Before Shabazz Napier, there was Kemba Walker. Walker came into the league with a lot of hype and not a lot of opportunity to grow and learn from his mistakes. Playing for Charlotte meant most fans were only going to associate him with the team’s W/L record and for that, the UConn product was a perennial loser.
It’s been the same way with Brandon Jennings, another high-profile young point guard who’s been saddled with ill-fitting teammates and crappy organizations. Now both of them are closing in on 25 and neither one has really completely lived up to expectations, even though Walker’s helped turn around a bumbling franchise. Today, we’re asking you. Which player is better: Brandon Jennings or Kemba Walker? We argue. You decide.
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Point guard is arguably the deepest of all the positions, with a middle-tier consisting of players who in years past would have been All-Stars. (Remember Kyle Lowry‘s breakout season didn’t even garner an appearance this year!) Determining the order of this group of middle-tier players is highly debatable and could vary depending on what an individual expects out of his floor general. But, two players of similar size and ability are Brandon Jennings and Kemba Walker.
Player A: 17.8 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Player B: 15.6 PPG, 7.7 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG
Solely based on the statistics above, it’d be hard choosing between the two, right?
Kemba Walker and Brandon Jennings are similar players in the point guard kingdom: slender, quick guards who looks for their own offense before establishing their teammates. Both of these ballplayers suffer from very low shooting percentages and turn the ball over frequently because of their helter-skelter style of play. Regardless of the efficiency, Brandon Jennings is the alpha dog of this pack of point guards. Kemba is the supposed young pup looking to take over the throne. (And the answer is yes, I did just base my argument off of an imaginary point guard animal kingdom. I must have left the Discovery Channel on last night) Walker and Jennings are eerily similar shooting the ball as well: Walker’s splits this season are 39.5/34.2 percent; Jennings is 37.4/34.5 percent. Their career averages are 39.9/32.5 percent and 39.0/35.2 percent, respectively.
This season, Jennings has the 12th-best assist/turnover ratio in the league; Kemba is tied for 22th with Greivis Vasquez. Yes, you read that right. Greivis Vasquez. Sure, I’ll admit Walker is in the midst of a career season for the suddenly semi-relevant BobHornCats. Sure, Walker spent the first two years in Charlotte running pick-and-rolls with Bismack Biyombo, DeSagana Diop and the immortal Byron Mullens. Giving him a player capable of catching the ball and dunking it in one fluid motion was a mortal lock to improve on the statistics of previous seasons. Add in the fact that he received Al Jefferson, who surprised me by actually playing hard this season after receiving an enormous contract, and you can see why Walker’s numbers are up; he finally has a teammate capable of scoring the ball! Jennings, for his part, spent the early part of his career playing Chuck IT UP with Monta Ellis in Milwaukee. I can’t and wont defend his shooting this season; Jennings is too talented to be shooting only 37 percent from the floor. But Jennings, who credited former coach Maurice Cheeks for his improved playmaking, has taken steps forward in distributing the ball to his teammates. Take Josh Smith‘s terrible shot selection out of the equation, and you get plays like this:
Both Jennings and Walker have shown their ability to get hot and put up big numbers, but Walker has yet to achieve them like Jennings has. Jennings was the second-youngest player to score 55 points in a game. Walker has gotten into the 30s and can probably get into the 40s too. But there are no 50-point performances in Walker’s history.
Which leads me to my final point–Jennings is in the midst of his fifth season in the NBA; Walker is in his third. Yet Jennings is only 24 years old. Walker is already 23, and not far off from 24 (Kemba is less than a month away from his 24th birthday). My point being, it feels like Jennings has been around forever and Walker is fresh on the scene. But Walker himself is right around Jennings’ age; there’s no reason to think they shouldn’t improve at the same level from here on out. With the “potential” argument being nullified, based on pure talent, Jennings is the better player.