The Charlotte Hornets have been one of the turnaround teams the last two years one player in particular has seen great progression within this span, Kemba Walker. For the first four years of Kemba’s career I was convinced he would never be anything worth mentioning and would eventually end up a career backup. He was dominating the ball, terribly inefficient, and definetly not known as a lockdown defender.
Kemba has never been a great defender, even now he is not the best we have seen on that end certainly, but he has become much less of a liability on that end as he use to be. The video below displays what use to be the norm for Kemba.
Mix that defense in with a ball stopping incredibly inefficient ball chucking machine and you can understand why my view on Kemba was not a very high one. Then Kemba completely changed as a player on the offensive end. He has become an incredibly more efficient player and we have never quite seen a player change something like efficiency seemingly overnight. Kemba in his first fours years had true shooting percentages of 46.4%, 51.7%, 49.9%, and 48.6%. Now to understand how truly awful that is I’ll refer a chart made by @Nick_Sciria on twitter. All of the charts are made off of the numbers of last year in the 15-16 season, but are good for reference. The 3rd chart on the left column shows the true shooting percentiles of each position and it can be seen there that regularly 50%-60% of the NBA’s point guards were more efficient than Kemba Walker through his first 4 years.
Now the last two years have been a complete overhaul of his shot selection and he has made significant strides that are unforeseen this far into a player’s career. 3 years ago for a reminder Kemba had a true shooting percentage of 48.6% which would have roughly been around the 20th percentile. Last year it jumped all the way up to 55.4%TS which was roughly around the 75th percentile. That is a jump from having 80% of the point guards in the league be more efficient to only 25%. Curious where he stands this season? He is currently at 58.4%TS which is above the 90th percentile in efficiency of point guards. That type of efficiency jump is simply unheard of and is not being talked about enough throughout the community.
Not only has his overall efficiency spurted, but his ability to close games has reached another level as well. In 2014-15 in the clutch moments (considered the last 5 minutes of a game and being up or down by 5 points or less) Kemba was shooting 39.9%TS and per 100 possession averaged 29.3 points. In 15-16 the efficiency jumped to 55.1%TS and the volume increased to 45.0 points per 100 possessions. This season it has jumped to even greater heights shooting 60.8%TS and 42.8 points per 100 possessions. The volume has gone slightly down but the efficiency in the clutch has hit another level worthy of being truly feared in the waning moments of a game.
Last year the stories were filled up by the fall of the Bucks, rise of the Heat, fall of the Rockets, and of course the true contending teams. The lower end of the playoffs the Hornets slipped by the mainstream radar and Kemba along with it. This year seems to be doing the same to the team and Kemba is again going under the radar due to a bizarre year of so many players coming out and being great.
Kemba still has his issues on the defensive end, but they are not nearly impacting the team the way Kemba has improved the team’s offensive production. He has become a go to guy in the clutch and one of the best point guards in the game today,