Feb 11, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker (15) dribbles the ball in front of Dallas Mavericks guard Devin Harris (20) during the second half at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Bobcats won 114-89. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Basketball: Bobcats' Kemba Walker claws his way into top 40 of player rankings

kemba walker

Kemba Walker is No. 36 in this week’s player rankings (Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports)

After helping his team to four wins, Charlotte Bobcats’ PG Kemba Walker was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, earning him a spot in the top 40 of my latest fantasy basketball player rankings.

Walker has endured an up-and-down season.  He has often struggled with his shot and was forced to miss seven games at the end of January with an ankle sprain.  Despite that, the third-year guard is having his best season as a pro, putting the Bobcats — and his fantasy owners — in a position to win.

In 50 games, the former UConn Huskies’ star is averaging 18.4 points, 5.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.6 3-pointers.  The points, boards and treys are all career-highs.  His 81 percent free throw percentage and 34.5 percent shooting from downtown are also the best of his young career.

Walker earned Player of the Week (Feb. 17-23) honors by scoring 22.5 points, dishing out 8.8 assists, and grabbing 5.5 boards, leading the Bobcats to their first four-game winning streak since March 25-30, 2011.  He also made 9-of-22 3-pointers (40.9 percent) during those four games and handed out a career-high 16 assists in the Bobcats’ win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.  Walker was ranked 21st on Basketball Monster.com’s player ranker over that span and is the first ‘Cats player to win the award since Stephen Jackson did so in January of 2010.

Even with all the accolades Walker has received, he’s having another tough year shooting the ball, hitting just 41.4 percent of his shots from the field.  He’s had some very good months, but maintaining consistency with his shot is key if he is to be considered an elite fantasy point guard.  His month-by-month shooting percentages, beginning with Oct./Nov., are 36.5, 45.9, 44.7, and 37.4.

Led by Walker, Al Jefferson and first-year coach Steve Clifford, the Bobcats are turning around a franchise that has been a laughingstock since the team’s inception in 2004-05.  Clifford is preaching a defense-first approach, and it’s paying off.  They are fifth in the NBA in opponents’ points allowed — giving up just 96.8 per game — which has propelled them to a 27-30 record and the seventh-seed in the Eastern Conference.  In their 10 years of existence, the Charlotte Bobcats have only made the postseason once, losing to the Orlando Magic in the first round of the 2009-10 playoffs.

Walker can still improve a lot before the season concludes, and fantasy owners should be aware of that.  He just took home some brass for his outstanding week and is averaging 17.1 points in the month of February, yet he’s still shooting 37.4 percent over his last eight contests.  If he can be more efficient in that part of his game, the sky’s the limit for the 23-year-old from the Bronx.

For now, owners will have to take the good things as they come with Kemba Walker, and moving his way up to No. 36 in my latest fantasy basketball rankings is a big step in the right direction:

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