Jan. 13, 2017
Is This NBA Player Any Good?: Kemba Walker
by Fox Doucette
The Charlotte Hornets have been rather aggressively Twitter promoting the candidacy of Kemba Walker for the All-Star Game, trying to gin up that #NBAVote hashtag but, as of the NBA releasing the results of voting so far, Walker is ninth among guards with just over 50,000 votes.
What's more, if you make a list of the best point guards in the Eastern Conference (just the East! Not even mentioning Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, or anyone else out West), Walker comes out no better than fifth, behind (in some order) Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, and John Wall.
But that's not good enough for us here at the Statistical Tests Lab at Pace and Space. As Dikembe Mutombo would say, oh no no no. We are members of the media (even if the NBA savagely refuses to recognize our genius as a site with monthly pageviews in the mid-to-high four figures, and thanks to all our readers.)
My point is, we don't dismiss All-Star candidates without putting them through the statistical wringer, and that leads us to the myth to be tested this week, with all stats coming courtesy of Basketball Reference:
Is Kemba Walker good enough to be seriously considered for the Eastern Conference All-Star team?
First, his slash line. .467/.421/.830. Career highs in field goal percentage and three-point accuracy (for his career, Walker has a slash of .410/.345/.823.) 23.1 points a game, also a career high, all while posting personal bests in Offensive Rating (114), PER (23.0), Win Shares/48 (.173), and doing all of that while raising his Usage Rate to the highest it's ever been (29.1).
That is to say, Walker's pretty good, at least when he isn't Shaqtin' a Fool:
But that's not the question we asked, is it? Let's go ahead and put all of those stats in a blender and compare Walker side-by-side against the four guys I mentioned up top who are his main East rivals. In order of slash, PPG, Ortg, PER, WS/48, and USG (and yes, I'm stacking the deck by using Walker's best stats against what may not be the very best strengths of the other guys; Walker's assist numbers are woeful, just for example, but we're talking pure put-the-ball-in-the-basket stuff.)
Walker: .467/.421/.830, 23.1, 114, 23.0, .173, 29.1.
Irving: .465/.415/.895, 23.8, 116, 22.0, .175, 29.1.
Lowry: .475/.433/.833, 22.4, 126 (!), 23.9, .229, 24.2.
Wall: .459/.304/.819, 22.8, 109, 23.2, .141, 30.5.
Thomas: .456/.378/.906, 28.2, 123, 26.8, .241, 33.4.
So what have we learned, besides “Isaiah Thomas is a superhero who deserves your vote for the All-Star Game because he's the straw that stirs the Celtics' drink”?
Well, for starters, I owe an apology to Walker; he's better than John Wall. Unfortunately, that still makes him only the fourth-best point guard in the East, and in a world where shooting guards play too (Dwyane Wade, DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal, and Avery Bradley would all like a word, please), that just doesn't leave any room for Walker in the conversation.
And oh by the way, you see those three point guards I mentioned above who are better than Walker? I may have neglected to mention that they're on the three best teams in the Eastern Conference standings (Cleveland, Toronto, Boston, point made!) while Charlotte is just a loss and a Chicago win away from being out of the playoffs entirely.
And again, this is before we mention that we're loading this heavily toward shooting stats because it's about the no-defense showcase that is the All-Star Game. If I really wanted to pile on, I'd point out that Walker's lousy at getting assists and tends to clog the toilet in Charlotte's offense when he has the ball.
Sorry, Kemba. No #NBAVote for you. This one's Busted.