Why Lonnie Walker is a big gamble for the Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers currently find themselves at a standstill in negotiations to acquire Kyrie Irving, adding more uncertainty to a team that already has a lot of questions. Considering the Lakers have limited options to improve their roster, it makes sense that they’d pursue Irving, but signing guard Lonnie Walker doesn’t. At least not yet.
On a 1-year, $6.5 million deal, there are definitely worse options than Walker, but he has been disappointing thus far in his career, even despite his obvious talent. So much so that the rebuilding San Antonio Spurs renounced their rights to him, which paved the way for the Lakers to sign him.
The Lakers have relied on these short deals in recent years to bring in veterans or sign talented, albeit unproven, players. Signing Walker is in line with that tradition but there are plenty of questions surrounding his fit in L.A.
Walker has the talent to be a game changer for the Los Angeles Lakers
Walker carved out a role as the Spurs’ sixth man over the last couple of seasons and averaged a terrific 12.1 points in just 23 minutes per game last year. Despite that, he was pretty inefficient. He shot 31.4% on five threes per game and settled for a lot of contested mid-range jumpers, which caused him to underutilize his outrageous athleticism. Apparently, the hope is that he’ll shoot better playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis there to draw attention away from him.
I’m skeptical since he’s a career 34.3% 3-point shooter, which is slightly below average. Then there’s his defense. Walker has all of the potential in the world but has yet to live up to it, and at this point, he probably is what he is. That’s a mediocre defender who can occasionally make a play or two on that end.
So, is Walker already a hopeless fit with the Los Angeles Lakers? Possibly, but playing in a different system might do him some good. We don’t know what the Lakers’ system will actually look like under new head coach Darvin Ham just yet, but it’s likely to be a James-heavy offense and he’s never played with a player like James.
Walker may also have a more defined role, rather than just being a microwave scorer, and having some parameters could do wonders for his offensive game.
Really, a lot of his offensive issues would be resolved if he cut down on the mid-range jumpers, shot better from three, and attacked the basket consistently. Those are realistic goals, and he did all three in the second half of last season. He was terrific, averaging 15.3 points on efficient shooting, but that may have been an aberration. The Spurs apparently thought so, at least.
If Walker continues that strong play next season, then he could be one of the best free agent signings and help the Lakers make the playoffs. If he can’t, then it would be yet another misstep by the Los Angeles Lakers front office. That’s the gamble.