I have something I really need to get off my chest. Before the draft, I was a certified hater, a KesslerKiller, if you will. I don't quite know the reason, I was exceptionally excited before your sophomore season but my opinion sunk very quickly, even after you were clearly the best player on one of the best teams in the country. When you were traded to the Jazz, I laughed a little on the inside, and cried a lot on the outside - going from watching Rudy Gobert, the defining defensive domineer of this decade, to you? It felt like a sick joke. I was worried that you were a block hunter, and (even though it's one of the things you still need to work on pertaining to defense) I have been proved wrong; you have shown your passion for defense time and time again, as well as your developing discipline (I mean, talk about verticality) in your path to become perhaps a top 5 pure shot-blocker in the association. I was concerned that the lack of spacing in the SEC inflated your defensive numbers; guards had a tougher time doing anything in the paint because 4 players were consistently sitting there, and I assumed some of your blocks came because you happened to be the biggest of those athletes. Again, I was mistaken. A tremendously spaced NBA hasn't lessened your impact much at all, with your positioning and size proving more than capable of being the qualities of a top tier, even without outside help. I wasn't sure you were athletic enough defensively to stick around and be anything more than a meandering, plodding backup big man, but your exceptional ground coverage, quick twitch instincts, solid switchability (relative to size), and great body control have been much more impressive than I was anticipating. I was thoroughly wrong about your defense on all aspects, but, to be fair, I was more confident with that translation than your offense. At least I look good in that regard, right? Right?
Your offense has been magnificent since you stepped foot in the league, and it hasn't been thoroughly appreciated by the general public quite yet. I was scared that, without a three point shot which everyone seemed so eager to project, you wouldn't bring enough to the table offensively to warrant playing time. However, you have been the embodiment of the skills that traditional centers need in order to garner playing time in the current NBA. You know exactly how to use your size, always burrowing your way into the right place to get offensive rebounds or the right position to go up and snag lobs. This skill is what separates a mediocre, plodding 7-footer from a 7-footer that would start on more teams than not. Once you get to the appropriate position, the next step is being able to do something when the ball comes your way, which requires catching said basketball. The dexterity has shocked me in this regard, I am never worried a ball thrown your way will go flying out of bounds or will be stripped by an audacious guard. Then, with your soft touch extending throughout the paint, you can do what is needed to be done by a center; no more, but also no less. Your screening has translated, the glimpse of short roll passing has been there, the ability to sometimes take one or two dribbles inside the paint and get to a shot that you know you can make has wowed me due to exceptional quickness and self-awareness - in short, you've been almost on good at offense as you have been on defense.
As a rookie on a team desperate for young talent, it stands to reason that I'll be watching a lot of you over the coming 7 years, and I couldn't be more excited. Your all-star campaign management for Lauri Markkanen has been a joy to watch, your love of speaking what is on your mind has been endearing. So, if you're on my team for the long haul, I have to apologize, and start off fresh. No more am I the man who had Walker Kessler outside the top 60 on my final big board (although that mistake is still real and will help evaluate future draft classes), I am now the man who is the (tentative and semi-serious) leading advocate for "Walker Kessler: Rookie of the year!" Going from Rudy Gobert, my all-time favorite player, (who Is still better than you, I'm not course correcting THAT much) as the franchise center for my team to a player who can feasibly project to be his incarnation has been the best gift this cynic and advanced stats sucker could ever ask for. Keep doing you Walker, you've swatted yourself a new fan.
A repentant Shooter McGrady