The 57th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Jabari Walker, is enjoying an impressive Summer League stint that has granted him a 3-year $4.8-million contract.
Walker is just 19 years old out of the University of Colorado with his game defined with pure hustle in the early stages of his professional career. Walker’s father, Samaki Walker, played 10 seasons in the NBA and was a part of the 2002 Los Angeles Lakers championship team. The NBA life has been engrained in Jabari’s life from a young age and his outlook on the game speaks volumes about how he looks to make his mark. In an introductory video, Walker stated:
“One of the things I bring is energy,” Walker said. “There’s a lot that stems from that. It motivates players on both sides of the ball. Making my teammates better, knocking down open shots, rebounding, and blocking shots: Those are the things I can rely on.”
In four games, Walker has averaged 12.0 points and 8.5 rebounds a night while showcasing superb defensive instincts and his overall great feel for the game. At 6-foot-9, Walker’s size and athleticism alone are enough to stand out but when matched with his skill set, he looks poised to make an impact sooner than some may have originally believed.
Despite having a low volume of shots, when he shows aggression, you can see the touch Walker possesses around the rim. What also stands out is the smooth form Walker has while shooting the ball from beyond the arc. Dating back to his college years at Colorado, Walker has never been a high-volume three-point shooter and while that remains in Summer League, you can see the comfortability he has from three. Where his mark is made however comes from creating extra possessions for his team while limiting the offensive opportunities for the opposing team.
Walker crashes the glass with ferocity, both on the offensive and defensive end. Walker is tied for 11th in the Summer League for rebounds per game while playing just 20.7 minutes per game. As the Summer League winds down and it is abundantly clear what parts of the game he thrives in, the next steps seem to be getting his body on par with the NBA skill level.
Walker, while great as a shot blocker and help defender, lacks some lateral quickness that would help him contain his matchup on the perimeter. In a league with wings as gifted as they are now, this looks to be the most important area of improvement for Walker and the Trail Blazers staff. His instincts are great, but getting his mind and body on the same page could truly push his impact to the next level.
It’s certainly interesting to think how head coach Chauncey Billups will utilize someone like Walker. Is it far-fetched to assume Walker could find himself minutes in a Trail Blazers rotation that lacks depth in the front court? Perhaps but when the opportunity comes knocking, it does not seem as if Walker will fear the bright lights of the Moda Center.
He has embraced the city of Portland and Rip City faithful have embraced him. There is no question that Blazer fans love to see players come in and give it their all and Walker’s game is right on par with what the fans love to see. As Walker is now positioned as one of the city’s fan favorites, it’s on him to answer the challenge when he is faced with it.
Portland is set to take on the New York Knicks in the NBA 2K23 Summer League championship on Sunday, July 17th.