Even without spending substantial time in the rotation of the San Antonio Spurs, Lonnie Walker IV left us impressed by his skill, potential and maturity.
Though the San Antonio Spurs haven’t typically selected their draft picks before the mid-20’s, general manager R.C. Buford seemingly struck gold with his first-round selection in 2018. Swingman Lonnie Walker IV spent most of his season either riding the bench in the Alamo City or working his tail off with the Austin Spurs, securing a significant role in the organization’s long-term plans.
Standing at 6-foot-5 with spectacular leaping ability, Walker stood out from the rest of his draft class as an elite athlete with the instincts necessary to become special in this league. As a capable and confident ball handler, Walker can be used to initiate offense for others or create his own shot with relative ease. His mid-range game has been a constant, but he seems to be adjusting nicely to professional three-point range as well.
Fans took kindly to Walker from his first interview, where his intuitive personality shined through. His inquisitive nature provided a breath of fresh air to a locker room that was forced to adjust to their leaders, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, moving on to the next phases of their lives.
The phrase “student of the game” gets thrown around often, but Walker is a true embodiment of the term. He entered the league as a well-adjusted young man, showing a level of maturity that’s not often associated with 20-year-olds fresh out of college. This made him an easy fit for Gregg Popovich’s core of players.
In 777 minutes across 28 games in the G League, Walker averaged 16.6 points per game on 43.6 percent shooting from the field and 36.6 percent shooting from deep. He also tacked on 2.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals per contest. While Walker’s 50.7 true shooting percentage leaves room for improvement, he also got the chance to test out his shot selection and continue improving his basketball IQ over this span.
Walker only averaged 2.6 points and one rebound per game in the regular season but shot an encouraging 38.5 percent from three-point land as a rookie.
— Austin Spurs (@austin_spurs) March 20, 2019
His best individual game came against a familiar opponent in the Denver Nuggets on April 3, 2019 as the Spurs took a devastating loss, resulting in 15 minutes and 41 seconds of playing time for Walker. He made 6-of-11 shots including 3-of-5 triples for 16 points along with two boards. He didn’t commit a foul or a turnover in the matchup and showed off his staggering athletic ability by rising above the Nuggets’ defenders to draw a foul on what would’ve been a Dunk of the Year candidate.
These small glimpses that Walker showed in his limited minutes were highly encouraging for the Spurs moving forward. The rookie season for a Spur has generally consisted of extended visits to the G League with minutes on the tail ends of blowouts. All along the way, Walker worked on expanding his skill set and learning from the core of legends and coaches that San Antonio has to offer him.
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For as entertaining as his rookie year was, Spurs fans must look forward to his sophomore campaign as a true litmus test of how great he can eventually become.
Amidst all of the things that make him an exciting player, Walker still has a far way to go before fulfilling his potential. Outside of his scoring and perimeter defense, there are a lot of ways in which Walker fails to elevate his team. He needs to put his athletic ability to use by attacking the boards with more consistency.
Furthermore, Walker has exceptional passing skills that often get lost as he focused on getting his own shot. Due to the nature of his skill set, he’s bound to attract added defensive attention, so he’ll need to recognize defensive schemes and create more opportunities for his teammates. This may be looking far ahead since Walker is still in the early stages of his development, but it’s still something that needs to be considered moving forward.
The league has seen glimpses of what Walker can become, now it’s up to him and the team’s development staff to help him reach his ceiling. The sky is the limit for Lonnie Walker IV.
Check out our other 2018-19 Performance Reviews: