So now that we have a good sampling of Kemba's sophomore campaign, has he eased all the doubts everyone had from last year? Has all the hard work he put in this summer and what he's shown so far proven to people yet that he can develop into a full time point guard for us?
As of Nov. 11, he's averaging 19 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and has greatly increased his shooting from 36% to 43%, and 85% from the line.
His season highs have been 30 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 8 steals.
To me, he looks like the UConn Kemba that we had all hoped we had drafted. His confidence is soaring through the roof right now, and nobody can stay in front of him defensively. I'd almost say his speed, his ability to easily get his shot off, or drive into the lane at will and score over the trees is almost, Iversonesque... except without the selfishness and lack of a conscience.
Breaking down his weak points we identified last year, what improvements has he shown?
Shooting: While his 3 point shooting is still very much a work in progress, his shot selection has greatly improved (maybe due to better coaching). That mid range shot he has though is a killer. Defenders have to play him for the drive, and when he stops on a dime half way through a drive, he creates so much separation. Whereas last year he struggled hitting this shot, this year I almost count it automatic that this shot is going in.
Penetrating: While last year, Kemba showed he could easily get past his man into the lane at will, it often ended in a turnover or blocked shot. When Dunlap enforced the concept of not leaving your feet before you're ready, it seems its completely reversed last years problems. He either dribbles all the way through the lane back out to restart the play (ala Steve Nash), or he knows his attack lanes and can create the angles and room to hit his floaters and layups.
Passing: He was always knocked as not being a true passing point guard, but I see symptoms of him getting it now, of how to find people off his drives, and not forcing a lot of bad passes. He still needs work in perfecting the pick in roll (which I think he can become deadly with), but his decision making shows he understands the game much better now, and knows what he is looking at.
Defense: We all knew he was a quick and scrappy defender last year, but he often got lost and out of place, allowing his guy easy buckets too often. This year, he seems to have that bulldog mentality that Felton used to bring defensively, and he relishes hounding guards down the court. Those eight steals against the Mavs were incredible (with his rebounding ability as a guard, is he a threat for a quadruple double one day?). In coachspeak, Kemba just has a real nose for the ball - when there's a 50/50 ball, he'll come out with it; if you throw a weak pass, he'll come get it; and if your handle is loose, he'll gladly take your pocket change for a dunk the other way.
Leadership: This is Kemba's team. As quoted directly from Coach Dunlap:
The way he attacked the Pacers and Mavs so far this year, he willed this team to victory (along with some help, of course). I love watching him get fired up for great plays, he's definitely an energy catalyst along with MKG. For all the debate last year of DJ v. Kemba, Kemba has proven that he is everything that we wished DJ would've become - the aggressive attacking style, the vocal leadership, the grittiness and willingness to get down and dirty to get a win. DJ will always be a better long range shooter, but Kemba is way more athletic in driving to the basket and can actually finish with contact now. I think we're in great hands with Kemba as captain of the ship."He's finding his voice, running things, taking responsibility for our playbook and calling certain things instead of me calling him," Dunlap said. "That is all his development."
This is only the beginning of his second year, so if he's showing signs of getting it now, he only has so much more to improve before he hits his prime. I have full confidence now in his ability to be our point guard, and with Sessions solidly backing him up, this is the most confident that I've ever been with our PG situation.