NBA Draft 2011: Could Kemba Walker Fall out of the Lottery?
Standing at only 6'1", Kemba Walker finished his collegiate basketball career on top of the world. He led his Connecticut Huskies to not only the Big East Tournament title, but also the national championship in his junior season.
After two years of steady improvement, Walker showed that he was going to be the team's backbone when he dominated the Maui Invitational to deliver some national attention to a previously unranked Huskies unit. Connecticut went on to become the first team to win all three tournaments in the same season.
Walker scored 90 points during the Maui Invitational in only three games. He also hit a game-winning jump shot after breaking the ankles of Pittsburgh's Gary McGhee in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.
Basically, Kemba showed that hitting big shots is what he wants to do for a living.
The question on everyone's mind now is whether or not Kemba's talent will show on the biggest stage of them all. He decided to leave UConn after three seasons to enter the NBA draft, but who will draft him?
Here's a look at some reasons why teams would or wouldn't take a chance on Kemba Walker as a lottery pick.
Positive No. 1: Winning Program
In his three years at Connecticut, Walker compiled a record of 85-30. In picking a school, Kemba chose to go somewhere that had winning deeply ingrained in its basketball programs.
The University of Connecticut had recently saw the likes of Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon graduate. A national championship wasn't too far behind them, having finished on top in 2004 and 1999.
Walker stepped on campus and had an immediate impact on the team.
Instead of trying to bring attention to a previously unknown team, Kemba liked the idea of joining one of the best. The Huskies are a part of the Big East, a conference that is slowly becoming the most feared in college basketball.
If Walker is taken in the lottery, he will be playing for a squad that missed the playoffs in 2010-11.
Will he be able to be a program-changer?
Positive No. 2: Scoring Ability
After 12 games this season, Kemba Walker led the NCAA with 26.7 points per game.
Walker liked to handle the ball and knew many different ways to get it to the rim or get open for a jumper. However, teams started to key in on Walker. UConn head coach Jim Calhoun deployed a system where Walker would do more things off the ball.
This change helped Walker continue to carry the Huskies to success.
Kemba thrived in this system, scoring more baskets off the catch-and-shoot than from slashing to the rim. Without this change, Kemba may have had a much tougher time creating his own shot. Walker still has a thick repertoire of offensive moves that make him a great scorer. His variety makes him a tough stop on any given night.
If he is taken as a lottery pick, there's a good chance he'll be creating a lot of the shots he takes.
Positive No. 3: Team Leader
When an NBA team has a chance to select in the lottery, they hope to draft someone that has the credentials of a future captain. Maybe this player was a captain in college. Maybe they had a better understanding of the sport than most.
On rare occasions, a team gets a player that was their college team's best player and also possessed the potential of an assistant coach.
Walker might be that type of player.
At his size, Walker needs to have many physical and mental talents that minimize the impact of his height. It wasn't rare to find him up in one his teammate's ears trying to drill some information in.
Walker had taken the role of the leader at UConn—I'm sure he'll want to re-discover that role in the big leagues.
Positive No. 4: Pressure Player
Three tournament titles don't lie.
Walker may actually play better with the game on the line than he does early in contests or in blowouts. He seems to find another gear when the team needs a big shot or a defensive stop.
Players like Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki can vouch for how important that is for a player. Neither Bryant nor Nowitzki has left the team they played their first NBA game for. Teams are reluctant to let go of a player that relishes under the huge pressure of a postseason game.
Walker demands the ball at the end of close games, wanting the team to trust his decision at the end of each and every contest. In his first couple years in the league, he'll get a few cracks at winning a game in the final seconds.
How he fares in these situations could shape the entirety of his career.
Negative No. 1: Size
One of the biggest criticisms of Kemba Walker is something he cannot control: his stature.
Walker stands barely over 6'0'', putting him in the company of Allen Iverson. Iverson is widely considered one of the best players 6'0'' or under. Although Walker doesn't quite fit those parameters, his style of play is similar to that of Iverson.
He is forced to fade away on his jump shots to avoid being blocked. He's never going to be an elite defender because of his height. Things like this can scare a coach out of picking someone like Walker.
However, if the Philadelphia 76ers would have passed up Iverson, they would have regretted it.
Many professional athletes can be heard saying someone told them they were too "small" to make it to the pros. Hopefully for Kemba, he can be added to the laundry list of athletes who succeeded despite physical limitations.
Negative No. 2: Willingness to Pass
Walker likes to create off the dribble, but saw most of his success in his junior year running off screens. A team that takes Kemba will likely have him run the point. Whether or not they want someone like Rajon Rondo or someone more like Derrick Rose depends on the coach.
If a pass-first point guard is the preference of the coaching staff, Walker will have his work cut out for him. Going from being the No. 1 scoring option in college to taking around five shots a game in the pros can be disheartening for some. Walker only averaged 4.3 assists per game in his final season at UConn.
Will Kemba be ready to give the ball up to the proven scorers?
Negative No. 3: Assist-to-Turnover Ratio
Can Kemba distribute the ball even if he's willing to?
As a junior, Walker had less than a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. As a sophomore, it was even worse, with Kemba committing nearly 100 turnovers.
To be a respected point guard in the NBA, Kemba needs to turn the ball over far less than he does now. People like Chris Paul and Rondo have a couple of the best ratios in the league. John Wall was criticized for having a subpar rookie debut even though he averaged 8.3 assists a game because of his low ratio. He finished at 2.2.
No one will expect Walker to have a better rookie campaign than Wall, but he should shoot for an assist-to-turnover ratio of two or above.
Kemba has already proved he can score. To impress teams in tryouts, he should show improved court vision.
Negative No. 4: Age with Potential Lockout
This may sound like a stretch to many, but I believe this is the reason Kyrie Irving is getting so much more attention than Kemba.
Walker is set to turn 21 in less than a week, and with the impending lockout, he may be 22 or 23 before he ever plays a game. To many, that still sounds young, but NBA teams start looking at players around age 11 for a reason.
The league believes that the more influence they can have on a player's growth, the better. Therefore, drafting an 18-year-old that's on the same level as a 21-year-old is an obvious advantage. Players entering the draft need to be 19 years old by the end of the calendar year the draft takes place in.
Kenyon Martin is the last American-born senior to be taken with the first pick in the NBA draft. That occurred in 2000. With athletes being forced into going to college, more players than ever are leaving after just one or two seasons of intercollegiate sports.
Would it stop me from picking him? No, but it would cause some hesitation.
Kemba Walker will be a lottery pick, landing somewhere between picks No. 7 and No. 11.
Watching him play in the tournaments this year must have caught the eye of some team that didn't get to play in the ultimate tournament that is the NBA playoffs.
If Kemba slips to a playoff team, teams on the outside looking in will regret letting him slide past.