When the Los Angeles Lakers used their taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Lonnie Walker IV over the summer, it was a head-scratching move for many fans and observers.
His potential was clear, but in four NBA seasons, all with the San Antonio Spurs, he had been maddeningly inconsistent on both ends of the floor and had never shot at least 43 percent from the field for an entire year.
But so far this season, the 6-foot-4 guard has been a revelation for head coach Darvin Ham, and this development has been a huge boon for a team that had little depth or trade capital last season.
Walker is being more productive than ever
Walker is averaging 17.1 points per game this year, which is significantly higher than his career-high of 12.1 a game last season. But even better, he is shooting 47.9 percent overall and 37.2 percent from 3-point range.
He is still a somewhat streaky outside shooter, but it has seemed that more often than not, he has enjoyed being on the positive end of that spectrum.
He has now scored in double-figures in seven straight games and 13 of his 16 games this season overall.
Walker is getting the job done with variety – by hitting from the outside, slashing to the hoop, pulling up for mid-range jumpers and attacking in transition.
At this point, he has become the Lakers’ third-best scoring threat after LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Ham praises Walker's growth
Walker said recently that he is grateful to play for a coach such as Ham who gives him freedom and lets him play through his mistakes and fail forward. Such freedom is very important for a young, developing player such as him.
Ham has returned the favor by not only acknowledging how much Walker has grown as a player but also how coachable and hungry for growth he is.
Via Lakers Nation:
“He’s a genuine guy, man,” Ham says. “He’s a genuine guy that’s been through a lot in his life. Just genuine. It’s a pleasure to be around him, just a quiet, lowkey-spirited guy. Always positive energy.
“I enjoy coaching the kid, I enjoy having conversations with him, I enjoy just being around him, coming to the gym and seeing him there every day. He’s that type of kid. It’s beautiful to watch him just grow in front of our eyes even more and just take it day by day and just continue to add to his confidence and add to his repertoire.
“Him starting to understand time, score and situations has been another fun thing to watch.”
Walker’s former coach with the Spurs, Gregg Popovich, also agrees he has grown in a short amount of time.
Via Los Angeles Times:
“Learn how to play with teammates, understand what solid meant as far as winning and losing. And that takes a little bit of time. And he’s definitely progressed throughout in that regard,” Popovich said. “He continues on that path. He’s done a really good job. Because he always depended just on that athletic ability, it was so ridiculous compared to other people. But now he understands more the mental side of the game with each year that passes, and you can see that in his play.”
If the Lakers ever make the playoffs and do anything of note there, Walker will be a major part of it.