Charlotte Hornets: The Evolution of Kemba Walker’s Shot

Nov 15, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) attempts a shot against the Golden State Warriors in the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) attempts a shot against the Golden State Warriors in the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

Kemba Walker‘s outside shot used to be a liability but now his three-point threat is one of his greatest weapons as he continues to improve for the Charlotte Hornets.

It is no secret that Kemba Walker has elevated his game over the course of his career. His all-around play has gotten better each season as his outside shot has as well. The biggest knock on him coming out of college was his lack of three-point shooting and that he was a score first point guard that couldn’t create well for his teammates.

While the latter may still be true, the former is not. The Charlotte Hornets’ point guard is coming off of the best shooting season of his career as he has worked tirelessly on his outside shot. One of his greatest downfalls is now the reason why he is borderline all-star in the NBA and why he may now be a top-10 point guard in the league.

Kemba Walker’s maturation and growth in his outside shot have been noticeable from college to the NBA. Even after his first few seasons in the league, no one ever thought that he would develop a great outside shot. After last year, everyone is now expecting Kemba to have a major jump in his shooting and all-around game once again.

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At the University of Connecticut, Walker shot 27.1% from the three-point line in his freshman season, 33.9% in his sophomore year, and 33.0% in his championship junior season. While he did show some growth during his time under Jim Calhoun, he also showed that he wasn’t elite. At 33% from the outside, he was an average shooter at best and it wasn’t clear if it would transfer to the NBA. The three-point line in college is three feet closer than in the pros so there was an expected drop in his rookie year for the Charlotte Hornets.

Rookie Season

During his rookie season, Kemba only shot 30.5% from the three-point line as he struggled to find his range at the professional level. His outside shit was widely criticized but many felt that he would show growth and improvement after a few seasons in the NBA. At least that was the hope.


Over the next three years, Walker would continue to struggle from the behind the arc. He shot 32.2% from the three-point line in 2012, 33.3% in 2013, and 30.4% in the 2014-2015 season. Just as he began to show the slightest of improvements, Kemba regressed and shot a career worse 30.4% in 2014. After not showing growth after four seasons in the NBA, many felt that this would become the norm for Walker. He would but a below average shooting point guard who would barely eclipse 30% each year.

Last Season

Something incredible happened last year as Kemba shocked everyone and shot a career high 37.1% from behind the three-point line. So how did Walker improve his outside shot by almost seven percentage points? It wasn’t magic. It was hard work and a slight change in his shooting form. “As he brought the basketball up to shoot, he moved the ball just a few inches to his right, away from his face.” (USA Today)

This slight adjustment unlocked the 26-year old point guard’s game as he become more efficient, a better passer, and a better all-around player for the Charlotte Hornets in 2016. He had the 17th best three-point percentage among point guards last season.

Going Forward

After the best shooting year of his career, Kemba will now need to improve once again as he continues to move up the ranks of the great point guards in the league today. But after shooting 37% from deep last season, where can he go from there?

I think the expectations for Walker should not be if he can improve his outside shooting but if he can maintain his current form while shooting more and becoming a better facilitator for his team. The threat and ability to knock down the three-point shot has completely opened up his game and allows him to get past defenders off of the dribble easier than ever before.

Can Walker potentially get over the 40% mark from downtown next season? It is a possibility but keep in mind that only eight point guard (five starts) shot over 40% from deep last year. Maybe Kemba can be apart of those elite outside shooters at his position.

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The Charlotte Hornets’ point guard had the element of surprise last season as many teams went under the screens to guard Walker because that is how they were used to playing him. NBA coaches and teams will now be ready for his outside shot and they will try to limit his open opportunities from outside. It will be interesting to see if Kemba improves or regresses from behind the arc next year.