San Antonio Spurs: Can Lonnie Walker IV make a big leap in 2019-20?

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JULY 1: Lonnie Walker IV #1 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball during the game against Malik Newman #14 of the Cleveland Cavaliers (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JULY 1: Lonnie Walker IV #1 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball during the game against Malik Newman #14 of the Cleveland Cavaliers (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Lonnie Walker IV is unquestionably one of the most exciting San Antonio Spurs prospects in recent memory. But can he capitalize on all of that athleticism and potential in his second season with the Spurs?

On April 3rd of 2019 Lonnie Walker IV almost singlehandedly destroyed the Pepsi Center. In a late-season game against the Denver Nuggets, the bouncy San Antonio Spurs rookie took flight. Fully intent on destroying the rim, Walker exploded upward with only one player between him and one of the dunks of the season.

At the last minute Walker opted-out of the dunk, deciding instead to attempt a finger roll that bounced off the back rim. Even without the finish, the display of raw athleticism had the Denver Nuggets bench stunned.

The sequence was brief but it summarized Walker’s rookie season well. Plenty of displays of the raw potential that has Spurs fans salivating. But missing the polish and finish that will turn Walker from a prospect into a star. Now in his second year with the Spurs, Walker is ready to show everyone that he’s more than just a high-flyer.

The first signs that Lonnie was ready to take a leap this season came in Summer League. In his second summer playing for the Spurs, Walker exceeded expectations. Second-year players typically have an edge over rookies in these summer competitions. They’ve just come from a full year of professional play and have access to superior coaching and strength programs.

Even still, Walker’s summer league play was phenomenal. He showed off an improved touch from deep, a variety of acrobatic finishes around the rim, and was a terror in transition.

Walker’s talent has never been in question, it’s always been about opportunity. As was to be expected of a Spurs rookie he spent much of his first season with the Austin Spurs. Now in his second season, his path to more playing time is crowded.

In order to show off his abilities, Walker will have to first convince the coaching staff to play him over established pros like Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills, and Marco Belinelli. His easiest route to the starting lineup is to show consistency as a three-point shooter and defender.

?☔️ @lonniewalker_4

— George Langberg (@GeorgeLangberg) July 30, 2019

He’s already shown off an improved three-point stroke. Lonnie was never a bad shooter by any means. He shot 35 percent from deep in college and 36 percent in his rookie season.  Again, it’s about moderate improvement but focusing on consistency. If he can become a near 40 percent shooter from behind the arc it will be near impossible for the coaches not to play him.

But Mills and Forbes are already good shooters. What will set Walker apart from any other Spurs player standing in his path to more playing time will be if he can harness his otherworldly athleticism and turn it into defensive production.

Blessed with a lightning-quick first step and pogo sticks for legs, Walker will have no trouble keeping up with the some of the fastest players in the league. Combine that with his 6’10 wingspan and you have a player who can truly be a disruptor on the defensive end.

San Antonio already has two of the best defensive guards in the league in Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. If Walker can elevate his game to their level it will go a long way towards helping the Spurs shut down opposing backcourts on a nightly basis.

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Walker has all the makings of a future star. He’s both a phenomenal basketball player and an exceptional young man. If he can get consistent playing time in his second season he will undoubtedly take the leap he’s capable of.