Lonnie Walker IV: The Lakers’ Best Offseason Signing?

When the offseason rolled around, many Lakers fans expected the team to go after big names despite limited cap space.  They were looking forward to welcoming an established role-player to the purple and gold via the Mid-Level Exception.  So it was quite a shocker when Shams tweeted this an hour into free agency:

From there, the reactions (and analytics) came to light. Most believed that signing Lonnie Walker IV was a terrible move by the Lakers, signing a young player who would clog the paint and could not shoot nor defend.  Fast forward nearly two months into the regular season, and those same nay-sayers are eating their words right now.

Lonnie Walker IV: The Lakers’ Best Offseason Signing?

In 13 games so far, Walker has averaged a career-best 16.4 points, along with 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 47% from the field, nearly 35% from three, and 83.3% from the free-throw line.  He has arguably served as the Lakers’ fourth-best player behind the trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, and has fit like a glove in Darvin Ham’s system.

What has made Walker IV a success story in LA so far, and how could this partnership continue?

Offensive Breakdown

The first thing that sticks out about Walker is his finishing.  He has been known for his explosive dunks and acrobatic finishes in San Antonio. Those traits have only continued and blossomed in LA.

Walker’s prowess in the paint has been a key factor in his high-scoring performances.  He dropped a season-high 28 points on 9-17 shooting in a 120-117 win over the Pelicans on November 2nd.  His ability to drive creates wondrous opportunities for playmakers of James’s and Westbrook’s calibers, and he can finish plays with ease that leave the crowd stunned.  The Lakers even made a compilation of his most athletic plays, and needless to say, they do not disappoint.

Walker’s aggressiveness has been another key factor, one that was encouraged by Westbrook.

Walker IV has also been able to thrive as a playmaker, racking up three or more assists in four of his 13 games played.  He has an assist percentage of 9.1 this season and constantly searched for opportunities to make his teammates better, a valuable skill for a team that relies on LeBron James and Russell Westbrook as primary playmakers.  Walker has made a sizable dent in the offense through his dime-dropping, making it clear to opposing players that he is more than a scorer.

Three-Point Shooting

A key and underrated aspect of Walker’s game has been his three-point shooting.  He came into the year with an abundance of confidence in his perimeter shot, even daring defenders to leave him open and “watch what happens.”  He’s been able to back up that talk multiple times.

In that 28-point performance, he buried five of nine threes.  He also drained four of five triples against the Nets on November 13, leaving the win with 25 points.  He left fans with some gold in a postgame interview, saying, “My jumpshot is too beautiful for me not to be hitting threes.”

Walker has been a perfect fit in Ham’s system, posting an individual offensive rating of 111.  In a lineup with James, Davis, Patrick Beverley, and Troy Brown Jr., the five-man group posted an offensive rating of 114.8.  When grouped alongside Davis, Brown Jr., Beverley, and Austin Reaves, that group boasted a rating of 127.  Walker has worked with every lineup he has been placed with, a dream scenario for any head coach.

Where Walker has shut up his critics offensively, he has also done so on the defensive end.

Defensive Breakdown

In his introductory press conference, Walker told reporters, “I’m here to play defense.” It signaled an immediate buy-in to Ham’s defense-first philosophy.  He has only averaged 0.9 steals and 0.5 blocks per game this year, but don’t let those numbers fool you.  He’s been very active on the perimeter and is able to stay in front of most of his matchups. This is a key reason why he has been able to collect steals that ignite LA’s signature fast-breaks, as seen in this clip here:

https://twitter.com/atg_mvp/status/1588740587951337472

Walker has also been valuable as a decent shot-blocking guard.  He has recorded a block in six of the 13 games he’s played so far, critical for a team that ranks 19th in blocks per game (4.9) and does not have a ton of rim protection outside of Davis and James.

It is clear that Walker is heavily engaged on the defensive side of the ball, adding onto what he showed in San Antonio.  Having a young guard like him locked in there has translated well to his offensive execution, and it’s been a welcome sight for the Lakers and their fans.

Outlook

Look for Lonnie Walker IV to remain an essential part of the Lakers as the season goes on.  He has undoubtedly earned his starting spot, and his contributions on both sides of the ball have not gone unnoticed.  The Lakers probably received a steal in free agency. Rest assured, this won’t be the last you’ll hear of the “Sky Walker.”