Every team needs an engine through which it runs its offense, and for the last two seasons, the San Antonio Spurs leaned on DeMar DeRozan to fill that void. A talented isolation scorer who uses expert footwork to get quality looks from the mid-range and paint, DeRozan’s evolution as a primary facilitator ended up being the core factor that kept San Antonio afloat for three seasons.
Now that DeRozan is headed to the Windy City via sign-and-trade, the Spurs finally arrive at the forsaken basketball limbo that all franchises face at one time or another. They’re far from a championship contender, yet they possess enough talent to rise above the bottom of the barrel. Their next step is to focus on the internal growth of young talent while GM Brian Wright assesses the new opportunities available to the program.
The only way for San Antonio to maintain its competitiveness is for its young players to step forward in expanded roles. While most would look to Dejounte Murray or Derrick White as the elder statesman of the team's core to carry that workload, the Spurs' best option may also be their most volatile one.
Most commenters outside of Spurs faithful would laugh at the idea of Lonnie Walker IV filling the void left by DeRozan, but those who’ve watched his growth know there’s an underlying spark of brilliance to the 22-year-old’s game. Listed at 6-foot-4 with a wingspan roughly six inches longer, Walker is one of the game’s most dynamic young athletes with a scoring profile that perfectly suits the current direction of the league.
Classified as a ‘Movement Shooter’ by B-Ball Index, Walker is a secondary ball-handler who can buy a bucket at all three levels while adding high-intensity bursts of rim pressure when given a runway. Though he remains inconsistent as a finisher and mid-range shooter, Walker has no problem getting to his spots on the floor. He has a high point of release and plenty of bounce to shoot over the top of most defenders at his position.
In general, Walker has improved drastically as a 3-point shooter. Whether he’s using a screen, creating separation himself, or catching and shooting, Lonnie has no problem firing from deep. On top of that, Walker shows flashes of playmaking genius with awe-inspiring skip passes and wrap-arounds near the rim. Walker doesn't just leap — He laughs in the face of gravity, gliding through the air to deliver jaw-dropping passes or awe-inspiring dunks. The combination of his athleticism and playmaking are highly irregular for swingmen in his age range.
Now that DeRozan is gone, Walker has as good of a case as anyone to fill the gap and become the offensive weapon through which the Spurs’ offense flows.