If there was a silver lining to the tumultuous ride that was the San Antonio Spurs 2017-2018 season it came in the form of San Antonio’s highest draft pick since 1997.
This year, with the 18th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, San Antonio selected Lonnie Walker IV. The pick was seen as one of the steals of the draft. Walker was a projected lottery pick in many mock drafts. The Spurs were lucky to be able to select a player who wasn’t supposed to drop to them and also fit a team need.
The 19-year-old shooting guard from the University of Miami looks to have the future makings of a star. Walker’s rookie season will be about learning, patience, and improvement. As a freshman, he was asked to contribute right away on a young Hurricanes team. In San Antonio, he will be able to take a redshirt year of sorts.
Walker does have a lot to offer as a rookie. Standing 6’5 with a 6’10 wingspan, he’s pre-equipped to be paired with Dejounte Murray to form a young, switch-happy backcourt. He’s incredibly athletic too. Throughout his lone season at Miami and during the Las Vegas Summer League, he was able to blow by defenders on his way to the rim. He’s an excellent finisher. He’s comfortable with adjusting in the air to avoid a defender and with hammering it home. His skill around the basket is complemented by a solid jump shot.
Walker isn’t coming in as an outstanding shooter, but he projects to be one eventually. He connected on 34% of his three-point attempts in college but was inconsistent at times. Consistency will surely be an area of focus for Walker throughout the season. His ability to knock them down from deep is crucial to the San Antonio’s future. Pairing a three-point threat like Walker with a mid-range star such as DeMar DeRozan will give the Spurs the spacing they sorely lacked last season.
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Walker will likely spend a healthy amount of time playing for the Spurs G-League affiliate, the Austin Spurs. This isn’t a bad thing by any means. Most Spurs rookies do spend time developing in Austin. San Antonio already has depth at the guard position. Murray and DeRozan will start, Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, and Derrick White are all still around and need to play. Those three, along with summer acquisition Marco Belinelli, create a bit of a logjam. Better for Walker to play serious minutes in the G League and develop his game.
The quality of play in the G-League has increased in recent years. Walker will be competing against professionals, many of whom are fighting just to make it into the NBA. The Austin Spurs are no joke either. They won their second G League title last season. Derrick White spent most of his rookie season and showed up this summer looking like a different player. He had a tighter handle, was a better playmaker and looked more at ease on the court. If Walker’s rookie season follows a similar path it will be a great start to a promising career.
Off the court, Walker is a very interesting player. He will undoubtedly be embraced by fans of the Silver and Black. His inquisitive nature and a wide variety of interests help Walker fit perfectly with the Spurs culture.
According to Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle, Walker has already begun bonding with his coach. I can’t imagine the conversations that Walker and head coach Gregg Popovich will get into after a few glasses of red wine, once Walker is of legal drinking age of course.
That’s really what this season is all about for Lonnie Walker IV, building relationships with his team and learning how to play at a higher level. Unless you watch the Austin Spurs you might not see him play much his rookie season but that’s okay. Walker looks like an important part of the Spurs future. This year is only the beginning.