Dec 17, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) practices before their game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
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The Charlotte Hornets are pushing hard for Kemba Walker to be an all-star this season but he is up against some stiff competition.
It has been over five years since the Charlotte Hornets had a player represent them in an NBA All-Star game. They may have to wait even longer if Kemba Walker doesn’t make the Eastern Conference team this season. Even though he is up against some great guards in the East, there is no reason why Kemba shouldn’t feature in the game.
The thing with the all-star game is that not only is Kemba going up against other Eastern Conference point guards but also shooting guards to make the all-star game roster. This could hurt Walker’s chances. While he does have a strong case and a great resume this season, we’ve seen players snubbed before.
While the fan voting is important and the Charlotte Hornets have done a masterful job of helping Kemba by starting the “Walker, Charlotte Ranger” campaign, he is still only ninth among East guards in the first fan voting returns. (You still have time to vote as the voting ends on January 16th) That needs to improve but also, it isn’t that bad because the players and media will save the day by eliminating players who shouldn’t really be up there like Derrick Rose and Jeremy Lin. (No offense)
Dec 26, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) shoots the ball as Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (7) defends during the second half at Barclays Center. The Nets won 120-118. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
1. Career Season With Numbers Comparable to Other All-Stars
After stepping up his play to a career level last season, many wondered where Walker would go from there. It turns out that he had another gear and his growth has continued upward. He has upped his scoring and assist numbers this year.
While his assists may seem low, it is important to remember that Nicolas Batum is the team’s secondary ball handler and he gets a number of assists. Not to mention that Walker is also the number one scoring option (and there is hardly a consistent number two) on the Hornets’ team.
The most important development in his game has been his improved outside shot. Kemba struggled with his shooting range for years in college and in his four seasons in the league. Now that he has that part of his game figured out, Walker is shooting the ball from deep above a 40% clip which seemed impossible just a few short years ago.
Just to look at a few of his numbers, Kemba is seventh among NBA point guards in points per game, sixth in field goal percentage, and fourth in three-point shooting. He is playing the best basketball of his career and it would be a shame if it went unrecognized. He is worthy of an all-star nod with the stats he’s putting up.
Nov 23, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) looks to pass the ball during the first half of the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
2. Exciting Style of Play
If you don’t think that Kemba is an exciting player, then you just haven’t been watching Hornets’ games. Every night he has at least one or two highlight plays that leave the audience in awe. He has one of the most deadly stepbacks and crossovers in the NBA. Why does this matter?
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Because the All-Star game is a show and players like to have some fun for the fans. Walker would bring some extra flair to the game with his speed and quickness. He is not only exciting but he is also lethal in his play.
Kemba is one of the best point guards at getting to the rim and scoring in the paint. Although he hasn’t dunked the ball in about four years, his small stature makes his difficult finishes at the rim much more impressive. Hate this reason all you want but until you watch a Charlotte Hornets’ game (I know many casual fans that aren’t supporting the Hornets haven’t) you can’t knock Walker.
Dec 5, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) reacts while walking off the court after the game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
3. Charlotte Hornets are a Top Team in the East
A large part of any good all-star bid is leading your team to a winning record. Kemba checks that box as the hornets have been a top-four team in the Eastern Conference for much of the first half of the season. Not only that but they have also led the SouthEast Division and they are surely the favorites to secure their first ever division title.
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After surprising everyone by winning 48 games and making the playoffs last season, Charlotte has proved that was no fluke as they are basically a lock to make the postseason once again this year. The team’s poor record at the all-star break last season was one of the biggest knocks on Kemba’s all-star bid. That can no longer be said this year.
The Charlotte hornets positioning in the East can only help his case and if they can close out the pre-all-star break period with a winning run, it will only increase Walker’s chances. Regardless, he has led the tam to a winning record and their eventual playoff appearance will be thanks in large part to his play.
Dec 12, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker dives for a ball that he loses out of bounds against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
4. Great in a Variety of Ways
A mark of a great all-star level player is their ability to close out games and score in clutch situations. Kemba has stepped up in tight games and rose to the occasion in the biggest moments. While Russell Westbrook is running away with the clutch scorer award, Walker isn’t far behind.
He is currently the fourth best clutch scorer in the NBA with 83 points in the final five minutes of games within a five point margain. This not only speaks to his scoring prowess but also to the load that he has to carry for the Charlotte Hornets down the stretch. Time and time again, Kemba has come up big for the team. Among the top-seven players in the clutch category, Walker has the best field goal percentage with a 51.7% mark. He is the only player over 50% in the top-seven.
Feb 14, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chairman, Charlotte Hornets Michael Jordan (R) holds a jersey as Chairman of the board, MLSE Larry Tanenbaum (L) looks on during a stoppage in play in the second half during the NBA All Star Game between the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
5. The Real Reason Why
After taking the 2017 All-Star Game away from Charlotte, North Carolina, the league owes it to the fans of the Hornets to put Kemba in the game. Not only that, but he was arguably the biggest snub last year and they can’t let that happen two seasons in a row. Plus, it has been almost a decade since the team has had an all-star, they are deserving of one now that they are no longer bottom dwellars in the East.
While all of the other reasons are valid points as to why he should make the team, the fact of the matter is, the NBA owes this one to the Charlotte Hornets. Even though the All-Star Game may return to the Queen City in 2019 and they pulled the game for a good reason this year, Kemba deserves to be an all-star and the team deserves to have one.
It will be interesting to see if Kemba makes the Eastern Conference All-Star team this season or if the Charlotte Hornets and their fans will have to wait yet another year. Keep voting for Walker and help him make the game.