The SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and one of college basketball’s most prolific shot blockers in its history, Walker Kessler had a dynamic breakout year following his transfer from North Carolina to Auburn. As a sophomore, Kessler averaged 11.4 PPG, 8 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 4.6 BPG, and 1.1 TOPG on shooting splits of 61/20/60. Below is his full scouting report:
Name: Walker Kessler
Wingspan/ standing reach: 7’4/9’5
Hand size: 8.5
Pre-Draft team: Auburn
Tools: Shot-blocking, P&R roll man, size
- Long strides
- Good length
- Excellent shot blocker
- Plus finisher that can dunk almost anything
- Good lob threat
- Potential to stretch the floor
- Strong as P&R roll man
- Good at defending post-ups
- Good rebounder
- Doesn’t have much speed
- Poor balance against drives; struggles to guard the perimeter
- Slow jumper, can only shoot wide open shots
- Needs to get stronger and slim down; second highest body fat at NBA Draft Combine
- Small hands
- Doesn’t create offense as a playmaker or ball-handler
- Poor post control and overall post game
- Block-hunting got him in foul trouble at times
Walker Kessler is an excellent shot-blocker that had historic block numbers as a sophomore at Auburn, following his transfer from North Carolina.
Kessler’s defensive upside begins with his shot-blocking ability, which extends to some jump shots. Kessler was a good post-up defender in college, which will need to translate for him to fully hit his defensive upside. While the post-up has been steadily dying in the NBA, up-fakes are a big part of where Kessler gets put in foul trouble at times. Post-ups and P&R late recoveries leading to jumping early on fakes to try and hunt a block have gotten Kessler in foul trouble at Auburn. In a league where most players have mastered playing around length, Kessler will need to iron that out quickly.
Additionally, Kessler struggles to guard the perimeter consistently. He can impact jump shooters that dribble in place and resort to a one-dribble stepback, but cannot handle change of speeds, especially against drives. The NBA has a way of playing immobile big men off the floor, which could be a fatal flaw for Kessler.
Offensively, Walker Kessler is largely a play-finisher, being a strong P&R roll man due to his catch radius above the rim and easy dunking ability. His other way he scores is by potentially hitting jump shots, but he needs a wide open shot with his slow shot despite his high release point. Beyond that, Kessler is limited: he doesn’t pass or see the floor well, and he struggles to score out of the post in a translatable way (punishing mismatches, quick hooks, etc).
Overall, Walker Kessler must become a good shooter and have his finishing translate, while being a good shot blocker that doesn’t get exposed on the perimeter to translate up to the NBA.
Similar to: Shawn Bradley, post-Miami Heat Hassan Whiteside, Hasheem Thabeet
Projected draft range: 26-50
Expected role: Shot blocker that lives at the rim on both ends and is always contesting shots.
Unplayable if: Lack of mobility gets exposed on defense, and shooting never develops.
Exceeds expectations if: Jump shot develops and his length + recovery ability as a shot blocker translates up to the NBA.
Fit With Dallas:
I do not like the fit of Walker Kessler in Dallas simply due to his immobility, and my overall lack of confidence in Kessler’s game translating to the next level. The NBA is quick and relentless in exposing bad defensive traits, such as lateral quickness and defensive discipline, which will burn Kessler. While the Mavs do need a defensive anchor that could roll to the rim and shoot, the roll factor is minimal because of his slow speed. Many of the strengths of Kessler get neutralized by NBA tempo, which could be quick to play him out of the league. There’s better, more realistic, upside plays for big man in the draft. If the Mavs want to take a flier in the late second round on him, I would not be opposed; but taking Kessler in the first round on a guaranteed contract is a major risk in the modern NBA.