The Portland Trail Blazers spent much of the later part of their season giving opportunities to players on their roster that had not had a chance to shine earlier in the season. Among those players that found themselves with a much larger role as the season wound down was rookie Jabari Walker.
Per Game Stats:
— 3.9 points per game
— 2.3 rebounds per game
— 0.6 assists per game
— 41.9 percent from the field (on 3.5 attempts)
— 28.6 percent from 3-point range (on 1.0 attempts)
— 75.6 percent from the free throw line (on 0.8 attempts)
On-Off / Advanced Stats:
— -8.7 on-court plus-minus; -6.0 on-off swing
— 15.5 defensive rebounding percentage
Walker did not see much time on the court in the early parts of the season. After being drafted 57th overall to a team with aspirations of competing, Walker found minutes only in garbage time. However, his minutes began to steadily increase as the season wore on.
By the end of the season, he had found spot minutes in the rotation, even before many of the starters were sidelined for the remainder of the season. He was really able to take off and see an increased role once the Blazers started losing to end the year, and it was then that he showed the most promise and improvement from where he started the year.
As someone who primarily plays the power forward position, Walker was not operating with the ball in his hands very often. Rather, he was used as a cutter, a screener, and occasionally as a spot up shooter. He found some success in pick-and-roll actions as the roll man.
His defense left some to be desired, but there were signs of a possible jump on that end of the floor in the near future. Neither his block nor steal numbers jump off the page, and there were times where he looked lost on the court, but his frame and athleticism partnered with his ability to play in the passing lanes show that he can grow into a strong defender.
Perhaps his strongest trait is that he plays with nothing to lose. As the penultimate pick in the draft, Walker came into this season needing to prove he deserves to be on an NBA roster. His energy on the court was evidence of that, as he was always moving, diving for loose balls, and making hustle plays. He showed that he is willing and able to do all of the small things and the dirty work that impacts winning.