San Antonio Spurs: Lonnie Walker looks ripped and ready to play

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 08: Lonnie Walker IV #1 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on in the first half against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on February 08, 2020 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 08: Lonnie Walker IV #1 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on in the first half against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on February 08, 2020 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Lonnie Walker has a great chance to break out for the San Antonio Spurs

As the San Antonio Spurs inch closer to taking the floor in Orlando, a lot of the buzz around the team has been focused on the hunger and eagerness expressed by the young Spurs to get back to playing again.

Of the teams on the fringe of the Western Conference playoffs, most have solid young cores to build around. With the Portland Trail Blazers as the lone exception, every team on the edge of the playoffs in the West should have a good idea of which of their players they’re going to build around for the next few years. But for the San Antonio Spurs, the answer to that question is a bit murkier.

While other young stars like Ja Morant and De’Aaron Fox have had the keys to their respective offenses since they joined their teams, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White have had to share their duties with a cast of other players. Meanwhile, Lonnie Walker was buried so deep in the rotation for stretches of the season that Spurs fans would go games without seeing him play meaningful minutes.

Walker did begin to carve out a role towards the end of the season. It wasn’t the starting role we’re all hoping that he can take over soon but it was a step in the right direction. He’s got plenty of room to grow but Walker has true star potential.

Lonnie’s got a great chance to carve out a potential starting role over these next few games. He’s clearly been taking the opportunity seriously, the San Antonio Spurs exciting young wing showed up to mini-camp in Orlando looking swole, he’s certainly put on some weight. But now what can he do with it?

Lonnie Walker can use his size to help the San Antonio Spurs on both ends

We’ve seen several NBA players come out of quarantine looking even more fit than before. James Harden and Carmelo Anthony look like they’ve shed some weight while others such as Zion Williamson and Lonnie Walker look like they’ve packed on several pounds of muscle.

This man is coming for necks in the bubble ?? rest of the league better watch out #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/Nbw2pTPLk7

— Air Alamo (@AirAlamo) July 12, 2020

Walker wasn’t undersized before by any means but that added muscle should open up some interesting possibilities for him over the next few games. He doesn’t have to drastically change anything, but experimenting with what he can do with some added strength can help give him an idea of what to work on before next season.

On offense, it would be nice to see Lonnie try to get to the line a bit more than he has so far. He’s proven that he can knock down open jumpers and get to the rim with relative ease, but he’s not racking up the free throw attempts you hope to see from a slasher like him.

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Over his two years in the league, Walker has gotten to the charity stripe just 3.4 times per 100 possessions. Look around the league at some of the best shooting guards and you’ll see most of them getting to the line somewhere between 6 to 10 times per 100 possessions. That can be dependant on their preferred style of play, James Harden is obviously on the far upper end of the spectrum, but by and large, you’ll see all of them getting to the line far more frequently than Walker is.

Walker doesn’t have to turn into the second coming of Harden over these next few games but it’ll be interesting to see if he looks for contact more often now than he did before. He is just a 73 percent free shooter so not exactly the guy who should be hunting for free throw attempts but still, let’s see Lonnie throw his weight around a little bit.

On defense, the Spurs should push Walker to guard players a bit bigger than himself on a regular basis. He played small forward for 80 percent of his minutes this year and the Spurs long term plan could have him dominating that position for much of the next ten years.

Even with the added muscle, Walker is still giving up some size on guys like Jimmy Butler, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum. He’s going to have to get used to guarding bigger guys but the added muscle will certainly help level the playing field. Match him up on the opposing teams most physical player and see how he handles it.

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Lonnie Walker was already the most physically gifted player on the San Antonio Spurs, the added muscle should only help him continue to use his natural athleticism to terrorize other teams in transition. The bigger task will be seeing if he can harness it into half-court sets and defense. All things to watch over the next few weeks.

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