We are keeping our Lucky Lotería Month on Air Alamo rolling as the San Antonio Spurs wait to learn their positioning in the 2023 NBA Draft, and that means we are diving into another lottery prospect profile to help fans learn more about some of the best players in this class not named Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson.
Cam Whitmore was the under the microscope on Monday, and we have a second straight talented teenage forward on the docket. Although Jarace Walker lacks the scoring upside the Silver and Black might be looking for, he possesses immense two-way upside that could entice the front office into gambling on his long-term outlook.
Jarace Walker holds most of his value on the defensive end of the court, but he should have no trouble fitting into a niche as a predominantly off-ball threat in the NBA. He ranked in the 73rd percentile and shot 30-of-41 (73.2%) on cuts, using his remarkable feel to find holes in the defense and divebomb the hoop for uncontested looks when his man fell asleep.
The 19-year-old is also a viable option when stationed at the dunker spot, with the soft hands to snag sharp passes and the muscle to shed smaller defenders with a single power dribble before going up for a layup or dunk. He is a lob target from both the short corner and in transition, capitalizing for easy buckets when his teammates command extra attention.
Though his rebounding numbers may not jump off the stat sheet, Walker is an excellent rebounder for his size, cleaning the glass for 2.1 offensive boards per game and generating second-chance opportunities. His nose for the ball leads to extra possessions as he kicks it back out to reset the offense, and he can throw down putback slams and timely tip-ins.
Despite middling efficiency on low volume as a roll man in his lone season at Houston, Walker might have some upside in this area. His massive build and broad shoulders are perfect for setting devastating screens, he made 66.7% of his shots at the basket, and it would be worth it for the team that drafts him to test his capacity as the big in pick-and-roll actions.
Jarace could also become a functional pick-and-pop outlet if his standstill shooting improves. He only nailed 34.7% of his 93 catch-and-shoot three-point attempts, but his shot preparation looked sound. While his release is a little slow and comes with a slight backward lean, he was accurate from the corners and made noticeable strides as the year progressed.
He should be dangerous running dribble handoffs. Walker showed a sixth sense for reading defenders and knowing when to keep the ball or attack the tin if there was a miscommunication. His opportunistic scoring allows him to rack up points within the natural flow of the offense without having a coaching staff draw up plays to get him open.
But the freshman forward struggled to make much noise when driving off the catch due to his average burst, so-so handle, and inability to separate from defenders. Fellow frontcourt players knocked him off course with no issue, and he often found himself traveling or stranded in the midrange as he failed to decelerate smoothly or killed his dribble too early.
Walker was an extraordinary finisher when he had space to rise above the rim. However, he was strikingly ineffective on his more grounded attempts in the half-court, shooting 40.6% on layups. Though he flashed touch on a handful of floaters and runners, he leaned on them too much as a counter when opponents cut him off inside the paint.
The former Cougar lacks juice as a self-creator. His precarious handle and shaky footwork stop him from getting to the rim, and he looks off-balance on most of his pull-up jumpers. Nonetheless, Walker displayed a knack for punishing mismatches down low and a budding back-to-the-basket game consisting of drop steps and feathery hooks over his left shoulder.
Perhaps his most promising feature is his potential as a connective tissue playmaker. Jarace maintains the advantages his teammates produce and connects with open shooters on the short roll. He is decisive and precise on the move, whipping crosscourt skips, finding bigs with shovel passes, hitting cutters in stride, and tossing pinpoint high-low deliveries.