The San Antonio Spurs need Lonnie Walker to reach his ceiling as a potential All-Star
Whether you like it or not, the San Antonio Spurs have never been a major free-agent destination. More often than not they’ve had to rely on drafting and developing their own talent in order to be successful. As important as their upcoming 11th overall pick is, continuing to help the guys they have in house right now is equally crucial.
This is the second installment in a series that we’re doing that will cover what a few of the members of the San Antonio Spurs young core need to do to help themselves, and their team, reach the next level. The first player we covered was Dejounte Murray, now it’s on to the next one.
Next up is Lonnie Walker IV – someone who quickly endeared himself to the San Antonio community. From the very beginning, Lonnie has made it a purpose to interact with Spurs fans by organizing meet and greets to being easily accessible on social media.
He has also spoken about real-life issues, including his personal traumatic experiences. Frankly, there are so many reasons to like him. Putting personal likability aside, Spurs fans are most intrigued by Lonnie’s star potential.
He didn’t get a ton of run in his first two years in the NBA but what we have seen has been enough to get us all excited. Before we dive into what Lonnie needs to do to get better, let’s take a quick look back at what he’s done already.
Next: Lonnie's first two years in the league
Looking back at Lonnie Walkers first two years with the San Antonio Spurs
Even though there has not been a large sample size during his first two years, Walker has shown flashes of All-Star level potential. He’s one of the most athletic players the San Antonio Spurs have had in quite some time but he needs to do a better job of harnessing that athleticism into helping the team on both ends of the floor.
Lonnies ability to push the pace and play fast and free benefits the Spurs mightily. He was often only given the freedom to do it for stretches at a time but you could just feel the energy raise when Walker goes into the game.
One thing that Walker really has going for him is his sweet shooting stroke from behind the arc. Players crack the Spurs rotation based on their attention to details and ability to play defense but it’s Lonnie’s 3-point shooting that will really take him to the next level. A 40 percent shooter from behind the arc, the threat of Walker as a deep threat, combined with Derrick White’s emergence as a dangerous shooter, opens up all sorts of lineup possibilities.
He did look lost at times, especially near the beginning of the year, but as time went on he gradually appeared more and more comfortable in the Spurs system. By the time the team took the court in Orlando, Lonnie looked like he was fully acclimated to the Spurs system and ready to take the league by storm.
With a concentrated effort on playing the young guys, the Orlando bubble showed us what Lonnie can do with consistent playing time. In the bubble Lonnie averaged 27 minutes per game, averaging 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 2.75 assists per game. Those aren’t terribly impressive numbers but anyone who has watched Walker over the past two years will tell you that he still has a lot of room to improve.
Lonnie definitely has the physical tools, skillset, and mindset to be among the league’s elite. In his own words, he’s “the true definition of different.”
Next: What does Lonnie need to do for All-Star consideration?
What does Lonnie have to improve on to make an All-Star Team
I’m currently rewatching The Last Dance and it is a trip down memory lane for those who grew up in the ’80s and 90’s NBA. Now, we are not comparing Lonnie to Michael Jordan’s or Scottie Pippen. But the series does bring to light several key points that apply to Lonnie’s ability to taking the necessary steps for improvement.
The first application is something so simple but is worth reiterating – put in the hard work. Despite being at an already sturdy frame of 204 lbs., Lonnie could stand to add a few more pounds of muscle. Just imagine Lonnie’s athleticism but with more muscle to push around defenders in the post or the ability to guard larger forwards if the Spurs deploy a small-ball lineup for next season.
In addition to adding muscle, Lonnie would greatly benefit from developing a go-to offensive move, and incorporating hesitation moves into this game. Lonnie already has a smooth jumper and confidence to pull up at any moment.
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However, he often plays at full speed which causes him to be off-balance and be easier to defend. Whether it’s learning to drain the clock or when the shot clock is winding down a go-to offensive move would help. The combination of a go-to move, extended shooting range, superior court vision, and added muscle would make Lonnie could be a rare specimen on offense.
Lastly, unleashing some nasty will help Lonnie reach the next level. Lonnie’s game and athleticism are reminiscent of Latrell Sprewell and Eddie Jones, both two-way players who always played hard and with an edge that helped them reach four and three All-Star games respectively.
Walker has the tools in his arsenal to reach the level of these two former players peaks, but what the Spurs need is what Coach Pop once asked for when he said “I want some nasty.” When Lonnie Walker unleashes that ruthless competitiveness Spurs fans will see a player on the cusp of joining the NBA’s elite.
He may not join the 2021 All-Star festivities as a player for Sunday’s game but he could easily partake in Saturday’s events as a member of the Slam Dunk competition.
Lonnie is already beloved by San Antonio Spurs fans. If he continues to put in the work, develops a go-to offensive move, and unleashes some nasty, it can be expected to see him average 18+ points per game, 5+ rebounds per game, 5+ assists per game, 2 steals per game which could lead him to perennial All-Star consideration.