UConn in the NBA: Kemba goes pass-first

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Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego, left, talks to guard Kemba Walker during a break in the action in the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Everyone loves to see a triple-double, a 50-point game, or a record-breaking performance, two of which Klay Thompson had this past week. But those gaudy numbers may not help their team win the game. Now that we are past the first couple weeks of jitters in the NBA, players are beginning to carve out and realize the roles they play on their teams and how they can best help their team win, even if it means they don’t put up huge numbers every night. Here’s what some of the Huskies’ roles look like for the rest of the season. 

Kemba Walker:  

Walker is still trying to prove himself as a top point guard in the NBA, but that’s just the thing: he is a point guard. He was putting up 31 points a game early in the season, but he was only getting around five assists per game, which is low for a point guard. These stats made Walker look like a perennial All-Star, but his team was not successful with a record of 3-4 prior to this week’s games. This week he took a step back as a scorer and a step up as a facilitator. Walker averaged 19 points over his last three games, nine points below his season average and in response he increased his pass production, adding one assist to his per-game average putting it at six over the past three games. This change from Walker has resulted in success for the Hornets, as they went 2-1 during the week and now sit at 5-5 on the season and sixth in the Eastern Conference. If Walker continues his success with the passing game while remaining an aggressive scorer, the Hornets should continue to win and Walker will get closer to that top-5 point guard position. 

Andre Drummond: 

Drummond’s success on the court directly correlates to the success of his team, and since he did not play like himself this week, the Pistons went 0-3, dropping to 4-4 for the season. Drummond is trying to adjust to today’s NBA, a league full of men that can knock down 3-pointers, but that is simply not who he is. Just eight games into the season, Drummond has already attempted nine 3-pointers, two less than he attempted all of last season. Against the 76ers this past Saturday, Drummond took an increased amount of shots outside of five feet, something he never would have dared to do when he entered the league, causing him to finish the game with only eight points and nine rebounds. Drummond has the ability to average 20 points and 20 rebounds for the entire season – he still leads the league with 15.4 rebounds per game – if he just stayed inside the paint and followed his role. He needs to leave the outside shooting to Blake Griffin and grab boards, get put-backs and play defense like he came into the league to do, not only for himself, but for his team as well. 

Rudy Gay: 

Gay and the Spurs continue to play well despite having a below-average roster. This past week they went 3-1 and now sit at fourth in the Western Conference. Gay’s role on the team is clear, he is in the game to provide consistent scoring and solid rebounding and defense, all of which he has done at a very efficient clip thus far in the season. In fact, in the game that the Spurs lost this week Gay was not playing due to illness, showing the impact he has despite not putting up absurd numbers. Gay put up a statline of 11/8/2/2 this week, right along the line of his season averages, providing the consistency the Spurs need behind the likes of DeMar Derozan and Lamarcus Aldridge. Gay has the experience and skill to fill in his role with the Spurs easily and effectively and if he continues to do so, there is no reason the Spurs don’t continue to have success. 

Jeremy Lamb: 

Similarly to how Walker settled into his role this week, Lamb was able to step up into his and provide the Hornets with some much needed scoring and strong defense. Right now Lamb is the team’s starting shooting guard and he is expected to be one of the top scorers on the offensive end as well as shutting down one of the opposition’s top scorers on the defensive end that’s exactly what he did this week. Lamb had his best week statistically in scoring (13 ppg), rebounds (six rpg) and steals (1.3 spg). This included an impressive statline of 19/8/1 against the Cavaliers on Saturday. For the Hornets to continue to improve, Lamb has to be the scorer and defender they need, something he has done pretty well and hopes to get better at as the season goes on. 

 

Shabazz Napier: 

Brooklyn Nets guard Shabazz Napier (13) is fouled by Houston Rockets guard Gerald Green (14) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Napier’s role on the Nets is less defined than the player’s previously mentioned. Since he is the only one on this list who comes off the bench, his role can be very dependant on the game’s script. Whatever the case may be, Napier does what the team needs from him. Just this past week we got two good examples of this. On Friday he came in against the Rockets with his team down and did everything in his power to bring them back, scoring 11 points including three 3-pointers in just 16 minutes. In the Nets’ next game on Sunday, Napier came in with the Nets having a comfortable lead, so he settled into a facilitator role and was able to tally four assists in his 16 minutes of play. Napier will by no means wow you with his numbers, but what he can do in minimal playing time pays dividends for his team.


Conner Gilson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at conner.gilson@uconn.edu.  

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