2019 NBA Free Agent Profile: Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker (Credit: Alex Cervantes/Lakers Outsiders)

Every great team needs a good point guard to run the offense and provide outlets for teammates to score. Kemba Walker is better than good.

While most reports about and comments from the Charlotte Hornets guard are sticking to the narrative that he wants to remain with the team, Lakers fans can’t help but hope to land the star to complete the trifecta in Los Angeles.

The point guard has reportedly indicated that he would take less than a supermax contract to stay in Charlotte to allow the front office to build a team around him. However, I remain unconvinced. Walker seems like the type to value winning above all, and where else in the league provides a better opportunity for winning than the Lakers with LeBron James and Anthony Davis?

In the 2018-2019 NBA season, 46.8% (or 971 total) of Walker’s used possessions were as the pick and roll ball handler. On those possessions, he scored 978 points, a rate of 1.007 points per possession which puts him in the 91st percentile in the league. Walker was in the 62nd percentile while passing in the pick and roll with his teammates scoring 710 points on 649 possessions. In total, the Hornets scored on 44.8% of their pick-and-roll possessions with Walker on the court, per Synergy. Walker’s pick and roll opportunities with either James or Davis would be lethal. Just look at 2what Walker is able to do with non-superstar talent on his team.

Despite being undersized, Walker is a decent defender that at least prevents himself from being a liability. He spent most of his time guarding the ball handler in pick and roll situations and spot up shooters. He allowed 299 points on 351 possessions in the pick and roll which put him in the 56th percentile. Walker’s spot-up numbers were a little more spotty, allowing 379 points on 345 possessions, which put him in the 28th percentile, decidedly below average and likely a factor of his length on closeouts.

Perhaps the strongest reason to sign Kemba Walker is his health. He did not miss a single game last season and was the only Hornet to do so. His workload in Charlotte would be much higher than it would be playing alongside James and Davis, so barring a freak accident, we could expect much of the same for the 2019-2020 season.

Many Lakers fans have interest in players like Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant in free agency, but I find it unlikely that either of those players takes a substantial step back to play on the Lakers. Kemba Walker has shown that he is willing to take a pay cut on his current team to allow them to compete, why not take a lesser role with two of the five best players in the league for a chance to win a title?

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