During summer league, Lonnie Walker IV was impressive. His one-on-one scoring ability, specifically, was special. He routinely found open spots utilizing his otherworldly athleticism and was able to connect from all angles. Walker’s pull-up jumpers were nearly automatic and he finished really well at the rim.
The 20-year-old’s domination at summer league was great to see after Walker’s somewhat pedestrian showing with the Austin Spurs in the G League last season. He had his moments but, overall, he was underwhelming.
Lonnie Walker IV G League Experience
Austin had a disappointing 20-30 record a season after winning the G League championship. Walker never exhibited an ability to lift the team to wins, as they were just 10-19 in the 29 games he played at the lower level. In fact, Austin was slightly better (based on point differential) when Walker was on the bench.
Statistically, Walker didn’t especially stand out. He averaged 16.6 points in 27.3 minutes per game. His shooting percentages weren’t exceptional: 43.9% from the field and 35.8% on threes.
In the games I watched, Walker wasn’t active unless the ball was in his hands. His defensive intensity waned and there was little evidence he was helping his teammates on either end.
Truthfully, though, it was understandable that Walker was tentative to begin the season in Austin after undergoing meniscus surgery in the preseason. Early on, it was clear that he was favoring his knee, particularly when jumping and landing in a crowd.
Lonnie Walker IV 2019-20 NBA Projections
I built a statistical model to predict Walker’s NBA stats next season. The model looks at the production from Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, Kyle Anderson, Jonathon Simmons and Cory Joseph in their final season as a G League regular and compares it to how those players performed in their first season as an NBA regular.
Here are the stats the model predicts Walker will post next season in the NBA compared to the actual stats posted last season by San Antonio’s guards. All numbers are on a per 36 minutes basis.
Scoring-wise, Walker’s translation looks decent. And his projected turnover rate is extraordinarily low.
On the other hand, though, the remaining numbers aren’t too exciting. Walker’s two-point percentage is low and the model sees him as a low volume, low accuracy three-point shooter. His free throw, rebounding and shot-blocking rates hover around Patty Mills’ level, which is quite disappointing for a 6-foot-5 uber athlete.
All in all, the model sees Walker as a slightly better scorer than White who will hardly ever turn over the ball but won’t notably impact the game anywhere else in a positive manner.
Reasons To Believe Lonnie Walker IV Can Beat The Projected Stats
It’d be foolish to write off Walker’s potential due to the above projections. Firstly, as mentioned, he wasn’t completely confident after he went under the knife. In fact, the Spurs might have been telling him to avoid undue stress on his surgically repaired knee.
Secondly and perhaps most importantly, he’s younger than any of the players used in the model. Joseph was the closest but he was a couple years older and needed two years in Austin. Simmons was about six years older, so it makes sense that he didn’t have much remaining upside. After limited action in college and a rookie campaign interrupted by injury, Walker could be at the very beginning of his growth curve as a player.
Third of all, his summer league play was a sign of accelerated growth. The ease of his scoring was drastically better than what we witnessed last year, even at the G League level.
And finally, he’s the type of player who is suited for the NBA. While a players like Anderson or Forbes has questionable athleticism when considering the translation of their game to the NBA, Walker is obviously an NBA athlete. There’s no worry that he’ll fail to thrive as a pro due to a lack of athleticism.
Based on stats alone, Walker isn’t clearly ready for the NBA. In fact, the numbers indicate he’s likely the sixth best guard on the roster.
But factoring in the immeasurables and observing what he did during summer league, it’s appropriate to say Walker is an intriguing prospect who deserves a chance to cement himself a place in the rotation.