Yesterday, Chad Ford released his first mock draft of the year. In it, the Cavaliers were picking 15th overall (PLAYOFFS! YAY!) and selected Chris Walker, a 6'10" forward out of Florida.
I say kind of, because Walker has not yet received his eligibility from the NCAA. If he doesn't ever receive that eligibility, it's not only sad for Florida because he's an excellent player, but also for college basketball as a whole because he's one of the most explosive leapers I've ever seen enter the collegiate ranks.
That's not an exaggeration. Chris Walker is a better leaper than Andrew Wiggins, and that's saying a lot. For reference, here is a tape of his first dunk in the McDonald's All-American dunk contest. While watching this live, my jaw literally dropped every time he left the floor.
So clearly, Walker can dunk. That much is certain. However, what makes him really interesting as a prospect beyond the athleticism is his coordination for someone at 6'10. He can seemingly fly from any angle or position, and can run the floor with most guards, let alone any big man. Also, one of his more unique skills is that he's ambidextrous when it comes to blocking shots or when shooting around the hoop.
As far as actual basketball skill, Walker is more of a face-up 4 at this point than anything, and I think that's where his potential truly lies. He not only has a soft touch both around the rim with awkward little jump hooks, but also out to about 15 feet with his jumper. That soft touch on his jumper -- along with his weight -- has led some (including Ford) to label him as a potential small forward, but I don't think that's his best position for the future. Walker is so good around the rim with help defense already that you don't want to pull him away from that area. While this is a statement that will obviously get misconstrued, Walker reminds of a young Serge Ibaka in both his leaping ability and his ability to block weak side shots. While these blocks occurred mostly against 5'10 non-athletes in his small Florida high school's division, he has shown good instincts in these situations from the tape I've seen.
The downsides here are pretty clear. He's one of the more raw athletes I've seen enter the collegiate level as a high-level prospect. If you think Nerlens Noel was skinny, then you should recalibrate your expectations for what skinny is when looking at Walker. At 195 pounds right now, Walker needs to hit the weight room as soon as possible in order to at least get up to a reasonable weight to play 4 in the NBA. And of course, there is always the chance that he's taking about a year off of basketball in order to become eligible for the draft if the NCAA eventually declares him ineligible, a la the Ricky Ledo model.
I also don't think there's a player in this draft that has a wider range of possibilities as far as where his career could take him. Walker could be the next Serge Ibaka, or he could the next Earl Clark. He could be the next Byron Mullens who doesn't pan out despite immense physical gifts, or he could be the next Herb Pope that flames out before even reaching the NBA. it's a veritable guessing game what happens with Walker next, and from an evaluation standpoint, that scares me.
UPDATE: I have become aware that some of the earlier information quoted from another writer's previous article about Walker's life was incorrect. This was a mistake, and I should not have used it. For that, I apologize and will be more vigilant in the future while trying to vet what I write.