36. Kemba Walker, PG, Hornets
For years, the mention of Kemba Walker during our rankings process was met with dismissive disdain. Tries to do too much. Inefficient. Poor shot selection. Weak defender. Not good enough to be a No. 1 scoring option on a playoff team. This year, of course, everything is different, as Walker, 26, jumped from the land of the snubs to the top 40. Walker (20.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, 4.4 RPG) was a totally different player from a statistical standpoint last season: a much improved and more selective shooter, a more efficient scorer, a more effective player in crunch time, and a more trusting teammate. The arrival of some additional playmakers and floor-spacing options certainly helped, as did a faster pace and a new spread approach on offense that saw Charlotte’s assist ratio improve from No. 26 to No. 17 last season. Walker’s breakthrough is a familiar basketball story that never gets old: Everyone benefits when the basketball moves, even flashy lead guards who made their names by boasting a full arsenal of dribble moves and total confidence in their shot-making ability. (Last year: Not ranked)
+ In 2015-16, posted career highs in points, rebounds, FT attempts, FG%, 3P%, TS%, offensive rating, Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares.
+ Ranked No. 6 with 142 points in the clutch, improving his FG% in clutch situations from 28.2% (2014-15) to 39.2% (2015-16)
– His first shot at winning a playoff series slipped away in demoralizing fashion
– Will need to adjust to a reconfigured rotation after losing Courtney Lee, Jeremy Lin and Al Jefferson