Kemba Walker must be the most frustrated player in the NBA. He went from a great college career, which he capped off with a championship run, to the then Charlotte Bobcats. It took him a while to develop, but over the last few years he has shown he is a legitimate star. Now, though, he is having what may be the best season of his career. And he is doing it on a team that not only can’t win, but doesn’t really seem to be trying to either.
Much was expected out of Kemba after his great career at UConn. He started as a top prospect, but didn’t have a very polished game his freshman season. He then had a much better Sophomore year, which lead many to believe he may transition into a truly great college point-guard in the future. The next year, he did just that, averaging 23.5 points, 4.5 assists, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.9 steals a game. What was more remarkable, though, was how he carried the Huskies all the way to an NCAA championship that few saw coming. He impressed so much that the then Charlotte Bobcats decided he could be their point-guard of the future, and snatched him with the number 9 overall pick in the following draft.
It didn’t happen all at once. His defense never really carried over, and his scoring took a few seasons to translate. Everyone always saw the potential, but it wasn’t fully realized until his fifth year in Charlotte, when he put up 20.9 points a game with 5.2 assists, as well as showing much more efficiency with his shot. From there, it has only grown since, as the two full seasons since both yielded more points and assists per game, as well as a pair of all-star nods. Now, in 2018, he seems to have fully blossomed into the scoring machine people long expected him to become.
After proving that he was an all-star caliber player the last few years, he has reached a new level to his game, and set the NBA on fire in the process. He is averaging 28.2 points per game, which his five more than his previous career high of 23.2, while also having a carer high in assists as well, with 6.6. The advanced stats also show how dominant he’s become, as he has a 25 Player Efficiency Rating(PER). An average player has 15, so he is clearly setting himself apart from the rest of the NBA in a way he’s never done before.
There’s only one problem with Walker’s successs; it’s not enough. Despite their franchise player having his best year of his career, the Hornets have managed a lowly 9-10 record and are narrowly holding on to a play-off spot. Even if they hold on to their 8th seed, it would just mean they get an extra few games to be beaten down by however manages to finish atop the East. Walker simply has no talent around him. Although Miles Bridges looks like he may be good someday, and Molik Monk has played well since coming back from his injury, there really just isn’t a lot of help. They only have three players averaging double-digits, and their number two scorer, Jeremy Lamb, is only averaging half of Kemba’s output per night. This fact became abundantly clear a few games ago, when they lost in overtime to the Philadelphia 76’s despite Kemba dropping 60 points. That was the first time a player scored 60+ points and lost at home in 20 years. Clearly, no matter what level Kemba Walker plays at, Charlotte is a team without hope for this year.
Maybe Kemba should think of this as an audition. He’s a free-agent this offseason, so his performance may at least land him a lofty payday. What’s more, he was almost traded at the deadline last year. If the Hornets continue to play at this level, they may decide to finish a deal this year. That would at least give Walker a chance to play on a contender. Whatever happens, I’m sure Kemba Walker wants to win. Playing at a high-level and still lose be a terrible feeling, and nobody in the NBA understands that more than Walker.