Sunday, June 12, 2011

The 2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise - Kemba Walker Edition

So this year, the folks at Hoops N Hip-Hop will be behind a feature called "2011 Rookies: A Raptor In Disguise". Leading up to the draft, a new article will be posted up on the GamePointBlog and RaptorSpace, introducing and analyzing every rookie that will be within range of the Raptors' 5th overall pick. Though much is uncertain, we know one thing for sure, one of these players will be asked the question every rookie dreams of hearing: "Are you concerned about the taxes up there in Canada?"

Meet Kemba Walker of University of Connecticut

Age: 21
Nationality: American
Height: 6'0
Weight: 184

Hoops N Hip-Hop Co-Host and Writer DeeJae Johnson

To be or not to be, I’m sure this is what Kemba Walker asked himself when thinking of winning the NCAA tournament at the beginning of the season. By the end of march, that question was answered. The UCONN Huskies’ scoring machine, without a doubt played his best basketball this past NCAA season and proved not to only be a threat on the offensive end but as well whatever the team needed him to be. One word to truly describe Kemba is Clutch (see video below). Kemba has a presence about him that screams confidence, and his high basketball I.Q. doesn’t hurt at all. After a recent work out with the Toronto Raptors, you could see fearlessness in his eyes. To see him in a red and black jersey would help propel Toronto into an immediate playoff picture, the guy is just that good. Despite the lack of size, he can play above the rim and his shooting touch can alleviate a bad-shooting choice. Think Kevin Durant in a 5’10 body. If Kemba can show that he can be an excellent playmaker as a scorer, then the sky won’t be his limit. He’ll shoot above it.

You've probably seen it once before, but this is what DeeJae means when he says "Kemba is Clutch":

Hoops N Hip-Hop Producer and Writer Rose Arcana

One of the likely candidates for Toronto’s 5th pick in the draft will be Kemba Walker. Although many people were ecstatic for Kyrie Irving, I on the other hand have always had my eye on Walker. I watched the video mixes on him, I saw him in his March Madness success, and from the first time I saw him I was hooked.

This is a young man with a very high ceiling and a tremendous up-side. He spent a couple more years in college than most draft prospects which will only make him more valuable in my books. He will be more mature and more knowledgeable about not only basketball, but also about the political aspects of the game. He won't be a baby thrown into an adult world with all the thrills and frills so many rookies get caught up in. Not to mention he's a dancer. Sure most of you guys are going “WHAT?” but seriously there are so many NBA players that could improve their moves if they learned how to dance (ie Derozan.) When I first saw Walker, one of the first things I said was “I bet he can dance.” Sure enough he is an excellent dancer and has performed at the Apollo Theater.

Just look at his stats. Here we have a point guard that can do a bit of everything! He averages 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 23.4 points and nearly 2 steals per game. I would take him on my fantasy team any day of the week! Granted he is lacking in the 3-point area, but in all honesty maybe this is a good thing. With players like Bargnani shooting 3’s, someone needs to shoot from the inside. For years the Raptors have prided themselves on their 3-point prowess, it’s time to move away from that.

After all that, you are now wondering why he would even fall to 5th. Besides the obvious problems with his size, here are a few reasons he may fall to Toronto.

First off we are pretty sure he will not go 1 or 2; so I will start with #3 pick from the Utah Jazz. Plain and simple, they don’t need him. They have Devin Harris followed by Raja Bell, and Gordon Hayward. It would be a wasted pick for Utah unless they know of a certain team, down in let’s say Houston, that they could flip Kemba to. But with the 3rd pick, you are usually looking for something you can use for in the future, not something to trade for older players.

The #4 pick belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers. We all assume they will have already picked up Kyrie at pick #1 so they have no need for Kemba as well. However they could strike a deal with a team such as the Spurs who might be in need of a young athletic point guard in exchange for a solid piece or two. If I were picking for Cleveland, I wouldn’t pick Kyrie at #1. With the top rookies consisting of mainly point guards, I would go for Derrick Williams at #1 and hold off for Walker at #4, but that’s just me. I’m not so sure Cleveland can live with not taking the coveted top pick at #1. Men and their egos.

That leaves Walker falling to number 5 and the Toronto Raptors. This could be a win-win for everyone.

Kris Cuaresma's Conclusion

Strengths: Scoring ability, leadership, advanced ball handling, elite speed, amazing footwork, clutch, ability to contort body in mid air

Weaknesses: undersized, short wingspan, inconsistent jumper, lack of NBA 3 pt range, trouble with finishing at the rim, questions about point guard skills

After reading these strengths and weaknesses, do any particular recent Raptors come to mind? If you said "Jerryd Bayless", then have a cookie because it sure does match him quite well. And that to me, is the reason that's making me question Kemba Walker the most. Consider that the two have very similar play styles that resulted in comparable stats in their final collegiate season - Bayless (19.7 pts, 4.0 ast) and Walker (23.4 pts, 4.3 ast)

Now of course, there are several significant differences between the two. The first being that Walker actually was successful in putting a team on his back and leading them all the way to a National Championship.

Kemba had one of the most prolific years a player could have playing in the NCAA, marked with several highlights, clutch moments, and most importantly - wins. This guy has won on every level he's played, and that's a quality that every team doesn't mind in a player.

At the end of the day, it comes down to two things for Kemba; his measurements and his combination of speed and ball handling. If Kemba was four inches taller, he'd be going #1 and being compared as the next Dwyane Wade. But he's not, and the more likely outcome is he becomes the next Ben Gordon. What Walker does have going for him though is his crazy speed and superb dribbling. Derrick Rose has gone on record calling him one of the fastest people he's ever guarded.

Will the Raps draft him at 5? I think they do because he will be the best player available. I'm not sure they do though if Knight or Kanter is still on the board by then. The last point guard we've had that was this dynamic was Damon Stoudamire, so perhaps this will be Mighty Mouse part 2?

Where will Kemba Walker go? If the Raps don't pick him up at #5, expect Sacramento to pick him up at #7 considering the reports of the Kings being impressed with his workouts. A core of Walker, Evans, Thornton, and Cousins is though undersized, still a very nice group of pieces to move forward with.

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