San Antonio Spurs: Ranking the Top 5 guys likely to take the big leap

Keldon Johnson, Dejounte Murray
Keldon Johnson, Dejounte Murray / Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
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San Antonio Spurs
Lonnie Walker IV / Elsa/Getty Images

2. Is Lonnie Walker IV a Sixth Man of the Year candidate?

Being a starter isn’t always as glamorous as it may seem. For many players, leading a second unit offers a chance to flourish within a team concept that wouldn’t otherwise cater to their playstyles. That’s why Lonnie Walker IV is one of San Antonio’s most prevalent breakout candidates heading into a new season.

All summer, Walker documented his three-a-day workouts with personal trainers, coaches, other NBA players, and Spurs personnel. Now eligible for a contract extension ahead of restricted free agency in 2022, Walker has all the motivation and opportunity to showcase his skills for the upstart San Antonio Spurs.

To this point, Walker is a polarizing player whose potential oftentimes overshadows his current-day output. His effective field goal percentage and true shooting have improved over each of his first three seasons as his shot volume increased. Walker was relegated to a spark plug role without many opportunities to guide the offense himself earlier in his career, but with DeRozan gone and a second-unit in need of a leader, now is Lonnie’s chance to set fire to the league.

Up to this point in his career, Walker has walked the line between a streaky wing in the middle of a rotation and a powerful offensive force who can shoot, drive, and pass succinctly. That fluctuation has been the crux of his career path, and while his base level of talent will keep him in the NBA, Lonnie needs to put it together on a consistent basis if he wants to be taken seriously as a player with All-Star potential.

At only 22-year-old, Walker may be on the cusp of dipping his feet into the pond of NBA stardom this upcoming season. Is he going to become a Hall of Famer for the Spurs after such a frantic start? Well, that’s up to Lonnie, the Spurs coaching staff, and fate, but he seems to be up for the task ahead.

The Spurs’ expected starting lineup for this upcoming season does not include the pride of Reading, Pennsylvania, and while that may come as a shot to the ego of many players across the league, Walker knows how important that role is in San Antonio. As Manu Ginobili joins the team as a special advisor and jack of all trades, Walker has a mentor who can guide him in the art of being the Spurs’ guiding force off the bench.

If he runs with the opportunity, Walker will put himself in contention for a Sixth Man of the Year Awards alongside a Most Improved Player bid.

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