San Antonio Spurs Lonnie Walker (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
2. The San Antonio Spurs have another driving playmaker
When Lonnie Walker first began getting more playing time in San Antonio, he needed a lot of work with his drives. He was often getting caught in the air, missing easy layups, and turning the ball over with indecisiveness.
Lonnie’s mistake-filled minutes led to Gregg Popovich not relying on him to play sufficient time and stunted his growth a bit as the Spurs tried to figure out what they had in him.
In this clip from last season, Lonnie attacks three Clippers defenders and misses a wide-open LaMarcus Aldridge waiting in the corner. Instead, he leaves his feet and forces an ill-advised pass out to DeRozan for a turnover.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/12/21/0021900436/407/5bb8e9e7-9815-fa79-3d96-8bdeaf693a12_1280x720.mp4
This type of play was frequent for Walker, which told me he was rarely in control of playing what the defense gave him, instead choosing to force his own play where there was none. This season, we’re seeing a Walker that’s much more adaptable to how defenses are playing him.
An earlier version of Lonnie likely would’ve forced up a tough floater here. Instead, he looks poised and in control on this excellent feed to Jakob Poeltl.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/04/12/0022000816/226/bd827aff-d41e-eb3e-6d0a-6ee2a28379ee_1280x720.mp4
As Project Spurs’ Paul Garcia displayed in his chart of Spurs with over 100 drives, Walker has a nice balance of getting shot attempts and passing to a teammate when he gets in the lane.
Spurs players with over 100 drives: pic.twitter.com/wX4eGenafy
— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) April 13, 2021
To make sure opponents don’t just sag off or crowd you at the line, you must be able to both drive and shoot, and Lonnie Walker is proving he can do both well.
Next: Effect No. 3