When I think of the best defenders on the Spurs this season, the first names that come to mind are Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Devin Vassell, and Jakob Poeltl. That's why one particular play in the second quarter against the LA Clippers was a welcome sight.
While he struggled from the floor offensively, Walker had a flash of defensive excellence on this possession against MVP candidate Paul George.
While Tre Jones was ultimately credited with the steal and was also important in the play, the way Lonnie moved his feet while guarding George was exceptional.
Cutting off the initial drive and staying right in Paul's space as he backed up, he forces another clumsy drive right that ended up in a turnover and two fast break points the other way.
Consistent defense would do wonders for Lonnie Walker
As it stands, Lonnie Walker isn't doing much to increase his value in a contract year. His points per game are down, his shooting percentages are down, and he's not making up for those things with consistent defense.
If Lonnie can become more effective as a defender on a nightly basis, he could establish himself as a 3-and-D type that's so coveted in the NBA nowadays. His defense against George above shows he has the lateral quickness and discipline, but these kinds of plays are way too few and far between for a fourth-year player.
The good news is Lonnie is being more active in the passing lanes, averaging a career-best 1.2 steals per 36 minutes. If he can build on that while also improving his on-ball defense to be more consistent, Walker can start to salvage his slow start to the 2021-22 season.