Lonnie Walker brings the pride of “The U” with him to the draft and the New York Knicks are in the market for a versatile and athletic wing.
Walker might be one of my favorite prospect in this year’s draft, and it has nothing to do with his game.
Joining players like Kyrie Irving and Michael Beasley, Walker has tossed in his two cents on the origins of existence. During his interview at the Chicago combine, Walker was asked about Irving’s “earth is flat” theory, and the man did not disappoint. Walker explained,
“The Earth is not flat, in my opinion,” Walker said. “But the Earth, on my conspiracy, the Earth is definitely an illusion. That’s my conspiracy.”
Although he might be a beat writer’s dream, I’m not sure I could even handle a team with both, Beasley and Walker, even if they somehow crack the Da Vinci Code before shootaround.
But in all seriousness, Walker is a talented prospect that has athletic tools and intangibles to shine at the next level. He could be the best player to come out of Miami since John Salmons.
Let’s take a look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of a player quickly rising up team’s draft boards.
Let’s start with the bungee cord attached to this man’s legs. Walker is a six-foot-four shooting guard with a six-foot-ten wingspan. The man could probably scratch his knee without bending down.
Across multiple draft sites, Walker is described as an explosive athlete that can load up and throw it down with force. Along with pogo-like abilities, Walker has great body control and can finish in traffic. His highlight video is a mix of impressive reverse lay-ups, where Walker splits defenders with relative ease.
In the open court, Walker is fast, aggressive, and looks to score almost every time. His aggressiveness keeps defenders off balance and in transition, Walker flashes some potentially good passing skills.
Walker’s statistics don’t exactly jump off the stat sheet. He averaged 11.5 points per game and just over two rebounds and one assist per game. However, consider that Walker, only started a little over half of his games during his freshman year. It’s possible, that, given the opportunity, Walker could deliver more in a primary scoring role.
The Stepien highlights Walker’s repeatable shooting mechanics, ability to shoot off the dribble, and good lateral foot movement, as reasons why Walker has the potential to surprise people in the NBA.
Additionally, Walker showcases a variety of crossover dribbles and hesitations when driving to the hoop. I don’t know why, but there is a lot of Walker that reminds me of Iman Shumpert without the defensive tenacity.
Outside of Walker’s basketball talents, Miami’s head coach Jim Larranaga was impressed with Walker’s hometown reputation.
Via Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the Sun-Sentinel, Larranaga spoke about Walker’s effect on his hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania.
“I’ve coached for 46 years, and I’ve never seen anything that comes close to it. There have been players that were great players in their community, but never someone who was the leader of the high school and and in the town, an icon in his community. He’s an ambassador for the high school and the city. He’s a very special individual. And he’s handled all the attention and accolades with such a humble mindset. There are a lot of kids that have very, very large egos. But not Lonnie. Lonnie thinks about everybody else.”
If you have a chance, please read Aaron Kazre’s piece for Pennlive on Walker and what he means to Reading, Pennsylvania. In short, Walker decided to stay and play for his local hometown high school despite offers from many prestigious schools like Oak Hill Academy.
Walker explained that he wanted to inspire and motivate the youth in a community that has seen high crime rates become the norm in recent years.
Both Steve Mills and Scott Perry have been on the record saying that they want high character individuals on their basketball team. In addition to his athleticism, there is at least a little evidence that Walker may have the intangibles to improve as a player and develop strong leadership skills as well.
Walker’s biggest issue is consistency. Prior to the mid-way point of the season, Walker had only scored in double-digit figures four times. However, its probably not a coincidence, that once Walker became a starter, he produced double-digit figure scoring in 12 of his remaining 16 games.
Walker seems to play the part of a volume scorer that is most effective with the ball in his hands, looking to score, and, at times, make plays for others.
Rebounding and playmaking are other areas of weakness that Walker needs to address. Despite having good size, Walker, as previously mentioned, averaged just over two rebounds per game, and that just won’t cut in the pros.
Sites like NBAdraft.net describe Walker as a player who misses the easy pass and only looks to pass after he’s driving to the hoop. Walker also struggles with reading the entire floor in the pick and roll and does not always see open shooters on the perimeter.
Additionally, Walker does not always play with great energy and can be a ball watcher both, on offense and defense. You don’t want to hear that a player looks “lost” when the ball is not in his hands, but this seems to be the case.
Furthermore, on defense, Walker can be late on rotations and can fall for head fakes far too easily, leaving his feet too early, creating unnecessary fouls.
Finally, as a volume scorer, Walker spends a fair amount of time dribbling on the perimeter, setting up a move, trying to get around his defender. However, this can stall the offense and ultimately end with a bad shot.
Walker is a reach at nine for the Knicks. The hometown hero of Reading, Pennsylvania may have what it takes to last in the league, but I don’t think it will be in New York.
Walker presents as a primary scorer, but truth be told, he doesn’t have the full repertoire of a primary scorer. His athleticism will keep teams interested in him, but his inconsistency in shooting, poor understanding of the pick and roll and defense will need to improve before he realizes his potential.
Walker’s best fit might be as a lead scorer coming off the bench and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, for the Knicks, a player with Walker’s skill set might be found in the mid-to-late first round, possibly in the second round. The Knicks will have to pass on Walker, if available at nine.