In the Paint
Join Date: Dec 2007
CHISHOLM: Walker could be in Raptors Red
from TSN - LINK
Of course, while it is nice to get more shots to DeRozan and Bargnani in better spots, the real allure of drafting Walker would be knocking both of them back a peg in the Raptors scoring hierarchy. Even though both have had stretches with impressive scoring totals this season, both have struggled to consistently shoulder the burden of carrying the team's offensive load, as both players tend to be a bit more passive in their nature than a traditional top scorer would be. Having a guy like Walker, who thrives with the ball in his hands, both taking guys off of the dribble or coming off of screens, would free up DeRozan and Bargnani to work more on finishing than creating. Walker would be able to use his tremendous speed to get himself to the basket, or he can use the threat of his speed to open up some space for his killer midrange game (he's a much better shooter than most small guards are when they come into the NBA). Remember, the NBA rules favour quick guards that like to penetrate (it's so often repeated it's become a cliché), and the Raptors haven't had a guard that exploited those rules in a long time. Some will say T.J. Ford was the last best example, but even he had such a shaky jump shot that defending his penetration was made considerably easier than it would be against Walker, who is just as comfortable rising up from two or three to get his baskets. While his shooting percentages suggest otherwise, one has to remember that he has very little help on UConn's roster, which allows defenses to key in on him more while also forcing Walker to to shoulder more of the scoring load than he should have to. At the NBA level, he'll have better teammates to play off of, which should help his percentages better reflect his ability. Keep in mind, UConn was unranked at the beginning of this year, and that should go a long way to towards illustrating how pedestrian Walker's supporting cast was this season.
Of course, for many the conversation with regards to Walker will begin and end with his undersized frame. It's worth noting that currently, five teams employ sub-six-foot guards (Lawson, Lowry, D.J. Augustin, Darren Collison, Jameer Nelson), while Aaron Brooks won last year's Most Improved Player award as a starter for Houston. Most of these players have succeeded by maximizing their relative strengths, usually speed and scoring, to help offset the fact that they lose two-to-four inches against most NBA matchups. Yes, a smaller stature means that Walker - and the team that drafts him - will need to make adjustments that other team's won't have to make, but it can be done, it has been done and plenty more will do it again. Heck, Damon Stoudamire won the Rookie of the Year award by leading the inaugural Raptors attack at 5-foot-10 with 19.0 ppg and 9.3 apg averages, so not only is there precedent for small players to succeed but there is even precedent in the Raptors' own history.
The fact is, so long as Irving, Williams and Barnes are off the board, it's difficult to make a compelling case for another player than Walker. Perry Jones is a soft power forward that plays like a small forward (sound familiar?), Enes Kanter hasn't played competitively in a year, Jan Vesely is severely under-skilled and Jonas Valanciunas is still more of a hustle guy than a go-to player. Only Brandon Knight, Kentucky's rapidly-improving combo guard, seems worth discussing as a possible challenger at this point to Walker, but he's even less of a passer than Kemba is. Both will probably see a lot of each other on the workout circuit, and that's probably where one will ultimately separate himself from the other. Truth be told, though, it may not so much be a matter of one being better than the other as one being better suited to a team's needs than the other. With so little knock-out talent in this draft, team needs will play the role of stalemate-breaker in more than one war room, and for the Raptors that may put Walker at the top of their list.