The Charlotte Hornets have not experienced much success in the past decade. With ten years of existence as the Bobcats and only two playoff appearances, fans in Charlotte are praying for a winner. Heck, even with ten years to choose from, those darn Bobcats only managed to produce one All-Star player: Gerald Wallace in 2009-2010. I predict that the Hornets will have two or three All-Stars this season, and I’m banking on Kemba Walker being one of them. Here are four reasons why Kemba Walker will be an All-Star for the 2014-2015 NBA season.
Kemba Walker has shown the ability to be a great player for many years now. He was a McDonald’s All-American way back in high school and continued to refine his game throughout college. The NBA has not proven it can stop Walker’s assent, either. He increased his scoring by 5.5 PPG and his assist numbers by 1.3 ASG between years one and two. Year three saw his point production stabalize at 17.7 PPG; however, this is probably due to the increased offensive scoring from center Al Jefferson. Three point shooting has never been Walker’s strength, but his numbers have slightly increased each year (topping out at 33.3% last season). Coach Steve Clifford brought a rebounding and defensive mindset to the Hornets last season and Walker accepted the challenge. He improved his rebounding rate to 4.2 RPG and showed signs of becoming an all-around point guard.
As mentioned here, Steve Clifford returns to the Hornets bench this season. He brings back the majority of his staff, too. The retention of assistant coaches is usually quite beneficial for a young team hoping to establish an identity. Of specific note to Walker, this will be the first time in his NBA career that he will have the same coach for two straight seasons. R.I.P. to Paul Silas (take 2) and Mike Dunlap. This organizational cohesion should make Walker more comfortable and allow him to continue his growth as a player, as mentioned above.
The most noticeable factor that will make Kemba Walker an All-Star is the overall improvements made to the Hornets roster this offseason. The notable addition of Lance Stephenson was supplemented by the signing/drafting of Marvin Williams, PJ Hairston, Noah Vonleh, and others. The Hornets have finally assembled a quality team that has depth at multiple positions. Brian Roberts will be a key addition because he will allow Walker to rest and not exert all of his energy early in game (i.e. Roberts will keep Walker fresh for the 4th quarter). One player cannot win games by himself (ask Kevin Love about those Minnesota years), and Kemba Walker should relish the opportunity to play with quality NBA players.
This is a trait that is impossible to quantify. It drives fans of the analytics movement (see also: NBA nerds) insane because there is no stat involved with leadership. Some people have tabbed it the “It Factor”. Kemba Walker has always been pegged as a player with this unique trait. He led UCONN to the Big East tournament championship and the NCAA tournament title during his junior season. Anyone who watched the NCAA tournament that season could easily tell that Walker was the heart and soul of the Huskies. Walker did not bring immediate success to Charlotte, but he has been through a lot. He is one of the few hold-overs from the awful 2011-2012 season that saw the Bobcats win only seven games. Through all the adversity, Walker has continued to improve, embrace the Charlotte franchise, and grow as a leader. This leadership will have a huge impact on the Hornets success this season.
These four reasons will be the difference in determining if Kemba Walker will make the 2014-2015 All-Star game. I believe that he will be joined by Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson on the East squad, too. This season’s game will be played in New York at Madison Square Garden. Walker wowed the fans at the Garden in 2011 when UCONN won the Big East Championship. Hopefully, he can bring back the magic and put on another show for us all in the 2015 All-Star game.