Kemba Walker, elite charge taker?

Kemba Walker is fired up to be in Boston... and to take charges? | Photo: Barry Chin/Boston Globe

Through five games, Kemba Walker is as advertised. The Boston Celtics have the player they thought they were getting when they signed him to a max deal from the Charlotte Hornets. They have one of the best players at drawing charges in the NBA.

Wait, what? Everyone knew Walker was an elite scorer from his Hornets days, so his 26.2 points per game this year comes as no surprise. He is a 20 points per game scorer for his career after setting a career high by putting in 25.6 last year. But what is all this charge talk you ask?

Walker has drawn five charges through five games. That total puts him at third in the league, but the 1.0 per game is tied for tops in the league. I hear you; we’re only talking about a small sample size here. Good thing I came equipped with more data, huh?

Walker has not been lower than third in the league in charges drawn since the NBA started tracking the data for the 2016-17 season.

2018-19: 27 charges drawn (T-3rd)
2017-18: 24 (T-3rd)
2016-17: 28 (3rd)

Pretty damn good for a guy that doesn’t have a great reputation on defense. This isn’t Isaiah Thomas where his size was a liability on that end of the floor. It isn’t Kyrie Irving either, where most of his shortcomings were due to being uninspired on defense. Walker isn’t going to make an All-NBA defense team, but he is making an impact by creating turnovers with all these charges.

Speaking of All-NBA defense, how does Marcus Smart compare? Smart is known as a flopper around the league, and as someone who has listened to the opposition’s fanbase while producing Green Envy in Celtics victories, the reputation isn’t going anywhere. Here are Smart’s numbers over the previous three seasons:

2018-19: 14 charges drawn
2017-18: 13
2017-18: 23

Smart’s defense runs deeper than drawing charges as he can guard anyone on the court, but to see someone like Walker drawing more charges than him is surprising. Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t lie.

It’s great to see a player come in on a max contract and play up to his expectations. Walker’s effort and team-first attitude is perfect for a lead dog. The scoring will be there, but as we’ve found out, he’ll mix it up and draw charges on the defensive end as well.

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