NBA Draft Wants and Needs: Comparing Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight
In the 90s, big men ruled the NBA. In recent years, with players like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, John Wall and numerous others, it is very quickly becoming a league run by the little men. The point guards.
Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, barring a big draft day surprise, is expected to be the first to have his name called on the fateful night of June 23rd.
This won't focus on Irving, though. This will focus on the other two who have the potential to make noise at point guard in the NBA.
Kemba Walker made some serious noise last season for his national champion Connecticut Huskies. He managed to get all this done by compiling insane numbers, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot, and becoming one of the faces, if not the face, of college basketball last season.
Brandon Knight attended the University of Kentucky. The head coach over there is a man by the name of John Calipari; a man who has coached the likes of Derrick Rose, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, and Tyreke Evans. Not a bad list of guards if you ask me, and all those guys have been drafted within the last three years. Knight did not disappoint to any extent. His quickness and ability to score the basketball has helped raise his draft stock. Many have him going as high as third to the Jazz.
Almost every mock draft out there has these two being picked within just a couple picks of each other. But the question remains: Who will make the better pro?
We'll look at a number of different aspects of the game, and who might show the advantage of that aspect at the next level.
While it might be easy to tally up who wins what category to see who "wins," I would not advise doing that. It is not about who wins the most categories, but how these different skills that each player brings can be combined to make them a great NBA player.
1. Point Guard Skills
It's safe to say that neither of these players are the "Ricky Rubio" blend at point guard. Both tend to look to score the ball in most situations.
When comparing the two, most would likely see Kemba Walker as more of an undersized shooting guard—due to his style of play, as well as the fact that he is only 6'1". While he was able to put together a few double doubles in his final season with the Huskies, many saw him as a ball-dominant shooting guard. If he wants to play the point in the NBA, he'll have to adjust that slightly.
Brandon Knight will have to play point guard in the NBA for the majority of the time. While Kemba might be the superior man dribbling the basketball, I would argue that Knight is the superior passer, and may look for the open man more often than Walker. If he improves his ball-handling, he could definitely develop a balanced offensive repertoire as a point guard at the next level.
Advantage: Brandon Knight
As I said in the last slide, Kemba Walker has a better grip on the ball as far as dribbling goes, but there's more to the skill of ball-handling than dribbling. Ball security, avoiding the turnover on a pass, and watching your feet while you're near the out-of-bounds line, as well as dribbling the ball. When keeping that in mind, it forces you to look more deeply into who is truly better.
Brandon Knight had the ball in his hands a lot for Kentucky, and he did a great job considering the fact that he was only a freshman. With the talent he had around him, he had to pass the ball to get his teammates involved. With that, he did manage to turn the ball over three times per game, and his awareness on that end of the court came into question at times.
While having the ball in his hands at almost all times for UConn, Walker actually saw his turnovers per game average drop a bit. He is fairly well known for his ability to hold onto the ball, and probably had the best crossover in the country in the 2010-11 season.
Advantage: Kemba Walker
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Both of these players are best known for their play on the offensive side of the ball. But what about the side that is said to win championships? It's safe to say that both of these kids need improvement on this end of the ball, but it's not to the point where it would be a liability for either of them.
Kemba Walker was beyond incredible in the scoring department, but at times he seemed to relax on defense. Whether that was to conserve energy on the side of the ball that he shined is up for discussion, but this category will go to Knight, mostly because of how active he was on both sides.
Advantage: Brandon Knight
4. Scoring Ability
Both of these guys are excellent scorers, but there are two ways in particular that most people look at when you talk about guards.
There are the spot-up shooters, and there are the slashers. We will look at both here, and decide who is better in each category, as well as the combination of the two.
We will start with shooting. Long range, mid range, any range. Just the ability to square up and hit a simple jump shot. Both are excellent in this regard. Both will have NBA range at the next level. Knight shot a little better than Walker, but you have to keep in mind the fact that Walker took almost 250 more shots during the season than Knight. This one is too close to call.
In regards to slashing to the hoop to score, Kemba wins this one pretty easily. Other than the likes of Kawhi Leonard, there really wasn't anyone quite as good with slashing from the top of the key and making something happen in the paint. Knight is definitely skilled in this aspect of the game, but Walker has this ability mastered even in his sleep.
Advantage: Kemba Walker
5. Late Game Situations
Both of these guys are cold blooded at the end of games. It's hard to say whether they'll be able to keep their cool at the next level, but they sure didn't seem phased on the national spotlight at the college level.
Knight was able to hit a couple of game winners. One against Princeton, and one against Ohio State, both of which being on the biggest stage: the NCAA Tournament. He is clearly ready to take the big shot whenever it is needed. You definitely can't sleep on Knight as a finisher, but Walker has some game too.
Kemba Walker provided a total of three game-winning shots on the year, including an absolute dazzler against Pittsburgh. This man has absolutely no fear going into the end of a ballgame, and he has shown it time and time again. I have no reason to believe he won't be doing that at the next level.
Advantage: Kemba Walker
In the End, It All Depends on the Situation
It's impossible to give an overall advantage to one player, not at least until you see them play at the next level. It all really depends on what one team needs.
One might need a go-to scorer who can create in several different ways. Kemba Walker would be the man for that.
Another team might need a guy who can score, but also pass the ball and can play solid defense at all times during the game. In that case, they would want to go for Knight.
A team like Utah, who currently has the third pick, would probably want to go for a guy like Knight, who would be able to defer to the likes of Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap, but still be able to get some looks for himself and get his own shot off.
The Toronto Raptors, who currently have the fifth pick in the draft this year, would want to take a serious look at Walker in that situation. With Chris Bosh gone and currently playing in the finals with Miami, the Raptors are without a go-to scorer. Kemba would fit that role perfectly.
Sometimes, a player will go to a poor situation for their skillset and it stunts their development. These two are talented young players, and hopefully that does not happen.