Lakers Season Preview: Can Lonnie Walker IV grow his recreation?

Welcome to our Lakers Season Preview Series! For the following a number of weeks, we’ll be writing columns each weekday, breaking down the most important questions we’ve about each participant the Lakers added this offseason. Today, we check out Lonnie Walker IV.

After purging all however two gamers from their 2020 Championship-winning roster, and returning simply 5 from final season, the Lakers will enter the 2022-23 season with one other roster that has extra new gamers than returners. Through free company and one commerce, they restocked their depth within the entrance and backcourts, however have maintained a relative deficit of veritable contributors on the wing, sharply contrasting with the roster they rolled into 2019-20 with.

In competitors for these minutes are a trio of free agent signings seeking to transcend their standing as low-minute mop-up males. Despite his presence on the reigning champs, Juan Toscano-Anderson’s function on the Warriors was restricted to nearly completely rubbish time all through the playoffs. Troy Brown Jr. spent his season matched up in opposition to opposing second models on a simply above .500 Bulls crew. And lastly, Lonnie Walker IV noticed his minutes fluctuate all through his fourth NBA season, all on the Spurs, as he struggled to shine amongst Gregg Popovich’s favored children.

Watching Lonnie Walker IV play for the Spurs was a irritating expertise.

In one second, he’d do one thing that may give a viewer cause to consider he was sure for perennial superstardom earlier than nearly disappearing for dozens of minutes at a time. If the Lakers can extract and construct upon what makes him look so particular from time to time, they could have a better-than-average function participant on their fingers this season, or perhaps a new child Laker to construct round if he exhibits some main strides and so they determine to re-up with him this offseason.

What is his best-case situation?

As a strong self-creator and above-average finisher across the rim, the Lakers’ sole free agent signing of this offseason for above the veteran’s minimal could be greatest served by taking up a playmaking function off the bench, serving to drive offense in opposition to opposing groups ‘ lesser defenders. And at simply 23 years outdated, the Lakers and Walker each should hope that he is solely scratched the floor of the place he is headed as an athlete and basketball participant. Some work with talent growth guru Phil Handy might go a good distance in direction of using extra of Walker’s elite athletic items than he has thus far in his profession.

Also, LeBron James might be able to weaponize Walker’s verticality by means of his preternatural court docket consciousness and precision passing in a manner Walker’s Spurs teammates by no means might, creating straightforward seems to be for Walker on the rim and past the arc. If they will develop an analogous chemistry to the one LeBron constructed with Malik Monk final season, Walker might preserve himself related by offering a burst of on the spot offense off the bench.

Last season, Walker shot simply 31.4% on threes, however had by no means shot beneath 35.5% in his three earlier campaigns. The Lakers will want him to be a dependable menace from downtown to be able to keep optimum spacing to take advantage of out of the league’s most potent inside menace in LeBron and Anthony Davis. A mere return to regular for Walker could be ok to maintain defenses sincere and preserve him playable, though an enchancment in direction of respectable marksmanship will surely be a welcome addition to the roster.

What is his worst-case situation?

The catch that comes with Walker’s admittedly electrical spotlight reel of high-flying dunks and clean step-backs is nearly all the things that occurs in between.

In every of his 4 full NBA seasons, Walker registered an F-grade in LEBRON (a catchall affect metric that appears at offense, protection, and all the things in between from the parents on the BBall Index). His mixture of athletic upside and age present ample cause for upside, however he is by no means been a genuinely good participant throughout his NBA profession thus far.

Aside from his strong ending and streaky capturing, Walker has not been in a position to contribute in a significant manner in some other space of ​​the sport. He’s an terrible defender, rebounder, and mediocre playmaker, leaving an ocean between what he is proven as a Spur and being a dependable contributor on a successful basketball crew.

The worst-case situation for Walker is that he exhibits no indicators of substantive enchancment early on within the season and spends the remainder of the yr on the bench.

The worst-case situation for the Lakers is that he exhibits no indicators of substantive enchancment, however the crew feels obliged to proceed feeding its latest Klutch Klient and midlevel exception signee main minutes regardless of a mountain of proof of his overwhelming ineptitude.

What is his most probably function on the crew?

With Talen Horton-Tucker gone (however not forgotten), Walker will probably be first in line for any and all on-ball developmental reps the Lakers can hand out within the much less significant moments of video games. Even if the crew is as aggressive because it hopes to be, there can be possibilities when video games get out of hand for Walker to go to work and exhibit no matter he is labored on this summer time.

If he shines, he might creep in direction of the highest half of the rotation and contend for a handful of shifts per recreation. Realistically, Walker will probably slot in because the rotation’s seventh or eighth man, getting roughly runs relying on how he seems to be on any given evening.

But with actual upside and the perspective of accountability he is demonstrated as a Laker, there is a small likelihood the membership’s discovered a diamond within the tough in Lonnie Walker IV.

Cooper is a lifelong Laker fan who has additionally lined the Yankees at SB Nation’s Pinstripe Alley — no, he isn’t additionally a Cowboys fan. You can hear him on the Lakers Multiverse Podcast and discover him on Twitter at @cooperhalpern.

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