The signing of free agent Lonnie Walker IV was an underrated move by the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office as they looked to rebuild their roster.
The Los Angeles Lakers front office has had a distinctly different approach this offseason.
NBA Champions in 2020, the Lakers followed this up with a decidedly up-and-down season that resulted in a first-round playoff exit. As a result, the team hierarchy decided to go all-in with an assortment of veterans, headlined by the blockbuster deal that saw them land nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook. And while a variety of injuries took their toll, the makeup of the roster ultimately proved to be completely lopsided.
NBA Free Agency: Lonnie Walker IV is perfect for the Los Angeles Lakers
Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard, and Wayne Ellington were all signed to one-year deals last summer, of which none at this stage have been offered a contract for the 2022-23 season.
Fast forward to the present, and Vice President of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka has come armed with a completely new mindset. Instead, the front office has focused on young, up-and-coming players to fill out key spots in their rotation. Thus far, the most prominent name among the signings has been Lonnie Walker IV.
The 18th overall pick in 2018, Walker IV has played all four seasons and 208 career games thus far with the San Antonio Spurs. Following a two-season initiation into the league where he averaged just 14.2 minutes per game, over the ensuing two seasons, Walker demonstrated some of the qualities that tantalized the Spurs.
An elite athlete, Walker IV has already competed with a number of wings on the Spurs roster for consistent playing time and production. Since his arrival, the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White, Marco Belinelli, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, and Josh Richardson have been in direct competition with the 6’4″ swingman at both the two and three spots.
An unrestricted free agent, the Lakers’ top brass were clearly aware of just what Walker IV has been able to produce when provided sufficient playing time. As an example, here’s a breakdown of Walker IV’s production when playing at least 30 minutes over the past three seasons:
Walker when playing 30-plus minutes:
’19-20: Four games, 18.3 points per game, 42.9 field goal percentage
’20-21: 16 games, 18.2 points per game, 46.9 field goal percentage
’21-22: Seven games, 22.4 points per game, 53.2 field goal percentage
Additionally, Walker IV’s proficiency from long distance was also a standout when afforded an increase in playing time. Overall last season, Walker shot at an anemic 31.4 percent clip overall from three-point range on 5.0 attempts per game.
However, this skyrocketed to 43.1 percent on 7.3 attempts per game when playing at least 30 minutes. In fact, Walker has shot 43.0 percent from long range over the past three seasons on 6.6 attempts when his playing time reaches the 30-minute mark.
Furthermore, it’s on the defensive end that Walker IV can assist the Lakers immensely, as he recently explained:
Armed with a 6’9″ wingspan, Walker certainly comes equipped with the necessary tools to assist a Lakers defense that finished 21st last season in defensive rating. Per his scouting report on the reputable Draft Express:
“Has outstanding physical tools. Big, strong frame. Ample height for a shooting guard. Big wingspan that should allow him to even guard some small forwards.”
Signed to a one-year, $6.5 million deal, the starting shooting guard spot is there for the taking given the sizeable roster shakeup this summer. Having shown glimpses of what he’s capable of when given a larger role, the Los Angeles Lakers and Lonnie Walker IV partnership is one that would well extend his current contractual status.