NBA Draft 2011: Kemba Walker Underrated for His Size, Loved for His Heart

Mike PendletonCorrespondent IJune 20, 2011

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after defeating the Butler Bulldogs to win the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament by a score of 53-41 at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

As the 2011 NBA Draft looms and the mock drafts are posted and experts weigh in with their opinions, the main topic discussed is potential.

As in all drafts, debate will follow once each pick is made, and with a point guard who played less than half a collegiate season being projected at No. 1, let the debate begin.

In any collegiate sport, and especially in any professional sport, most fans, players, coaches and experts would agree that the game is more mental than it is physical or athletic. With that being said, as the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the rights to both the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks in Thursday's draft, there are plenty of scenarios.

They could trade the No. 4 pick and somehow acquire No. 2 so they can draft both Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams. They may draft Kyrie Irving at No. 1 and take the best player available at No. 4—taking a European big man at No. 4 seems to be what the Cavs would do if they hold on to that spot.

While the projections and predictions come in, there have been very few whispers about the man who was consistent all season and eventually turned out a champion, UConn's very own Kemba Walker.

Improving his game each season since his sophomore year, Kemba ended his collegiate career with a season in which he averaged 23 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, showing that he can simply do it all for his team.

Two of the more important stats that Kemba has attributed to his game is two steals per game and a free-throw percentage at 81 percent. 

Experts, fans and general managers could go over the stats and debate between Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker for days, and most would say Irving or Knight is the better pick because of their talent and potential. Meanwhile, the GMs who would say Kemba is the better of the three would credit his heart, tough will and willingness to always get better as their main reasons why Walker would be the best pick of the three top guards.

There are doubts about Kemba due to his size, and some say he is a "shoot first, pass second" point guard, which doesn't always work, but GM's have been impressed after interviews with him.

NBA expert Alex Kennedy of recently stated in an interview on my sports talk show, The Saturday Silver Platter, that he also feels Walker is being underrated, saying, "Kemba could end up being a very special player."

So as the options loom for Cleveland at the No. 1 and No. 4 spots with the potential of acquiring the No. 2 pick, the question arises: Who will they take at No. 1, Derrick Williams or Kyrie Irving? Why is the nation's best player in Kemba Walker being so underrated, and which team will be lucky enough to snag him?

What is known is that these doubts will certainly drive Walker to become an even better player than he was in college. Any GM would be happy if Walker contributed to his team like Chris Paul, who has nearly the same height and weight as Kemba, has in New Orleans.

His heart, leadership and ability to be a closer late in games have been showcased on the biggest stages, as Walker led UConn to an undefeated record in every tournament they played in (Maui, Big East, NCAA), and Walker has been the best player in each tournament.

So, take a player who has better mental skills than almost any other player in the draft, or go after the big-name guys who might be better athletes and might have greater measurables (height and weight) with the same potential?

Every year, a draft has its steals, and this year's NBA draft is certain to be the same. What must be known is that Kemba Walker won't be labeled a steal, but the team that drafts him will be lucky to have a truly special player whose heart outweighs his size. 

For more 2011 NBA draft coverage, stay tuned to Bleacher Report for updated NBA mock drafts, NBA draft rumors, NBA draft results and draft grades.