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Kemba Walker is authentic by his acceptability as a “winner.” But will acceptable amount in Thursday’s draft?
Kemba Walker is, by all accounts, a winner.
He’s won a academy basketball civic championship, about alone arch an amateur University of Connecticut team, unranked in the preseason, on an doubtful run of 11 beeline postseason wins to cap off the 2010-11 season. He’s won games, best conspicuously with a step-back artful adjoin Pittsburgh that’s abiding to be replayed anniversary year about tourney time. He’s won awards, demography home best outstanding amateur trophies at the NCAA and Big East tournaments as able-bodied as earning an All-American nod and a atom on a bulk of added honorary postseason lists.
And accordingly, he’s won over abstract experts and decision-makers, as credible by his pre-draft cachet as a near-lock to acreage in the 2011 lottery.
Even accepted NBA players are affairs in. In ESPN The Magazine’s anniversary player-picked apish draft, the Jazz’s Al Jefferson called Walker No. 3 overall. Why? “Kemba is a champ and a angry competitor,” he said.
Who wouldn’t appetite a winner? Especially if you’re apery a action team, for whom, added generally than not, acceptable is at a premium. Bag yourself a amateur with a acceptable attitude, the cerebration goes, and that mindset adeptness rub off on the blow of the locker room.
But how far up the abstract lath will that acceptability booty you?
‘He’s aloof a winner’
More than any added anticipation in this draft, Walker is authentic by his team’s on-court success in 2010-11. What separates him from the brand of Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight — raw, high-upside point guards whose aptitude far outweighs their assembly — are his immeasurable intangibles.
He’s a leader. He’s tough. He’s got heart.
He has the hoops adaptation of je ne sais quoi: a assertive something. And admitting all the basketball abilities ample up on his abstract résumé, you accumulate advancing aback to the aforementioned byword back aggravating to acknowledgment why, exactly, he has been such a success: He’s aloof a winner.
But some of the better doubts surrounding Walker’s adeptness to accomplish at the aing akin axis from those aforementioned qualities.
You see his inefficient cutting numbers, and it’s accessible to characterization him as a amateur whose college-crafted acceptability adeptness beard some animal truths. And that’s area the second-guessing begins. Sure, Walker can command a huddle, but with academy 3-point cutting of aloof 33 percent in 2010-11, can he accomplish teams pay for activity beneath the screen? And yeah, he can hit the big shots, but with that blah 28 abetment rate, Walker doesn’t bang you as a point bouncer who absolutely excels at ambience up others.
In the Final Four, the animated moment of his final academy season, Walker was a bald 11-for-34 from the acreage and 1-for-9 from 3-point range, with about as abounding turnovers (six) as assists (seven).
But as ESPN abstract authority Chad Ford wrote anon afterwards the Huskies hoisted their third civic title, “Walker accepted already afresh that he’s a winner.”
Walker adeptness be a “winner.” But how abundant does “winning” absolutely amount in the NBA draft?
Where acceptable fits in
Winning is the ultimate aggregation goal, but abstract affairs are rated about absolutely on alone talent. Players such as Enes Kanter and Bismack Biyombo, with about one or two allusive amateur beneath their belts, can be called as action picks. And with the No. 1 aces in 2004, the Orlando Magic anesthetized over above UConn brilliant Emeka Okafor, again the NCAA amateur of the year, additionally advancing off a civic appellation season, for Dwight Howard, a aerial academy amateur with abundance of upside but nary a academy victory. … A move that has formed out OK, to say the least.
And yet, while abeyant about consistently rules, sometimes a prospect’s aggregation success can at atomic access draft-day decisions. In 2009, for example, Tyler Hansbrough — like Walker, a domiciliary name beginning off a civic championship — was called 13th all-embracing by the Pacers, advanced of high-upside picks Jrue Holiday, Earl Clark and Indiana’s accepted point guard, Darren Collison. Although able and physical, Hansbrough was alone an OK amateur with a low ceiling. But afterwards four years as the angel of academy basketball, he agitated a acceptability as addition you could calculation on, no amount what, to get a win. (He’s nicknamed “Psycho T,” for arrant out loud.) And indeed, he’s become that aforementioned affectionate of amateur in the NBA.
The concrete element
But clashing Hansbrough, Walker has the credible concrete accoutrement to attempt arch to arch with the added athletes in this year’s class.
Despite his diminutive adeptness — back he abstinent 6-foot-1 in shoes, it was hailed as a above achievement — Walker had one of the best best verts (39.5 inches) and continuing verts (32) of any amateur run through the ringer at May’s abstract amalgamate in Chicago. And his 3.16-second three-quarter-court dart wasn’t too shabby, either.
Better yet, aloof watch Walker braid his way through a aegis or bang into top accessory in a flash. Rather than relying on altogether accomplished sets, the Huskies thrived amidst chaos, instead acquisition all the speed, admeasurement and raw aptitude drillmaster Jim Calhoun could fit on the cloister and whipping them at opponents. And Walker was generally the projectile, charging at the affection of the defense, kamikaze style.
It’s that attacking, take-no-prisoners appearance that accustomed him to arbor up the fourth-highest scoring boilerplate (23.5 credibility per game) in the NCAA aftermost season. But with few addition options on offense, UConn’s assurance on him accomplishing so additionally angry the inferior into one of the game’s better brawl hogs. According to academy carbon adjudicator Ken Pomeroy’s calculator, Walker acclimated 31.4 percent of the Huskies’ possessions, 20th best in the nation, and took 33 percent of their shots, 26th most.
As Calhoun told the Hartford Courant this week, “The controlling with us was simple. [Tell Walker to] get the ball, go as far as you can, as continued as you can, and accomplish a play.”
Making plays is what Kemba does and what has led him to this point, appropriate on the doorstep of a able career. And yet, back evaluating him objectively, there is still the abiding catechism that the accomplishment set that fabricated him so appropriate in academy adeptness not be what’s all-important at the aing level. Afterwards all, he adeptness accept fabricated plays at key moments, but that 54.3 accurate cutting allotment doesn’t augur able-bodied for some of the added times.
Asking the appropriate questions
But conceivably we’re not allurement the appropriate question. With so abounding variables to accede in a action that ultimately serves as a well-researched applesauce shoot, a ample allotment of whether a anticipation booms or busts comes bottomward to apparent old desire. Walker adeptness be a champ now, but, back faced with a new accepted of excellence, a new lifestyle, etc., will he still appetite to win?
In the aperture console of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in March, Malcolm Gladwell chastened a altercation centered about analyst Anders Ericsson’s “10,000-Hour Rule.“ In his book “Outliers,” Gladwell wrote that abundance is accomplished through 10,000 hours of practice. For example, the Beatles played alive in Hamburg, Germany, added than 1,200 times in the aboriginal 1960s, accession added than 10,000 hours of performing, afore abiding to England. “It was the authoritative of them,” Gladwell writes.
For this discussion, the console approved to actuate how the 10,000-Hour Rule relates to the avant-garde amateur and the abstraction of the “natural” athlete. Eventually, the allocution angry to players with biggy talents that never panned out. Jeff Van Gundy nominated Stromile Swift, a animated 6-foot-10 advanced bright with athleticism. But Swift, the No. 2 all-embracing aces in 2000, “didn’t adulation [basketball] as abundant as you would’ve hoped,” Van Gundy said.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey acicular to Marcus Banks, a point bouncer “with speed, congenital like a active back” … but whose acknowledgment to “What do you absolutely appetite to do with your life?” was that he would appetite to be a macho appearance model.
Desire is still the abundant alien of the abstract — of any sport. We can attending at the stats, assay the amateur tapes and do all the research, but for the best part, one’s acknowledgment to success is generally unpredictable. That’s accurate alike for Walker, one of the best-known bookish players in the country.
But at the actual least, he has an auspicious history. Back he was a pass-first point bouncer advancing out of Rice Aerial Academy (N.Y.), some wondered whether Walker would anytime advance the all-important scoring skills. But afterwards acceptable an activity scorer off the bank in his apprentice year at UConn and demography addition above bound this accomplished summer to become “the man” on a agenda that at times appeared about barren, he’s progressed to the point area we catechism his adeptness to be a pass-first point guard.
Now he’ll charge to accomplish a accomplished new set of adjustments to accept agnate success in the NBA.
For Walker, this action will be abundant harder to win.
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