On this installment of the Free Agent Profile Series we’ll cover Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker
The goal of this series is to enable Laker fans to have an in-depth look at how potential free agents integrate within the current Laker roster.
In each section we’ll cover what Walker does well and how he fits within the current Lakers roster.
- Shot Distribution – In this section we’ll take a look at where he shoots well from.
- Scoring Preferences – Using data and video, we can get a better idea of how he gets his looks
- Defensive Profile – Here we take a look at how he competes as an individual and team defender
- Miscellaneous – In this section we cover intangible elements like leadership, age, health, and how that fits with the Lakers timeline
Kemba’s shot selection is heavily consistent with “analytics friendly” shots. Here is the breakdown of his shot selection below:
- Above the break threes (40%)
- Restricted Area (28%)
- Mid-range (16%)
When looking at Walker’s shooting performance last season much of it seems lackluster considering he was nominated as an all-star last season.
However the context to what may have affected his performance has more to do with his teammates than it does with Kemba himself.
Of all starting guards last season 71.5% of his made field goals were UNASSISTED which ranks 9th HIGHEST of that group. This implies that much of Kemba’s scoring was a result of his own shot creation as opposed to being the benefactor of his teammate’s playmaking abilities.
Integration with the Lakers
When we take a look at the shot frequency for all three of the main scorers for the Lakers the past season we can identify where there may be scoring overlap
- LeBron as expected scored effectively from a lot of areas but looking at his shot volume the only overlap with Kemba was on above the break threes
- Davis’ doesn’t have much conflict with Kemba’s shooting profile except right around the free throw line but as a PnR partner that may be moot as team’s will have to pay a lot of attention to Davis’ rim running.
- Kuzma’s shot volume this year came primarily at the rim or on above the break threes. Kuzma’s shot volume on above the break threes are the only areas he mirrors significantly with Kemba
Kemba’s shot profile is consistent with what “analytics” friendly schemes prefer but has difficulties at the rim because of his size and finishing abilities.
Though his above the break three point shooting is slightly above league average, there is reason to believe he is a better shooter than advertised as Walker shoots a blazing 41% on wide open threes.
Due to his smaller stature, Kemba has some issues around the rim as well but playing on a team that gives him better driving lanes could result in a healthy uptick in his percentages near the rim
Now that we have an idea of where Kemba likes to shoot from, let’s take a look at how he gets those shots off. The reason taking a look at the tape is important is so we can get a better idea of how much team effort is involved in how Kemba gets his buckets.
Check out this simple set between Kemba and Zeller. Any team could run this set with a quality screener. Most defenders against Kemba tend to be bigger than him so his ability to get to his spots quickly off screens tends to be more effective than it would for a bigger wing scorer
Walker makes this set work because he fakes a lazy attempt to use the screen catching his defender off guard and immediately opens up for a catch and shoot opportunity.
Laker fans should take note that Kemba doesn’t require the much room to get off a quality shot because he is very adept at setting his feet and has a quick release on his jumpers
The downside of his smaller frame primarily affects his drives to the rim. Despite his abilities to expertly navigate through tight dribbling spaces he just doesn’t have the height or physicality to finish over bigs
Like his reads off of screens Kemba knows when he can’t finish through big guys so he opts for pull up jumpers out of basic screen and roll action and ranks in ELITE territory for scoring out of that playtype
Take a look below at how he makes simple decisive reads on how the big man is defending and gets off open looks for himself in the mid-range
Fit with the Lakers offense
Kemba’s scoring preferences work well within the current construct of the Lakers roster. Because he is so effective out of the screen and roll, Walker instantly boosts the quality of that play since it requires minimal assistance from his teammates to make it work.
Additionally, Walker’s exceptional rank in isolation allows the Lakers to have yet another quality isolation scorer when defenses switch on their screen action. He also allows the Lakers to have a mid-range scoring option for when teams are scheming to take away shots at the rim.
Check out Kemba’s excellent ranks when it comes to his scoring abilities in Isolation and as a Pick and Roll Ball Handler
When looking at Kemba’s effectiveness as both a PnR Ball Handler it is also important to note that he led the league with that playtype averaging 11.8 possessions per game
When considering the Lakers poor production out of PnR possessions it becomes abundantly clear where Walker would make a significant impact.
Walker’s integration with the Lakers roster is much easier to visualize because his shot selection gravitates from the mid-range and beyond. His scoring preferences don’t conflict with the rim attacking preferences of the current roster.
Kemba’s ability to read defenders and maximize screens allows the Lakers to not have to dedicate too much on court effort to get him a good scoring look. If paired with Lonzo, it isn’t hard to imagine Walker getting better quality looks for himself especially with how well he gets himself open off of screens.
His preference for making decisive moves to get to open spots makes it significantly easier for his teammates to know where to be on the court.
Defensive Profile & Fit
Of all starting guards (min 60 games) Walker ranks 3rd in field goals defended at 12.9 FGA/G with most of his defended shots coming 15ft and out.
While his small stature enables Walker to dart around on offense, it may make it difficult for him to defend bigger wings. Charlotte typically tasks Walker with guarding smaller wing players while Lamb, Batum, and Williams defend bigger wings.
Having Lonzo and Ingram on the court allows the Lakers to cover up for any of Kemba’s defensive issues since they typically handle primary wings. Having a quality rim defender that can rotate in help situations will also help cover up for any issues that Kemba has on that end.
One of the more quietly intriguing stories about Walker’s free agency status has a lot to do with where the Hornets are philosophically as a franchise. The Hornets made a move to bring in a new GM (Kupchak) this season and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they decide to move on from Walker just because of the cost of keeping him around would be significantly hinder Charlotte’s abilities to make any moves around him.
On the other side of things, this also presents the first opportunity Kemba has ever had to choose which team he would like to play for and if historical precedence for free agents is any indicator he may forego additional money for a change of scenery.
Walker hasn’t really had any significant injury issues the past few years but has had to carry a heavy offensive burden. Playing alongside a player of LeBron’s caliber would be a boon for Kemba as his workload would be significantly reduced. The Lakers may also have a channel to Walker’s mindset as he shares the same agent as current Laker Brandon Ingram and Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd.
Kemba Walker is perceived as a lower tier free agent for Laker fans but much of his underachieving seems to be as a result of the poor roster building by the Hornets.
Walker’s offensive profile complements not only James but the other Lakers as well. More importantly Walker ranks in ELITE territory in the offensive playtype the Lakers like to run the most while contributing in other areas as well.
While most Lakers fans have their eyes on Kyrie, he may still be of mind in leading his own team. Walker doesn’t seem to yearn for the same responsibility while presenting the same excellent opportunity to replicate championship level success alongside LeBron and the young Lakers.