker had to shot more last season at UConn due to the urging of his head coach Calhoun because they had such a young team- recognize game.lol

  6. Wow BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!! no doubt on who you like :)

    I like Kemba over Knight despite his lack of height because Knight didn’t really use that height to his advantage much in college choosing to make most of his offense happen on the perimeter as opposed to at the hoop like Kemba (he is prone to start chucking from long range though) Kemba measured well at the combine and he seems genuinely concerned with winning and I am ready for someone like that here in Toronto.

    No one else on the board around our pick has really impressed me, I say lets do this thing and bring Kemba to T.O

  7. the rapts need a pg and kemba fits the bll. it would be best to move jose back to being a backup. kemba and demar in he backcourt wil create a strong scorng backcourt. Kemba’s shoot first mentality fits the nba beacuae the pg posittion has evolved into a position where the pg has to score 18 – 20 a game and dish 6-10 dimes. Kembas got better floor vision than people give im creadit for and is a great fit for the rapts

  8. @ Scott

    I feel that either KWalker (1st) or KLeonard (2nd) would be the best fits for the Rap’s out of this draft at #5.

    Plus the fan base would fall in love Kemba, trust!

    If BC drafts either or- good stuff!!

  9. I don’t get the constant criticism of Kemba, repeated in that SI piece, that he’s another Iverson or something. He used to be a pass first PG who started to shoot much more last season because he was surrounded by crap. Honestly, where is that UConn team without him? It’s like winning doesn’t count for anything with this guy. Really, look at that team.

    I get the concerns that he may look for his own too much at the next level but Ben Gordon comparisons? That strikes me as ignorant. The guy can pass the ball and look at the stats in the ESPN piece showing his “true point” ratings. I’m more worried about his jump shot and ability to finish in the lane at the next level.

  10. Hey, I’m a Kemba fan. Just thought I would pass along the Finch report, as it is usually pretty insightful. But it is hardly gospel.

    I think Kemba has a great shot at being ROY. But five years from now, I doubt he will be the best player from this draft.

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