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Kemba Walker proving that he’s the nation’s best player

Apr 4, 2011, 9:45 AM EDT


On Sunday afternoon, Jimmer Fredette was announced as the Naismith Award winner, one of the six National Player of the Year awards that get handed out.

As of the end of the regular season, that choice looked correct.

As of now?

Well, frankly, not having Kemba Walker as the Player of the Year just seems silly.

If you couldn’t tell, the difference has been what Kemba Walker has done during the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. He’s been sensational. He’s averaged 26.3 ppg, 5.0 apg, and 5.4 rpg. He’s thrown his team on his back and carried them from ninth place in the Big East to the Big East tournament title and, quite possibly, the national title come Monday night.

There has been no one in the country better than Kemba over the last month. But does that mean he was the best player in the country this season?

No, it doesn’t. What people are forgetting right now is just how average Walker was during the middle of the Big East schedule. Not all of that was his fault, however. The Big East is a grind. While the league as a whole underperformed in the NCAA Tournament, that doesn’t change just how tough it is to go through a Big East regular season. Its been said many times over, but there was a lot of good in the Big East, but not a lot of great.

It may be more difficult to play a schedule that is loaded with a lot of good. Nights off in Big East play were few and far between. Five teams didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. One of them was Seton Hall, who had as much talent on their roster as anyone in the middle of the Big East’s pack. Another was Rutgers, a tough, physical group that played as hard as their head coach Mike Rice is emotional. Providence had an all-american on their team in Marshon Brooks. Hell, even DePaul played a pressing style under Oliver Purnell that put quite a bit of wear and tear on the legs of their opponents.

The Big East schedule wore on UConn’s youngsters. Alex Oriakhi, Jeremy Lamb, and Shabazz Napier were incredibly inconsistent during that stretch. It put all kinds of pressure on Walker to make every play. It forced him to become over aggressive at times, as he was playing selfishly at times.

That hurt his numbers. But it also prepared the youngsters for the bright lights and pressure and physicality of the tournaments.

Kemba is not a different player than he was during February. If you think he is the best player in the country right now, than he was probably still the best player in the country during the regular season. Guys like Nolan Smith and Jimmer Fredette simply had better, and probably more consistent, seasons than him.

Kemba Walker is playing his best basketball right now, but that is a result of his supporting cast playing as well and as consistently as they have all season long.

  1. thefattymatty - Sep 20, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    I watched the entire Jimmer workout.
    I had the opportunity to watch the Kemba vs Jimmer workout at the Jazz Practice facility. Here is what I saw.

    Conditioning: Jimmer was in the best shape of all those at the workout. I don’t know if altitude had anything to do with it, but all the players looked winded, except for Jimmer. You could see the other players huffing and puffing and Jimmer was breathing effortlessly. Kemba was not as in as good of shape as Jimmer.

    Court length speed: Kemba is very fast up and down the court. Jimmer is also very fast up and down the court, but Kemba is a little quicker, not much though.

    Lateral speed: Actually Jimmer looked much quicker than Kemba in lateral movements. Not only that, but like his uncle Lee Taft has said he is very efficient with his motions. There is really no wasted motions in his movements. He was able to get by every one that guarded him and more importantly he was able to stay in front of everyone he guarded. Impressive.

    Shooting: Jimmer is by far the better shooter. In fact it is not even close. There was one point where Jimmer went 36/40 from just inside the 3 point line. It was insane. It was swoosh, swoosh, swoosh….Not much rim contact. So impressive. Kemba didn’t shoot well. In fact it was horrid at times. He did catch fire on some NBA threes during one drill where he went 7/10. Other than that I was calculating that he shot about 34% to 40% on the day. Jimmer shot 85% to 90% for the day. Huge difference. This was so evident.

    Dribbling: Kemba is a fast dribbler, but his ball control isn’t refined. He was very loose with his dribbling and I could see this being a problem for him at times. Jimmer’s ball handling was excellent. His crossovers, quick step, and moves to the hoop where really impressive. He looked really quick and fast today.

    Passing: Jimmer had some nice passes into the big men setting up layups. They were the kind of passes that made you say, “Wow”! Kemba passed well, but nothing overly impressive.

    Demeanor: Jimmer has such a positive demeanor and outlook with his play. He is relentless in his attacking the defense. He finds a way to get the ball in the hole. I think the players playing with him today were amazed at how good he is. People like him and want to be around him. Greg Miller said that he was impressed by Jimmers leadership skills and the way he treated the other players. He didn’t act like he was better than they were. He approached the workout with complete professionalism. Kemba has a good demeanor as well. Seems like a very good guy, and will have good team chemistry with other players. I thought Kemba was going to be a punk, but that wasn’t the case. Seems to be a great guy.

    Defense: Kemba couldn’t back Jimmer down or get by him. Kemba kept trying to take Jimmer to the hole, but Jimmer was able to stay in front of him and use his strength to stop Kemba from penetrating. It was an interesting watch to see Jimmer putting some lockdown “D” on Kemba. Jimmer can play defense. I saw it today. In fact it was impressive. Jimmer looked more impressive defensively than Deron Williams has. I think Jimmer is going to surprise a lot of people here. I was absolutely amazed at this. Kemba could not get to the hole. I only saw Kemba score once in the 3 on 3 games. Jimmer was guarding him so close he was getting frustrated and could get the ball where he wanted it to go. Kemba did make a couple of tough plays with Jimmer right on him. Overall though Jimmer shut him down.

    Offense: Nothing to say. He is the complete man. I have never seen someone shoot like this kid can. It is amazing. So fluid, and accurate. It is scary. I love watching him play. It is so captivating.

    Overall: Jimmer made Kemba look normal and made himself look like a superstar. He is completely amazing to watch. It was completely captivating today to watch him. No wonder Sacramento was salivating. I overheard one of the Jazz personnel say that in Indiana he only missed 2 shots the whole day. Everyone there in that room was amazed at how well Jimmer did today. He was the best player there today and it wasn’t even close. Not only that, but the Jazz will need to take him at 3. He is the most underrated player in the draft and from what I saw today. He should be the #1 pick. Dude is a beast!!!!!!!!!! I hope to post more later.

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