San Antonio Spurs: The path to a breakout is in sight for Lonnie Walker IV

Dec 1, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) goes up for a shot against Detroit Pistons guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (19) during the fourth quarter at Little Caesars Arena. (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Dec 1, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) goes up for a shot against Detroit Pistons guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (19) during the fourth quarter at Little Caesars Arena. (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
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With San Antonio Spurs teammates banged up to start the year, Lonnie Walker IV has an incredible opportunity ahead of him.

Somehow, someway, the San Antonio Spurs are already fending off injuries to begin their 2020-21 NBA season — Go figure. This team has the depth and perseverance to carry on without their squad at full capacity, but someone has to step up.

Enter Lonnie Walker IV, whose gradual yet sincere progression remains one of the biggest talking points in the Spurs Twittersphere. Walker’s dealing with some back spasms right now that have limited him from contact practices, but that won’t stop the Skywalker. Some of his other Spurs teammates, namely Keldon Johnson and Derrick White, are dealing with injuries of their own.

A lower back issue has prevented Lonnie Walker from participating in group practices. "He woke up three, four days ago and he had back spasms," Pop said. "It's gotten better each day, so I'm expecting by tomorrow or the next day, he'll be back with us." #Spurs

— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) December 7, 2020

Let’s presume that Walker is good to go to begin the year but White and Keldon aren’t. That would open up significant space in the rotation that could swing in favor of the team’s veterans.

But, if head coach Gregg Popovich’s Orlando restart approach is any indication of his intention for this team, emerging talent is going to take precedence over those who are over the hill of their NBA careers.

Therefore, Walker may begin his season with a significant uptick in minutes like Derrick White had during his second season in silver and black. With more minutes and most likely a starting spot, Walker has a chance to take the league by storm in the early going.

By the time this season begins, Walker will be 22 years old with two seasons of NBA experience under his belt. The kid from Reading, PA has flourished into a man with aspirations of being the focal point of an NBA offense while giving back to the community that groomed him to channel his inner competitive spirit and perseverance. Trust isn’t just earned and established with Popovich — Walker has to continuously prove himself, but now might be his time.

In the long-run, this could be exactly what the team needs. San Antonio’s winning percentage was 63.6 percent when Walker took at least 10 shots last season. For reference, the San Antonio Spurs’ winning percentage was 45.1 percent in the 2019-20 season overall.

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The Orlando restart exposed Walker’s flaws as well as it highlighted his strengths. He averaged 11.3 points on 40 percent shooting in 27.6 minutes per game during the restart. Walker shot the ball exceptionally well, draining 40 percent of 3.8 triples per contest, but he couldn’t finish at the rim to save his life.

Walker barely took time off after the Spurs were eliminated from playoff contention, putting in the hours to hone his craft and ascend in the NBA ranks. With a strong support system in his Spurs family and blossoming confidence in tow, Walker joined Jrue Holiday and NBA trainers for an intensive regimen in his free time.

With a weakened lineup to begin the year, it seems like Lonnie might get the chance to show off everything that he worked on. We’ve seen Walker dominate segments of a game and become the driving force in Spurs victories, providing a glimpse into the player who he could become. Not every player is Luka Doncic or Ja Morant, who enter the league and figure it out immediately. As a matter of fact, that’s more of an oddity than a consistent theme.

Next. Expectations for every San Antonio Spurs starter

Not only has Lonnie lived an NBA life for two seasons, but he’s gotten significantly better in the process. Don’t be surprised if the San Antonio Spurs deploy a heavy dose of Lonnie Walker as the team scraps its way back into the playoff conversation.

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