Should Kemba Walker Be Starting?

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Charlotte Hornets, Kemba Walker, still the right match?

For the Charlotte Hornets, Kemba Walker has been their best player for a majority of the time since the city was granted an expansion NBA franchise. Walker has been the closest thing the Hornets have had to an all-star, and he has been the face of the franchise.

Most fans believe that Walker is the heart and soul of this team, and he is often their leading scorer. However, with the arrival of Mo Williams via trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, a strange thing has happened. With Williams playing brilliantly, the team winning, and Walker watching from the bench in street clothes after having knee surgery, suddenly the thought that the Hornets need Walker has been dispelled.

Compare the per-36 minutes stats for each of the players:

RkPlayerFG%3P%2P%FT%TRBASTTOVPTS
1Kemba Walker.398.322.428.8114.05.92.317.8
2Mo Williams.436.382.460.8693.46.12.816.2

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/12/2015.

Williams is a better shooter, averages more assists, and is far superior spacing the floor with his three point shot. The only things that Walker does better is he gets to the free throw line two more times per game and he is a slightly better rebounder.

Overall, Williams is just a better player. Looking at how Williams has played, and seeing the stats makes me reconsider the worth of Walker. The fact that Williams is making about a third of what Walker will make next season cannot be ignored, either.

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What is worse is that Walker has not shown much progress in improving his game, despite this being his fourth season in the NBA. As a rookie, he shot just 37%. This year, he is shooting almost 40%. Yes, that is an improvement, but it is still terrible. It is also lower than he shot in his second year.

His three point shooting is even worse. At only 32% this season and for his career, teams can play conservatively knowing that a Walker three pointer off a screen is not a good shot. However, when Williams comes off a screen, defenders have to stick to him like glue, given that Williams has hit 38% of his three point shots in his career and is close to 37% since joining Charlotte.

If anything, Williams should be the starter with Walker as his back-up. Unfortunately, with Walker’s contract extension worth $12M annually kicking in next season, resigning Williams as the starter might not be possible. Sure, it would make the team better, but would general manager Rich Cho and team owner Michael Jordan be willing to pay a back-up that much money?

Steve Clifford has talked about playing both guys together, but that does not seem like something you can do for heavy minutes, given that both Walker and Williams are small guards. A back-court that small would get destroyed by plenty of teams in the league.

Cho will also have to think about what annointing Williams as the future starter would do to Walker’s ego. Walker has never been known as a selfish guy, or a bad teammate, but under the right circumstances even the best man might feel slighted at having his job taken away from him in the prime of his career.

Look at Goran Dragic, fan favorite of the Phoenix Suns. After taking what many analysts thought was a bottom five team to the brink of the playoffs, Dragic made third-team all-NBA and was the new face of a reborn franchise. However, the off-season addition of another point guard suddenly left Dragic playing out of position. He felt disrespected, and eventually demanded a trade.

Up until that point, Dragic had a similar reputation to Walker as a fan favorite and good guy. It is not too big of a stretch to think that Walker would be unhappy if his team decided after an injury that he would be playing from the bench next year.

It is a sticky situation, and one that will most likely end in Williams either accepting a role as a back-up here in Charlotte, or leaving to find a starting spot elsewhere. Given Williams age and professionalism, his accepting the duty as back-up point guard is probably the best case scenario. Still, his play has highlighted the weakness in Walker’s game, and has myself, and plenty of other Hornets’ fans wondering if Walker really is a player you can build your team around.

Next: Charlotte Hornets: Five Key Games Left On The Schedule

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