Lonnie Walker’s potential is off-the-charts and the San Antonio Spurs may be ready to unleash it in full-force this season.
When you ask the average NBA fan to describe the style of play the San Antonio Spurs have demonstrated over the years, you usually get responses like methodical, fundamental, and machine-like. Gregg Popovich has never had the most athletic rosters over the course of his legendary career, which has unfortunately contributed to his club being labeled ‘boring’ with some of the mainstream media in the past.
True fans of the game appreciate the effectiveness of the Spurs’ system, whether it’s flashy or not. In the upcoming season, San Antonio has a good chance to be both devastatingly efficient and flashy at the same time, and one of the main reasons is 20-year-old Lonnie Walker IV.
Walker is not your typical Spur. At 6-foot-5, Walker has demonstrated an astounding athletic ability and quickness that Spurs fans aren’t quite accustomed to seeing in the silver and black. While it’s still too early to know for sure, Lonnie may very well be the most naturally athletic player the Spurs have had in the last 20-plus years. When is the last time you’ve seen a Spur cause this sort of reaction from an opposing team’s bench?
Granted, Walker wasn’t able to convert on this particular drive, but it’s tough to recall someone on a Spurs roster in recent years showing the hops the young guard demonstrated here.
While athleticism is certainly important in today’s game, Popovich needs to see more than that from Lonnie in order for him to get significant minutes this season. Here are a few things we can expect and hope for when it comes to the up-and-coming Lonnie Walker IV.
Next: Harnessing his athleticism
Harnessing his athletic ability
As we’ve established, Walker can jump out of the gym in a heartbeat, especially in the open court. The young core of Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, and Lonnie is guaranteed to provide explosive highlights that will thrill Spurs fans and teammates alike. Meanwhile, Coach Popovich will be on the sidelines likely either yawning or yelling at his team to get back on defense.
Pure insane jumping ability on its own has never been something that impresses Popovich any more than a free throw would. If being able to defy gravity was at the top of Pop’s list, then James White might have had quite a different career in San Antonio.
For Walker to establish himself as a regular in the rotation, he is going to have to use his athletic abilities on both ends of the court. As Air Alamo’s own Dylan Carter detailed, Walker’s leaping ability should make him more of a menace on the boards if he picks his spots correctly – something that Murray does exceptionally well.
To take it one step further, Lonnie has the potential to excel defensively using his athleticism and wingspan if he can learn to play within himself and know when and when not to gamble for the big play. With a 6’10” wingspan, Walker should also be able to contest shots on a regular basis and get some more blocks off of weakside help using his athleticism.
Gregg Popovich is the perfect coach for such untapped talent, and I would expect a big leap in Walker’s ability to play within himself this season, while also being explosive on the court.
Next: Playmaking & Defense
Being more of a playmaker
Coming off an incredible summer, Lonnie Walker is bound to begin drawing more attention from defenses as he becomes more aggressive this season. In his two summer league appearances in Utah and Las Vegas, while increasingly drawing more attention from defenders, Walker put up over 24 points per game while shooting a blistering 55 percent from the field.
While the Spurs should consistently have their fair share of ball-handlers on the court, Walker should look to model his approach to the game the way DeMar DeRozan does and also act as a facilitator when he can. DeMar used the defensive attention he received to average a career-high in assists last season.
Of course, Lonnie won’t be drawing nearly the attention DeMar does on a daily basis. However, his quickness and court vision should amount to him having similar success over time as he grows as a player.
Creating opportunities in the open court
Lonnie Walker IV has a huge opportunity to make some noise on the defensive end this season. Not only does he possess the natural abilities to make him a better defender, but he will also have a better defensive lineup to work with.
Murray possesses defensive skills rarely seen for someone his age. Derrick White also improved by leaps and bounds on that end of the court. DeMar DeRozan is no slouch either when it comes to getting deflections on defense.
Along with fellow teammates, Lonnie will have the chance to continue to learn defensive fundamentals from Popovich and a certain assistant coach that happens to have eight NBA All-Defensive First Team selections under his belt.
Lonnie knows he must play good defense to work his way into the rotation. When given the opportunity, I expect him to do just that.