Seriously, Kemba Walker has gotten better…..Again.

Its only 10 games, its early yet, lets not jump to conclusions…..These are all things we hear on podcasts and read on twitter as the NBA calendar hits November. Well, folks I have never been real good at listening to direction, and I am here to tell you right here right now, Kemba Walker is having a career year and its not going to stop. While Hornets fans are likely less surprised than the national NBA fans, the idea that Kemba has found another level is quite amazing, but anyone who has followed Kemba thus far should have seen this coming a mile away.

While we always see guys have a hot start every season that we know is not going to last, for example Blake Griffin is not going to shoot 46% from 3 all season, the boost we have seen in Kemba’s numbers are coming in less minutes per game than his previous 3 years. Walker has found a way to become more aggressive off the ball than we have seen before, his movement without the ball is becoming shooting guard like and his quick trigger coming off screens is leading to more open shots. While Kemba should get most of the credit for his improvement we have to give credit to James Borrego for helping Kemba reach his potential as well.

When JB took over the coaching duties this off-season it was clear he wanted to the Hornets to push the ball and make quick decisions. His philosophy based on space and pace plays right into Walker’s strengths and both a ball handler and scorer.  As fans we watched Kemba become underutilized last year due to the arrival of Dwight Howard. The focus of the offense became a guy who rarely passed, so once he received the ball in the paint, guys just stopped and watched. So the idea of a faster paced offense with more ball movement seemed like a perfect fit. So far the Hornets offense is buzzing and Kemba is posting career highs in points per game, true shooting percent, Player Efficiency Rating and shots per game. He is also taking 51 percent of his shots from three, while lowering his long range 2 point shots to only 9%.

Possibly the largest single improvement thus far this year has been Kemba’s defense. He has always been a capable defender but due to his burden on offense it was hard to blame him for not always going 100% on the defensive end of the floor. This year however the intensity shown from Kemba has been obvious from game one. He has always been good at drawing charges, but this season he is on pace for over 55 charges drawn, a career high by a mile. He also has done a great job slowing down bigger players when he gets switched onto them. He uses his low center of gravity and quick hands to keep players from getting where they want long enough for help to arrive.

The NBA is starting to take notice of what Kemba is doing early in this season, he won Eastern Conference player of the Week honors once already this season, and he is showing up on some Las Vegas MVP lists. The reality is unless the Hornets keep collecting wins that attention will fade as they fade in the standings. However, if the Hornets can continue to stay relevant and force their way into the play-offs as one of the surprise teams who over-achieve pre-season expections, Kemba could be on his way to his first All-NBA Team selection and possible first round series win, which I think we all can agree would cement him as the Franchise GOAT, no matter what some voters have said recently.

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A Case For a MVP Not Named Curry

By Trace Walker

After a long history of bad draft picks and misfortune, the Hornet franchise have found a diamond in the rough in Nicolas Batum.092915-NBA-Hornets--Nicolas-Batum-pi-ssm.vresize.1200.675.high.42

(foxsports.com)

Summer of 2014

In 2014, Charlotte missed out on signing Gordon Hayward as the Jazz matched his contract offer. The Hornets settled with free-agent Lance Stephenson, a triple double machine for Indiana. Lance was supposed to be the superstar Charlotte never had, but in reality, Stephenson brought the team a 17% three point percentage along with over two turnovers a game.102414_lance.jpg

(cbssports.com)

2015 free agency

Going into the ’15 summer, there was a very hot free-agent market  that included LaMarcus Aldridge, Marco Belinelli, Deandre Jordan, Greg Monroe, and Rajon Rondo. Charlotte signed Nicolas Batum on June 24 in a trade in which the Trailblazers received Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh. Batum has been the rock for the Hornet’s offense this year as he has been averaging 17 PPG, a career high. Nic has also been averaging career highs in rebounds (6.7) and assists (4.7).

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(nba.com)

Who is Nic Batum?

Batum, a frenchmen, has played seven NBA seasons, all of which were previously with the Portland Trailblazers. He also played for Le Mans, a French basketball club. Batum is a skilled scorer who can get buckets inside and out. Nicolas is also a very efficient rebounder and smart player, while getting a lot of blocks for being a guard.

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(bleacherreport.com)

If the NBA season ended today, it would be hard seeing the MVP award given to anyone not on the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors started the season on the second longest winning streak in NBA history, only falling short to the 71-72 Lakers. Steph Curry has dominated the league and is looking to win his second consecutive MVP award, others may even argue that Draymond Green has a solid case as well. Green averages more assist (7) than Curry (6), while still putting up 14 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 1.5 BPG. The Warriors look unbeatable… (they actually are)

Even after losing a game to the Bucks, the Warriors are still on a higher tier than everyone else in the NBA.

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(http://goo.gl/3PW0N0)

Although the MVP will most likely fall into the hands of a Warrior, I argue that Nicolas Batum is also a viable option for the award. The addition of Batum alongside others has completely revamped the Hornets offense. Last year the Charlotte team made 498 three pointers the entire season. This season,   the Hornets have already made 230 threes in only 23 games. That’s nearly half of what was made in the previous season. The Hornets are 14-9 and are first in the Southeast division, the team looks like a real playoff contender as they’ve tallied some impressive wins against the Bulls, Grizzlies, and Kings. Charlotte has also won in many different ways, blowing out teams, winning in OT, and making tremendous comebacks.

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(hornets.com)

Nicolas Batum is the glue that has held Charlotte together this season, and has proven to be able to do it all. Last week, Batum had a triple double in the third quarter as the Hornets demolished the Heat. Batum finished the game with 10 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assist. It’s worthy to note the unselfish play of Nicolas as the last stat he reached double digits in was points.

The Hornets may not have proven their dominance in the Eastern conference quite yet, but the Charlotte team is quietly sitting at fourth in the East. Hopefully moving forward, Nic Batum can lead the Hornets to their first playoff series win. The city has long awaited the arrival of a superstar, but can Batum prove to be the savior of Charlotte basketball?

I sure hope so.