When the Lakers and Hornets tip off Friday night in Los Angeles, fans of the purple and gold may get their very own sneak preview of the next great coming attraction in the form of Charlotte’s sensational scoring lead guard, Kemba Walker.
Walker, who is posting career highs in both points per game (25.2) and usage rate (31.3%) this year, continues to be the Hornets’ rock and lighthouse in what has been a foggy stretch of seasons filled with rough contracts, questionable talent acquisition and genuinely head-scratching statistics.
Potentially fed up with his current situation, the Eastern Conference All Star may ultimately choose to venture out into the open waters of free-agency and decide to take his talents elsewhere if Charolette once again misses out on the postseason this year. The team currently sits at 35-39 and are 1.5 games back of eighth seeded Miami as of this article.
Although generally not mentioned in the same vein of the marquee names of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving when it comes to this summer’s free-agency period, Walker may end up getting some serious consideration from the Lakers if their pursuit of the aforementioned names goes awry.
It should be made crystal clear though that Walker should not be perceived as simply a consolation prize if this in fact comes to fruition, as he is very, very good at basketball.
Especially when it comes to the whole putting the ball through the hoop portion of it.
Although standing at only 6’1,” there is little debating that Walker can quickly and efficiently shred opposing defenses at the drop of the dime. That’s an area the Lakers (23rd in offensive rating) could use some serious help in.
According to Synergy, Walker grades out in the 87th percentile of the league as a pick-and-roll ball-handler this season, scoring nearly a point per possession. Although he’s deadly in these situations, Walker’s scoring prowess should not be confused with an overreliance on high-screen action to create separation.
As Jayson Tatum in the clip above can attest, Walker’s tight handle and swift first step also help him continuously scorch his defenders in isolation. On the season, Walker is scoring 1.02 points per isolation possession, which lands him in the 81st percentile of the league. When you also account for passes in these types of possessions, Walker bolts into the 84th percentile.
It is worth mentioning though that Walker, at least in regards to this season, has been merely below-average to average when it comes to common off-ball actions like spotting up, cutting, hand-offs and off-screen possessions.
Contextually, this could be because of the lack of another dynamic initiator on the roster, and the team’s reliance on him to create so much for others. That’s an area that he and LeBron James in particular could potentially benefit from one and other if the two ever suit up together.
It’s still unknown how this offseason will play out, but the knowledge that there may be a player of Walker’s caliber on the market for the Lakers — even if the they initially strike out on notable other names — should offer some comfort in the form of a really damn good basketball player possibly ending up in Los Angeles alongside James.
LeBron James and Mike Muscala have been listed as “probable” for Friday’s contest. Reggie Bullock and Tyson Chandler have been ruled as “questionable.”
For the Hornets, Jeremy Lamb is considered as “probable” to suit up. Cody Zeller is out.
The Lakers will host the Hornets at 7:30 p.m. PST on Spectrum Sportsnet. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.