In the 2011-12 NBA regular season for the Charlotte Bobcats, point guard Kemba Walker made his rookie debut. He played in all 66 games of the lockout season, playing 27.2 minutes per game and averaging 12.1 points, 4.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 0.9 steals per game on 36.6 percent shooting.
One of the biggest issues with Walker, the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, in his rookie season was his inefficiency. He also seemed to get lost occasionally on defense and wasn’t much of a playmaker. There was obvious room for improvement for Walker.
Fast-forward to the present after Walker has just completed his second season in the league. Walker played in all 82 games for the lowly Bobcats and was on the floor for 34.9 minutes per game while averaging 17.7 points, 5.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds and two steals on 42.3 percent shooting.
The Bobcats point guard made great strides from his rookie year to his sophomore. He became a much more efficient scorer, became less of a defensive liability, and really became the most reliable offensive option for Charlotte as the season progressed.
With the increase in his efficiency, Walker became a much more reliable option. In his rookie season, he averaged just 0.81 points per possession, just the 336th-ranked rate in the league. He increased that this past season, though, averaging the 208th most points per possession at 0.91. Though the Bobcats would still like to see that increase, it’s good to see improvement.
Two other areas where Walker showed great improvement offensively are in isolation and pick-and-roll situations.
In his rookie season, 13.5 percent of plays run for Walker were in isolation sets, and he averaged just 0.73 points per possession and made just 36 field goal attempts for the entire season. He increased that dramatically this season, though, despite having a lesser percentage of his plays coming in isolation. Only 11.7 percent of his plays this past season were isolation sets, but he averaged 0.82 points per possession and actually making more total field goals than he did in his rookie year.
Walker’s improvement in the pick-and-roll this past season was really remarkable. He was solid in his rookie season, as he averaged 0.78 points per possession, but he shot just 36.3 percent out of those sets. This year he shot 43.8 percent out of the pick-and-roll and averaged 0.87 points per possession, the 30th-highest rate in the entire league.
Walker became the Bobcats best scoring threat this past season, particularly off the dribble. However, because defenses didn’t have to focus on Charlotte’s frontcourt, Walker often faced a lot of defensive pressure. Because of that, Walker’s turnover rate actually increased from 9.4 percent his rookie season to 9.6 percent his past season.
Another area of concern with Walker this past season was that, even though his steals went up, he still has a lot to learn on the defensive end. However, it’s incredibly hard to judge the defense of Walker because of how poor Charlotte was overall as a defensive unit. At basically every position, they have below-average defensive players, which was a big reason why this team really couldn’t stop anyone.
Coming back to Walker, it’s clear that he is arguably the most integral part of the Bobcats going forward. He’s shown growth over his first two seasons and seems to have gained the respect of his teammates and coaches as a leader. Another underrated but important aspect to bring up about Walker is his durability as a young player, as he hasn’t missed a game over his first two seasons.
Though the Bobcats will be looking to build and add a great deal of talent to their current roster, they will still likely begin and end with Walker. He has the ability to score in a variety of ways and is underrated in his ability to facilitate. He’s an average-at-best defender right now, but that’s a common occurrence for young players, especially guards, in this league. If Walker continues to gain experience and better his game, he’s on track to have a solid career as a point guard in the NBA.