The San Antonio Spurs have until 5 p.m. CT on Monday to come to an agreement with Lonnie Walker IV on a rookie contract extension. Prior to last season, Derrick White agreed to a four-year, $70 million extension. The year before that, Dejounte Murray signed a four-year, $64 million extension.
Should the Spurs make it three years in a row by signing Walker to an extension?
Walker unquestionably has a lot of untapped potential. Due to his blinding speed and electric leaping ability, he’s a fun player to watch who is brimming with a variety of different skills. The door is still wide open for him to one day become an effective and valuable basketball player. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that the 22-year-old hasn’t shown enough in his three years in the league to justify giving him a contract extension.
As it stands, Walker is still just a collection of tantalizing skills. The 18th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft hasn’t figured out how to use his talents to his advantage on a consistent basis — and it’s not clear that he ever will figure that out.
Offensively, Walker has all the tools to be an effective driver. He’s lightning quick and can get off the ground in a hurry. However, he doesn’t finish off plays with any level of regularity. Walker is a willing passer with ample court vision but that has never translated into him being a reliable playmaker. He has good form on his jumper and deep range but he’s still figuring out the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.
Defensively, advanced statistics almost universally label Walker as one of the worst defenders in the NBA. Given his athleticism and the fact that he can adequately defend star players at times, that may surprise some onlookers. But if you spend any time watching him off the ball, you quickly realize that Walker is one of the worst help defenders in the league. He can’t be counted on to remain focused when he’s away from the action and is only occasionally willing to battle on the boards.
What a Lonnie Walker IV Contract Extension Would Look Like
To extend Walker, the Spurs would likely need to give Walker a contract that pays him approximately $10 million per season. Anything less than that and his representatives would likely want him to play out the season so that he can become a restricted free agent next summer.
While a four-year, $40 million deal isn’t an extravagant deal these days, I don’t like that gamble from San Antonio’s perspective. Although it’s possible that Walker could eventually be worth that figure, I think there’s a higher probability that a contract extension such as that would end up being an overpay.
I believe it makes a lot more sense for the Spurs to reassess Walker at the end of the 2021-22 season. If he exceeds expectations this season and he learns how to weaponize his tools to become an impactful NBA player, I’d be all for giving him his market value next summer. By all accounts, he’s a great teammate who is willing to put in the work — so I’d classify Walker blowing up and becoming a hot commodity as a good problem to have.
Without Demar DeRozan, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay around to carry the scoring load, Walker will get his chances to shine this season. Will he step up and fill the void and become a dependable threat who can impact the game in multiple ways? I’m hoping he does — but I wouldn’t bet $10 million per season on it.