Lonnie Walker IV is next in line for the San Antonio Spurs’ scoring load

Dec 1, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) passes the ball during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 1, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) passes the ball during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Antonio Spurs have key players who could be on the outs this offseason, opening a path for Lonnie Walker IV to blossom as a scorer.

There’s a pathway for San Antonio Spurs wing Lonnie Walker IV to become the vehicle with which his team operates its offense. For some, that may seem like a far reach from what Walker showcased in his sophomore season. Averaging 6.4 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field doesn’t necessarily shout “leading scorer,” but numbers are meaningless without context.

During his second season as a pro and first as a full-time rotation player, Walker forced the coaching staff’s hand. His talent went far beyond what he showcased in garbage-time minutes and with the Austin Spurs in the G League. 2018’s No. 18 overall pick only slipped in the standings due to injury concerns as his talent made him worthy of a mid-to-late lottery pick without question.

Walker became increasingly comfortable with spurts of greatness throughout the season. Anyone who paid close attention to the San Antonio Spurs knows they have something special in Lonnie, whose work ethic and moral character align excellently with team culture. There’s evidence to suggest that San Antonio is better off when Walker is in a more commanding role as a volume scorer and creative shot-maker.

Beyond that, Walker’s unruly athleticism and verticality help him see the game differently, leading to defensive shifts that open up shots for teammates. Walker’s begun to tap into his ability as a passer, which will be influential in the eventual shift that sees him in a prominent scoring role.

.@lonniewalker_4 getting that work in ?

(via @dismayne) pic.twitter.com/ZFCo27tB9i

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 22, 2020

Lonnie Walker IV can fill a hole if DeMar DeRozan leaves the San Antonio Spurs.

There’s a growing belief that wing/forward DeMar DeRozan will seek new opportunities outside of San Antonio, leaving the team to fill a significant role that led this group in scoring. If that ends up being the case, it’s more than likely that we’ll see a significant uptick in responsibilities and shot attempts for Lonnie Walker IV.

From the jump, Walker would be in line to start for the silver and black at small forward, where DeRozan started most of the year. With Walker on the floor, the Spurs’ offense improved by two points per 100 possessions, which goes a long way for a team so focused on scoring all year long.

Beyond that, Walker’s become increasingly more comfortable taking over ball-handling abilities and playing in halfcourt settings. He adds a dimension of quickness and explosiveness that San Antonio has sorely lacked over recent years. Walker can snag a rebound and score on the other side of the floor in the blink of an eye, but he’s also learning to facilitate the offense.

The 32-39 San Antonio Spurs were 7-4 when @lonniewalker_4 took at least 10 shots and 5-0 when he took at least five triples ? #LetLonnieCook #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/9O8HJpWV9K

— Dylan Hunter Carter (@DylanHCarter) October 24, 2020

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Walker’s passing improved significantly over the course of the season, learning to leverage his athleticism and natural scoring talent into better looks for his teammates. Between his pick-and-roll passing, facilitating in the open court and kick-outs off of cuts to the basket, Walker can fulfill a decent portion of DeRozan’s passing duties should the former All-Star move on from San Antonio.

From a pure scoring perspective, Walker has all of the tools to be a 20+ point-per-game scorer in the pros. A 40.6 percent 3-point shooter, Walker can create his own looks from deep or find them within the flow of San Antonio’s offense. Using his ball-handling ability and shifty motions, Walker can get to the basket against most opponents. His finishing needs work, but repetitions should help him take advantage of his chances at the rim.

Shot creation is the ability that set Walker apart dating back to his days at Miami. Using his bounce and fluid jumper, Walker does a fantastic job of getting to his spots and creating separation for good looks at the basket. When you combine these tools with a heavier workload and the strategic integration that coach Gregg Popovich brings to the table, Walker has a chance to blast off.

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Don’t be too surprised if Lonnie becomes the San Antonio Spurs’ next All-Star.