With college basketball concluded and a little more than two months left until the NBA Draft, much speculation is surrounding who will be the top pick in June. Whether it’s Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, or Harrison Barnes who have their name called first, it might be easy to say one was a better choice than another in retrospect. However, perhaps maybe the easiest and for sure thing in the upcoming draft will be who is getting the best value for their pick in terms of position, immediate impact, and future returns. If you ask me, it’s an easy answer: whichever team drafts UConn star Kemba Walker. The junior scoring guard has so much to offer in terms of NBA value, yet is getting cast aside and discounted in favor of players seen as having greater upside. However, there’ s a lot to love about Walker’s game, and I’ll explain why certain issues aren’t as pressing in the NBA as you would think for a player of Walker’s talent.

That said, SwishScout.com presents “Kemba Walker: What Makes Him The Best Value Pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.”

NBA Ready

Playing in one of the toughest NCAA conference in the nation has to count for something, and if it does, consider Walker battle-tested. The Big East was a brutal conference providing an 10 teams this season for the NCAA Tournament and Walker astounded just about every squad he went up against. Walker’s game is NCAA tested and approved as he rocked solid numbers in his junior season against some tough tournament teams as well. His skill set is well rounded and refined as he excels in certain key areas, which we will divulge and analyze shortly.

Plenty of Potential

Only a junior, Walker has yet to turn 21. Kemba is a young gun with a lot of energy and room for improvement in his game. The biggest knock in his game is his streak shooting from three and shot selection at times. Thankfully, the easiest skill for a player to improve in the league is shooting and with plenty of time and work on his game, his NBA range and marksmanship will become solid. He may never shoot over 40% from beyond the arc but if he can hit 35% or better, he will be a respectable deep threat. With his steady year-to-year progression in the NCAA and how refined his game is now, having league experience and NBA-honed skills could make him a force in a few years.

Projected Draft Position

Right now, many online Draft publications (ESPN, DraftExpress, SwishScout) project that Walker will go somewhere in the mid-lottery between picks 5 through 9. In a draft where many of the top picks have pulled out (Jared Sullinger, John Henson, Perry Jones) and full of potential-based foreign players (Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas, Jan Vesely), there’s perhaps more risk and less return involved than usual. Walker might be about as a safe a pick as they come, especially if he’s getting passed up for players who aren’t going to make an immediate impact.

Superb Quickness

We won’t have official numbers on just how quick Walker is until the NBA Draft combine, but he definitely passes the eye test. He gave NCAA defenders fits with his speed, burning them with ease off the dribble thanks to his straight-line quickness and burst off his first step. His acceleration off the dribble is uncanny as well, making it extremely difficult to stay in front of him. If he gets out on the break, don’t bet on anyone being able to catch up to him or track him down.

Compact Build and Strength

A lot of focus has been on his size disadvantage for a guard at 6’1. General rule of thumb for size in the NBA usually projects about 6’3 to 6’6” as ideal for a wing player with guard skills, but plenty have made an impact that have been smaller. DJ Augustin, Brandon Jennings, Tony Parker, Lou Williams, Mike Conley and Darren Collison are just a few examples of six-foot guards who are excelling in the league right now because of their skill set and quickness. With Walker’s compactness and wiry frame, he will be able to handle contact on the perimeter and still be able to finish at the rim. He’s also a very underrated rebounder, averaging 5.4 boards per game off pure hustle and grit tracking down the ball.

Scorer’s Mentality

Being among the top leaders in scoring is never easy for a player in the NCAA, especially going up against very good players in sub-par conferences who put up big numbers. This year, Walker managed to finish fourth in the NCAA scoring, putting up 23.5 point per game in 37.6 minutes of action in the Big East. Averaging more than 18 shots a game, Walker was without a doubt the focal point of the Huskies offense but embraced and excelled in his role as the go-to player. The way he scored was impressive as well; whether it was off the dribble and getting to the rack or creating space for a jumper, stopping Kemba was no easy task. He’s a smart player with a great basketball IQ and a knack for improvising.

Clutch Shooter and Competitor

If you’re a fan of college basketball, you have probably seen this shot about a hundred times already. He also had a few other game winners and go-ahead buckets earlier in the season, including a big one against Villanova and a miraculous shot versus Texas. If the game is deadlocked in the final seconds of the game, Kemba’s clutch factor takes over and his competitiveness gives his team an edge. Walker is a cold-blooded shooter who is unwavering the biggest moments and steps up under pressure with the ball in his hands. Expect him to be a player who will rise to the occasion in the NBA if they draw up a play for him with seconds remaining.

Creating Ability

With a tight handle and quick strike dribble moves, Kemba can break his man off with his dribble and get just about wherever he wants on the floor. He had little problem doing it in the NCAA, even against double teams, but in the league he will command just a single defender that will be at his mercy. His scoring versatility is enough to keep a team on their toes, but they also have to deal with his ability to set up teammates as well. A five assist per game player as a sophomore and putting up 4.3 assists per game this season, Walker is an underrated playmaker with the rock. The attention he commands with the ball in his hands draws away defenders and help, giving his teammates opportunity for some easy baskets. Even though he’s a combo guard, he will be able to play both the point and shooting guard position in the NBA.

Defensive Talents

A player with his athleticism should find it easy to
buckle down on defense if they are committed to guarding their man and, thankfully, Kemba is willing. He not only has great lateral quickness and ability to stay in front of his man, but naturally gets into passing lanes and picks off passes for easy opportunities going the other way. Walker has averaged an impressive two steals per game at Connecticut the past couple seasons. Despite being undersized, he will fit right in for an NBA team guarding the perimeter because of his lateral quickness and defensive instincts.

Proven Winner

His NCAA postseason record as a junior speaks for itself, as UConn went 11-0 at the end of the season to capture the Big East and National Championship. Alongside Alex Oriakhi and Jeremy Lamb, Walker was the floor general who commandeered an unranked team through a five-day marathon to win the Big East Tournament to get UConn hot at the right time. For Jim Calhoun, the job was simple: Put the ball in his hands and let him do his thing. Having been to the Final Four as a freshman gave him experience to carry forward, which was very apparent for when he was ready to run the show. Walker will be a cog for a franchise in need of a winning culture on the court, and any NBA team has to like what he brings in that regard.

Just How Good Can He Be?

Originally thought by scouts to just be a potential NBA backup, Walker has taken the NCAA by storm and looks like he has what it takes to be a starter in the league. He has a great work ethic and passion for the game that should ensure his progression in the NBA is steady and impactful. His skill set is mature and natural, as he looks and plays like and NBA guard. His playmaking, quickness, competitiveness, clutch shooting and Charlie Sheen-ness (duh, Winning) were a notch above his peers, and that alone makes him worth a top five pick. On a losing team that’s rebuilding, he should easily be able to average double digits scoring in his rookie season. Walker has all-star potential that he may eventually be able to reach during his career, and may even establish himself as one of the league’s elite down the road. As cliché as it sounds, Walker can honestly be as good as he wants to be.

This article is originally written by our partners at SwishScout.com


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