2011 NBA Draft Combine Coverage: Kemba Walker is the Most Undervalued Player in the Draft - June 23
Too often, NBA teams get caught up with qualities like athleticism, potential, upside, wingspan, how high someone can jump, or how tall or short some guy measures in shoes when scouting NBA Draft prospects. While those attributes are important, so is a player's track record on the court and his ability to flat out play the game.
UConn's Kemba Walker is coming off one of the more impressive college basketball performances in recent years. The Husky point guard made the leap, becoming one of the best players in the game and leading his team to an incredible run in March. For reasons that absolutely baffle me though, Walker could possibly slip out of the lottery in tonight's 2011 NBA Draft.
The 2010-11 campaign was a dream season for Walker, who saw his NBA Draft stock soar after a breakout performance at the Maui Invitational. That high level of play continued throughout the season, resulting in Walker leading UConn to a remarkable five wins in five days to claim the Big East Tournament Championship and following that up by winning the NCAA Tournament.
"It's been unreal," Walker told me at the NBA Draft Combine. "I'm still on cloud nine right now and it's going to take me a while to come down."
During the season, the Bronx native proved he is a winner, a leader, a fighter, a big moment player and a clutch performer. He's lightning quick and has a deadly step-back jumper (just ask Pitt's Gary McGhee) which is a major weapon for a point guard to possess at the next level. He appeared to be a lock as one of the top picks in the 2011 NBA Draft behind Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams.
"Those two guys deserve it," Walker said "I think they are definitely the best two players in the draft. After that, anyone can go anywhere."
And for Walker, that last sentence couldn't be more true. We are just hours from the 2011 NBA Draft and despite all he accomplished this past season, Kemba could actually fall out of the lottery.
There is a very, very, very slim chance Kemba gets taken by the Jazz with the third overall pick, but they will more than likely choose between Enes Kanter and Brandon Knight if they do not trade the pick. The Cavs will not need a point guard at four since they are taking Kyrie Irving with the top pick. I think Walker would be a great fit in Toronto, who holds the fifth pick, but they seem more interested in finding a defensive minded player. Washington obviously does not need a point guard at six with John Wall running the show.
Kemba's slide could end at No. 7 when the Kings are on the clock but they are reportedly very high on Jimmer Fredette. If Sacramento passes on Walker then anything is possible. The Pistons interviewed Kemba at the NBA Draft Combine but they seem set on adding a frontcourt player despite the fact that their current starting point guard Rodney Stuckey is a restricted free agent and probably not their long-term answer.
From there, who knows? Charlotte has bigger needs at center and small forward than point guard, but the franchise is craving talent and Walker would also help them fill some of the empty seats. Milwaukee and Golden State drafted their franchise point guards two years ago in Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry, so it is doubtful they would select Walker. If Utah takes Knight at three, there is no way they take Kemba at 12. However, if Kanter is their earlier selection then Kemba will fall right into their laps and be the steal of the draft. Phoenix and Houston would take a hard look at Walker but also have more immediate needs that they are likely to address.
Based off the logistics I just diagrammed with how the 2011 NBA Draft could play out, it is conceivable that Walker will slide out of the lottery tonight. From a pure basketball standpoint though, it is a huge, HUGE mistake especially in what is unanimously called the weakest draft class in league history.
Walker may not be blessed with Derrick Rose's size (he measured 6-1 at the combine) and is an inconsistent outside shooter (so are Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rando, and John Wall though), and he faces other challenges in transitioning to the NBA.
"Try to get the veterans to respect us as point guards and as young guys," Walker called his toughest challenge.
However, Walker, and pardon my cliche, just knows how to play the game. He is a proven winner and what he accomplished at UConn this past season should speak volumes in backing up that statement.
"I can be a great leader," Walker stated confidently at the combine. "I can bring a new attitude to a team in terms of a winning attitude."
We know this - at some point in the first round, David Stern will call Kemba Walker's name. He will be handed a hat with the logo of his new employer and walk on stage at the NBA Draft.
"When that day comes, it's going to be a special day... it's going to be a special day," Walker said.
But if NBA teams baffle me and picks continue to roll by while Kemba sits in the green room watching, that special day will lose some of its luster, and more than likely put a huge chip on his shoulder.