Praise is pouring in for Portland Trail Blazers rookie Jabari Walker and his performance at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. According to For the Win writer Bryan Kalbrosky, the 6-foot-8 forward “looks like the biggest steal of the NBA Draft so far.”
In three Summer League games, Walker is averaging 13.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in 19.6 minutes per game, while shooting 37.5% on three-pointers. While Walker’s basic productivity has been solid, Kalbrosky writes it doesn’t show the full story. On the offensive end, he’s shined as a cutter.
Most notably: Walker has recorded seven possessions in which he has cut toward the basket. He has scored or earned a trip to the free-throw line (or in some cases, both) each time.
Despite being taken with the 57th pick in June’s NBA Draft, Walker leads all drafted players in scoring efficiency rate (1.39 points per position, per Synergy) and total rebound percentage (22.3%). In advanced metrics, Walker’s numbers look great, too.
Win Shares (WS), Player Efficiency Rating (PER), and Floor Impact Counter (FIC) are three of the only catch-all metrics that are publicly tracked for Summer League.
Although these stats are a bit flawed, for context: Walker leads all drafted players in Win Shares (0.7) and PER (33.0) and he trails only first-round pick Tari Eason in FIC (40.1) thus far.
Kalbrosky writes “the Blazers tend to perform better when Walker is on the floor relative to when he is not.” He wonders how the University of Colorado product — still just 19 with size, a 7-foot wingspan and solid college numbers — landed in Portland’s lap.
Blazers fourth-year forward Nassir Little seems to agree with Kalbrosky’s analysis, as he took his assessment of his new teammate to Twitter.
The blazers just got away with pure robbery drafting @jabari521— Nassir Little (@2ez_nassie) July 13, 2022
If Summer League is any indication, Walker may find a spot in Portland’s regular season rotation sooner than most expected.