Last weekend, the Big East Tournament saw a Cinderella run for the ages. After upsetting top-seeded Pittsburgh and fourth-seeded Syracuse, the University of Connecticut Huskies reached the Big East Final against Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals. The game was close the entire time, but UConn ultimately came on top 69-66.
The MVP of the tournament was Connecticut junior guard Kemba Walker, who scored 19 points in the championship game and averaged 26 per game throughout the competition. His most memorable tournament moment came in the quarterfinal against Pittsburgh, when he faked out Pitt big man Gary McGhee and hit the game winning jump-shot at the buzzer.
Of course, following his great Big East tourney performance, experts were all asking the same question: could Walker be a top 5 pick in the upcoming NBA draft? Let's analyze the young man's skills.
On statistics alone, there is no reason to believe that Kemba Walker wouldn't do well in the NBA. He has improved in each of his three years playing for UConn, averaging 23.5 points per game as a junior (up from 14.6 as a sophomore). His defense has been solid as well, as he has averaged five rebounds and two steals per game.
Yet, like every young prospect in the draft, Walker is not without areas that need great improvement. He has only averaged about four assists a game in his college career, which won't cut it if he plans on turning professional. On top of that, his shot selection is questionable. His career field-goal percentage is a respectable 43 percent, but his three-point percentage is less than average at 31.
Most important, however, is that Walker is incredibly undersized by NBA standards. He stands a mere 6'1" and is skinny at 172 pounds. Keep in mind, Russell Westbrook is 6'3" and 187 pounds and Deron Williams is 6'3", 209. I consider those two players to be the best point guards in the league and with his size, Walker will surely have a tough time defending them.
Thus, as a top 5 pick or even a late-first round pick and even a second round pick, Walker is a risk for any team. Yet, here is a simple strategy that could help him ultimately improve his game and become a stud in the NBA.
If he does indeed declare himself eligible for the draft (he has one year of eligibility left), any team that drafts him would be wise to employ the following strategy.
Rather than insert him directly into the starting lineup or have him ride the bench indefinitely, Walker's future team should have him spend the first few months of the season in the D-League. There, he can work on his athleticism and fine-tune his passing skills, not to mention put on 10 to 20 pounds of muscle.
So, that all being said, is Kemba Walker a top 5 pick? Absolutely not. Is he a first round pick? Well, he certainly has the potential.
In my honest opinion, he should stay at Connecticut for his senior season. In doing that, he can improve his already great relationship with the current squad and up his draft status for the 2012 draft. If he can prove himself to be an effective passer his senior season and also work on his shot selection, there is no doubt that he will become a top point guard in the NBA.
Until then, however, Kemba Walker remains an enigma on anybody's draft board. He'll either do really well, or be a complete bust. Only time will tell.