As ridiculous as it may sound, the Charlotte Hornets have now turned to Chuck Norris to help get Kemba Walker into the All-Star game. No, seriously. The team created a few mini-episodes where Walker plays “Walker, Charlotte Ranger,” which is a spoof of Norris’ character in “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
While the videos are designed to be fun in nature, it’s sort of disappointing that the team has to resort to creating spoof videos in order to get Walker some national attention ahead of the All-Star game, when his production on the court should suffice in the eyes of voters. It’s almost becoming an annual conversation to discuss Walker’s chances of landing in the All-Star game.
Trying to project which players will earn a selection into game each year is typically a toss up. Some the league’s most popular players have no problem earning the fans’ vote, whether they’re deserving or not. The league changed the voting format up a bit this year as players and members of the media will join fans in selecting the rosters.
Looking at the Eastern Conference this season, players like LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul Millsap and Kevin Love all project to be among the top players in the voting. John Wall, Isaiah Thomas, Paul George, Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard and Kristaps Porzingis could also see some fan love as well.
Despite not receiving a lot of recognition on a national scale, Walker has been among the best players in the East this season. In fact, Walker is having his best season to date as he’s averaging a career-high 22.7 points per game. Walker posted his 23rd game of the season Saturday in which he scored at least 20 points, which ranks fifth-most in the conference.
What’s been different for Walker this season?
“He’s more mature,” Nicolas Batum said. “His balance in games is way better. He knows when he has to make the other guys better and when he has to take over the game. He’s finding that balance and that what makes him so special right now. We all know he can take over the game. He showed that in college already.”
Walker’s offensive production has improved greatly this season. His points per game have jumped up from 20.9 to 22.7. Perhaps his most important improvement has come in his shooting. Walker made it a point of emphasis to improve his shooting over the past couple of seasons and it appears to have worked.
It was just two seasons ago that he shot a career-worst 30.4 percent from three-point range. He’s now shooting a career-best 40.7 percent from three and has knocked down the second most three-pointers in the East this season with 88. His 53.8 effective field goal percentage is also the best of his career and Walker currently leads the league with 11.9 points per game in pick-and-rolls as the ball-handler.
“I’m just more consistent; just making shots,” Walker told Basketball Insiders. “I’m older. I’ve been in the league for six years now so things are just kind of slowing down for me.”
Adding a consistent shot to his arsenal has made Walker a legitimate point guard. Teams are forced to guard Walker more closely, instead of giving him the space to shoot. He’s one of only four qualified players in the NBA averaging over 20 points on better than 45 percent from the field and over 40 percent from beyond the arc while also distributing more than five assists per game.
His case to become a first-time All-Star this season appears to be rock solid on paper. As the voting by fans and coaches has shown in the past, having a great stat line doesn’t always matter. He was one of the top snubs in last year’s voting and had a case to earn a spot in the game two seasons ago.
“I don’t really care,” Walker said. “It’s not up to me. I just go out and play each and every night to try and win. I never really think about making the All-Star [game]. It’s not up to me. I always say, the fans vote for the starters and the coaches pick the reserves. It’s not up to me.”
What helps Walker’s case is the Hornets’ strong start to the season. The team is fourth in the East and has the league’s sixth-best defensive rating. Since dropping four straight games early last month, they have gone 5-2.
With All-Star voting open until January 16, it remains to be seen if Walker will ultimately get the nod. While his status for that game is unclear, Walker still remains extremely vital to the Hornets’ success this season. It’s clear that he is the team’s most valuable player and their success hinges on how well he can perform.
Walker currently has the 16th-highest usage rating in the league at 29 percent. The Hornets post a plus-9.9 offensive rating with Walker on the court versus when he’s off of the court and they are a plus-3.1 percent in effective field goal percentage in the same situations.
As the Hornets continue to try to put their top player into the spotlight, Walker appreciates the “Walker, Charlotte Ranger” movement. He likes that it shows a different side of him that fans may not see and was all for the idea. Only time will tell if the campaign will work but if anything, it’s still fun to hear Spencer Hawes sing in a southern accent.
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