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As the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft wore on, I steadily drew more and more perplexed. “Why isn’t Jabari Walker getting picked,” resonated throughout my brain constantly as the night wound down and the Colorado standout remained on the board. Walker eventually got selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 57th overall pick.
After an impressive showing throughout his time at Summer League, Walker signed a three-year contract with the club, with a partial guarantee on the second year per Michael Scotto.
Sources: The Portland Trail Blazers have signed Jabari Walker to a three-year, $4.76 million deal, which is fully guaranteed Year 1, partially guaranteed Year 2, and non-guaranteed Year 3, @hoopshype has learned. Portland selected Walker 57th overall in the draft.
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) July 14, 2022
Walker is averaging 13 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, shooting a remarkably efficient 68.2 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from deep on just shy of three attempts per game, according to NBA tracking data. He enamored at the University of Colorado with his freneticism as a defender and herky jerky drive game off the bounce. At 6’8 with a lengthy frame, often punching above his weight with his functional strength, Walker brought a ton of intrigue as he shot well from deep as his sophomore season unfolded, including positive shooting indicators at the free throw line, as he found himself there incredibly often in Boulder.
His offense has translated well immediately in the desert, excelling as a cutter, making himself available in pockets of the defense, shooting off the catch, and attacking closeouts. While figuring out playmaking off the dribble and finishing counters will be an adventure, the outline is there for a productive player.
Defensively, Walker has shown out. His help and ability as a low-man has flashed upside and intrigue.
While he still has a ways to go in terms of figuring out timing and playing in space, the flashes are exciting, especially for someone his size. What Walker showed as his best attribute as a defender in college has continued in the pros as well. He switches aggressively and with nimble feet, engulfing drivers and stifling actions on the perimeter. For a team that ranked dead last in defense last season, there’s room for Walker to potentially make an impact as an early contributor with his size, instincts, and aptitude.
It’s awesome to see Jabari get a long-term and partially guaranteed deal, something I expected him to get during the draft, but unsurprisingly earned after playing well against pro-level competition. After players in similar situations like Trendon Watford and Greg Brown III found relative success as overlooked rookies last season, I wouldn’t be shocked if Jabari Walker parlayed his new found job security into pro success.