When the Knicks traded Nate Robinson in February, Eddie House was supposed to be the centerpiece while Walker and J.R. Giddens were throw-ins. However D’Antoni seemed to sour on House, and Walker found himself in the rotation. He ended up with more minutes (739) than House and Giddens combined.
Walker doesn’t average a lot of points (15.4 pts/36 in 2010), but his efficiency (64.9% ts%, 62.5% efg%) is through the roof for a small forward. Only 10 players 6-6 or shorter had a true shooting percentage of 60% or better last year, and no one other than Walker was north of 62%. According to HoopData, Walker attempts the bulk of his shots from behind the arc (50%) or at the rim (33.2%); he doesn’t take a lot of shots in between those areas. So far his career NBA three point shooting percentage is a sizzling 42.7%. Walker relies on his hops to take the action to the cup, including converting a fair share of alley-oops. He moves better without the ball, and doesn’t cough it up much (his turnovers per 36 minutes were a minuscule 1.3).
Unfortunately that’s where the superlatives concerning Walker end. Despite his physical ability, he a sub par rebounder and a poor defender. The former was somewhat surprising considering his strong glasswork in the D-League. The latter makes it understandable why a defensive-minded team like Boston let him go so easily. Walker struggled with keeping guys in front of him, but considering his quick first step on offense the lack of athleticism isn’t the problem. Perhaps he’s not accustomed to the speed at the highest level.
Ultimately, Bill Walker is exactly what the Knicks need. A cheap player that won’t cost them much in 2011 ($850k) while providing efficient scoring. He has some flaws that make him more suited to come off the bench. Yet he’s still young enough (22) to improve, and even if not, is worth more than he’s being paid. And that’s something I haven’t been able to say often about the Knicks.
Report Card (5 point scale):
Final Grade: B+
For a guy that appeared to be a throw in to a trade, what an impressive list of comparables! It’s quicker to name the guys on his list that didn’t have good careers (Smith, Adams, Richardson) than to go through the positive ones. There is one big caveat however, none of these players are very comparable with Walker. The closest is about 3 standard deviations away. Considering how unique Walker is with regards to his scoring, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The question is whether he can keep up the same level of play. I’m dubious of his three point percentage remaining over 42%, but he shot 39.3% in the D-League so it should remain robust. Of course his defense and lack of non-scoring contribution will factor into his NBA future as well.