It's been hard to pinpoint one exact reason the talented shooting guard hasn't been able to maintain his focus for extended periods. On some nights, he's the most passive player on the court. Other nights, he scores 20 points on 15 attempts.
The biggest on-court issue with Walker all season long has been his jump shot betraying him. This is his worst season shooting the ball since becoming an established rotation player both overall and from beyond the arc. Considering he shot 37% from the 3-point line over his first three seasons, having a mark of 29.4% through 54 games is a pretty significant dropoff.
Still, Lonnie will have stretches where he looks like one of the best players on the court for three or four games in a row.
This summer, the Spurs' front office will have a big decision to make about Walker as they look to have a huge summer full of upgrades moves.
What are the San Antonio Spurs' options with Lonnie Walker?
This summer, Walker's cap hold on the team will be $13.3 million unless he signs a deal with another team or accepts a qualifying offer from San Antonio. Per Spotrac, that offer amounts to roughly $6.3 million.
Back in January, our own Cal Durrett predicted a potential contract from the Spurs to Lonnie being somewhere around a three-year deal between 24 and 27 million dollars. Since then, Walker's value may have gone down even further despite his recent surge after the trade deadline. After all, Jakob Poeltl is arguably the second-best player on the team and is currently on a three-year, $27 million deal.
Why letting go of Lonnie Walker might be too tempting to pass up
According to ESPN's Bobby Marks in his recent column (subscription required), there are now five teams with projected cap space heading into the 2022 offseason:
- Orlando Magic: $26 million
- Detroit Pistons: $23 million
- Indiana Pacers: $23 million
- Portland Trail Blazers: $21 million
- San Antonio Spurs: $17 million
As Marks states, that figure for the Spurs could skyrocket to $30 million if Lonnie Walker isn't brought back next season.
Keith Smith of Spotrac has similar figures for these five teams but predicted a few additional moves to be made by them to increase some cap space. Here's what his breakdown shows:
- Detroit Pistons: $31.4 million
- Orlando Magic: $28.1 million
- Indiana Pacers: $23.8 million
- Portland Trail Blazers: $20 million
- San Antonio Spurs: $17.6 million
According to Smith, the acquisitions of Romeo Langford, Josh Richardson, and the two 1st round picks brought the Spurs' figure to this point, but moving on from Walker would put them right up there with Detroit for the most cap space this summer.
In looking at what Spurs GM Brian Wright did at the trade deadline by moving beloved Spur Derrick White and fielding calls for Jakob Poeltl, I don't think he'd have any issues with letting Walker go at this point. In fact, given the cap space San Antonio would have in doing so, it would be a surprise if he didn't.
Even if he shows out for the last 20+ games of the regular season, I wouldn't be shocked if the writing is already on the wall for Lonnie Walker.