Kemba's walking tall
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker's game-winning jumper with 0.7 seconds left Wednesday versus Minnesota was hardly his first contribution to the team's surprise 4-3 start this season.

There was the 26-point, eight-steal performance on Nov. 10 to help Charlotte beat Dallas for the first time in franchise history. Also, the 30 points he dropped on opening night to beat Indiana by one. And how about the other 20 points Walker scored Wednesday prior to his game-winner? You can really take your pick.

Walker's impact on fantasy teams has been equally as impressive.

After looking like a fringe fantasy guard at best last season, Walker has been one of the best in the game through seven contests in 2012-13.

Walker has become a strong finisher, and I'm not talking about what he did to the Timberwolves Wednesday.

To offset a still-inconsistent jump shot, the former UConn guard has become a much better closer at the rim, shooting 59.1 percent there this season after making exactly half his shots in 2011-12.

Numbers show that Walker has been much more aggressive -- he averaged just 2.5 shots per game at the rim in 2011-12 but is getting there 6.3 times per game through seven games this season.

He's also taking and making more foul shots. His free-throw percentage is up to 86.5 after hitting 78.9 in 2011-12; he's also taking 2.1 more foul shots per game than last season.

Some of his improvements have to do with his increase in playing time -- Walker is playing 35:47 per game, up from 27:11 last season -- but he's clearly a different player when he's on the court.

As a result of his newfound aggression, he's averaging 19 points and 5.1 assists on 43.4 shooting after posting just 12.1 and 4.4 on an ice cold 36.6 percent shooting in his rookie year.

Those numbers alone would be enough to tantalize fantasy owners, but we haven't even talked about what he's doing defensively.

I mentioned that Walker had eight steals against the Mavericks on Nov. 10. While that game is a major reason why he's averaging 2.9 steals per game, it isn't that much of an aberration. He's had at least one steal in every contest this season with games of four, three and two thefts.

And though Walker turned the ball over five times Wednesday, he's only averaging 1.9 TOs per game and has had one or no turnovers in four of seven games.

While most of Walker's numbers are up, one has dropped for the better -- his 3- point attempts, down to 2.4 per game from 3.4 last season. He should consider taking even less (or none) since he's only made 3-of-17 (.176) from long distance this season and 29.6 percent from there in his career.

While his three-ball shooting leaves much to be desired, that doesn't change the fact that Walker has morphed into a fantasy stud seemingly overnight.

Pick any reason you want for Walker's emergence -- having a full offseason to work on flaws, playing without competition after D.J. Augustin signed with Indiana or switching from No. 1 to No. 15, the same digits he wore at UConn -- just make sure you pick the Bobcats point guard for your fantasy team if he's still available.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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