Kemba Walker is the starting point guard for the Boston Celtics. A 3 x All Star, and 1 x All NBA. A selfless player, he is capable of taking over games with his elite level offense or his elite playmaking skills. Below i will look into Kemba’s tendencies and how they fit into Boston’s style of play.
Position: PG, Age: 29, Height: 6’1, Contract: 4 Years / $140,790,600.
Career Stats: 19.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.5 APG, 41.8 FG%, 35.7 3%.
18-19 Stats: 25.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 5.9 APG, 43.4 FG%, 35.6 3%.
During the 18-19 season Kemba was involved in 866 possessions in which he operated as the ball handler in a single coverage pick and roll situation. His performance was nothing short of brilliant. Hitting 347 of his 777 shot attempts when attacking his opponent from this play type he sits at 44.7%. Here is where i find my solace, of those 777 attempts, Kemba drew a shooting foul 77 times. It is worth noting his made free throws are not included in the 347 made shots.
Almost half of the possessions involving Kemba Walker last year involved a PnR with Kemba as the ball handler 41.8% to be exact. Furthermore Kemba ranked #1 in PnR usage throughout the whole league during the 18-19 season, his bread-and-butter.
This isn’t to say he is faultless in this play type though. Preferring his defender to come over the top of the pick. This allows him to put the jets on while driving forcing the D to collapse. Surprisingly defenders still opt to come over the top 57.6% of the time. Impressing in this scenario he shot 44.4% over 499 possessions turning the ball over only 5 times and drawing 50 shooting fouls. Elite describes this success perfectly! ranking in the 88th percentile for when defenders come over the top.
Not that Kemba is a slouch if defenders go under or into the screen though. Still ranking above the league average statistically. However, efficiency does decline slightly when defenders go under and turnovers increase minimally when they hit the screen.
What does this mean exactly? well, it means Kemba is comfortable operating in the PnR as the ball handler while allowing the play to develop around him. Not afraid to drive to the lane, kick out to an open shooter, hit the roll man or play the pick n pop, the Celtics have an elite level point guard in the PnR. This bodes well for a Celtics team who run a switch heavy offence involving screens set all over the floor, expect more of the same this upcoming year.
Throughout the 18-19 season Kemba was scarcely involved in DHO’s – only 162 possessions to be precise. Expect this number to dramatically increase this year under Brad Stevens. A staple of the Boston offence for the last 3-4 years i would not expect anything less than 300 possessions for Kemba in the upcoming season.
Average, just average. Ranking in the 54th percentile there is no other way to describe his output from DHO’s this past year. However, there is hope that this is due to the nature of the talent he was surrounded with. If the spacing isn’t there then DHO’s become difficult to incorporate successfully. You run into defenders, play yourself into trouble with regular predictability. All this leads to forced passes, shots, drives all leading to the by-product of turnovers, misses or empty possessions.
The system Brad implements will provide Kemba plenty of opportunity to improve upon his statistical ranking in this scenario. Whilst being surrounded by a far superior supporting cast to provide the spacing this play type requires to be successful on a regular basis. Direct impact into his APG and PPG will be noticeable should he implement and execute the read-and-react system correctly.
Expect Kemba to use the ISO sparingly and be looking to pass whenever the defense collapses on him. What a glorious sight to behold watching the likes of Tatum and Hayward reaping the benefits of this unselfish player drawing double teams and hitting the open man consistently.
Not So Good Tendencies
This last year he ranked 291st among qualifying players for his effectiveness in transition. Involved in 330 transition possessions he provided just over 1 point per possession scoring 352 points. Of these 330 possessions he turned the ball over 34 times but did do well in drawing 42 shooting fouls.
Now the Celtics don’t play at the pace of the Hawks or Kings. But they are by no means on of the slower teams in the league. Meaning there will likely be more transition possessions for Kemba to run as the primary ball handler. One would hope that with a better supporting cast and highly respected coaching staff, this will be a play type he can improve upon.
If he is unable to consistently run the transition, expect the ball to be in Hayward’s or Tatum’s hands during these play types. But lets give Kemba time to figure this out before exploring those other options in transition.
Defending the spot-up shooter
Playing for Brad Stevens you will either improve on defense or be hidden by the defensive scheme (as we saw with I.T.). Personally i am leaning towards improvement in this area. No longer will Kemba be given the other teams best player to guard. That task will generally fall to Marcus Smart which will free up Kemba to guard the 2nd or even 3rd option from the opposing teams offense. Statistical improvement should follow shortly after the opening game of the season due to this. Which will free up Kemba to focus on the things he does well while knowing players like Smart are tasked with locking up the Kyrie Irving’s of the league.
Cutting to the basket
Ainge has done tremendously to pivot on a dime and secure the next 4 years of another All-Star guard. Who seems more suited to the style of play Brad likes to implement. One who will be grateful for the improvement in teammate talent. Grateful for the opportunity to represent the NBA’s most storied franchise.
Yes Kemba isn’t perfect – no one is. But his play style, leadership abilities and knowledge of the Boston area from his days at college will go along way to ensuring his success here and what a fun season this is shaping up to be for us Celtics Fans.