This question has been prevalent among the fan base since last offseason when Walker did not sign a contract extension heading into the final year of his rookie contract. It was a smart move for both him and the team. For Walker, it gave him an opportunity to showcase his skills in 2021-22 and have a chance to earn more money this summer.
For the Spurs, it allowed them to more closely evaluate what they have in Lonnie and make a smarter decision about paying him. A polarizing player, Lonnie Walker has shown glimpses of being an elite slashing scorer and shooter over his four years with San Antonio, but he hasn't been able to put it all together up to this point. After the results of this season, I think it's fair to say the team should go all-in on moving him.
Lonnie Walker Is Too Inconsistent
When you look at Lonnie Walker's on-court performance over the last six months, he was anything but consistent. This had been forgivable in years past due to his role, but it was especially disappointing this season. He was given his greatest chance to be a major wrinkle in the Spurs' offensive scheme since he was drafted and didn't quite live up to expectations.
With DeMar DeRozan departing the Alamo City last summer, it was assumed Walker could take on more of a scorer/distributor role off the bench with Derrick White sliding into the starting lineup at shooting guard to begin the year. The stars seemed to be aligning for Walker to be a lethal scoring threat with the second unit, and it appeared likely that he could boost his confidence by attacking without having to defer to DeRozan.
Some even saw Lonnie as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. After all, his unique blend of athleticism, body control, and three-level scoring ability can be a deadly punch when he's at the top of his game. But despite a seemingly good situation to showcase his talent, Walker struggled to put together a consistent season with the opportunities he was given.
Walker's Efficiency Took A Hit
Lonnie registered the highest usage percentage of his career at 23.6% in 2021-22 and yet shot his lowest percentage from three as a pro (31.4%). He had far too many inefficient outings, shooting below 30% from the field 19 times in games where he played at least 16 minutes. Per Cleaning The Glass, he ranked in the 21st percentile for points per shot attempt among wings. Walker's skill and athleticism still shone through on many occasions, but his inability to have much semblance of consistency should be a bit troubling.
Leading up to and following the 2022 NBA All-Star Break, Lonnie made a late-season surge where he put together several strong performances in a row. In a seven-game stretch, he scored 20 or more five times and shot 50% or better in six of the seven contests. This was a promising trend at the time, but unfortunately, he followed that up with a five-point dud in Charlotte and subsequently failed to reach 20 points in eight of his final 12 games.
It's no secret that Lonnie Walker is a volume scorer, and his effectiveness on the court is simply diluted when he's not making good decisions with the basketball and racking up misses. This has compounded the problem of Lonnie being a wild card on any given night. He's had a lot of fun and memorable moments in San Antonio, but it's becoming more apparent that the organization may be looking to move on.
Lonnie's Departure Could Open Doors
The Spurs would benefit greatly from allowing Walker to find a new home this summer. Lonnie will become an unrestricted free agent if San Antonio extends a qualifying offer to him (worth approx. $6.3 million). He would then have the choice to seek deals from other teams with the Spurs being able to match any offer he receives.
If the Spurs choose not to extend the qualifying offer or if Lonnie takes a deal elsewhere, it would have big implications on their cap space. Walker's cap hit is estimated at $13.3 million, and offloading him would allow the team to be aggressive in their pursuit of a star free agent in the offseason.
A draft night trade could always be in play as well. Spurs General Manager Brian Wright has been especially ambitious in 2022, so he wouldn't think twice about moving Lonnie if an opportunity presented itself.