The Los Angeles Lakers are currently at a standstill in negotiations to acquire Kyrie Irving, adding more uncertainty to a team that already has plenty of questions. Given that the Lakers have limited options to improve their roster, it makes sense that they would go after Irving, but not signing goaltender Lonnie Walker. At least not yet.
On a one-year, $6.5 million deal, there are certainly worse options than Walker, but he’s been a disappointment so far in his career, even despite his obvious talent. So much so that the rebuilding San Antonio Spurs waived their rights to him, which paved the way for the Lakers to sign him.
The Lakers have relied on these short contracts in recent years to bring in veterans or recruit talented, albeit unproven, players. Walker’s signing is in keeping with that tradition, but there are plenty of questions surrounding his form in LA
Walker has game-changing talent for the Los Angeles Lakers
Walker has carved out a role as Spurs’ sixth man over the past two seasons and averaged 12.1 points in just 23 minutes per game last year. Despite this, it was quite inefficient. He shot 31.4% on five threes per game and settled for plenty of contested mid-range jumpers, which caused him to underuse 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 because he’s a career 34.3 percent 3-point shooter, which is slightly below average. Then there is his defense. Walker has all the potential in the world but hasn’t quite lived up to it yet, and at this point he probably is what he is. He’s a mediocre defender who can occasionally make a play or two on this side.
So, is Walker already a perfect match for the Los Angeles Lakers? Maybe, but playing in a different system might do him good. We don’t yet know what the Lakers system will look like under new head coach Darvin Ham, but it will likely be a heavy offense from James and he’s never played with a player like James.
Walker can also have a more defined role, rather than just being a microwave scorer, and having certain settings could do wonders for his attacking game.
Really, a lot of his offensive issues would be solved if he reduced midrange jumpers, shot better from three, and attacked the basket consistently. These are realistic goals, and he did all three in the second half of last season. He was terrific, averaging 15.3 points on effective shooting, but that may have been an aberration. Spurs apparently thought so, at least.
If Walker continues this solid game next season, then he could be one of the best free agent signings and help the Lakers qualify for the playoffs. If he can’t, it would be yet another misstep by the Los Angeles Lakers front office. It’s the bet.