With the 2018 NBA Draft around the corner and the Portland Trail Blazers holding the 24th selection in the first round, we’re looking at a number of prospects who might fall into that area. Among them stands Lonnie Walker IV, a freshman guard from Miami whose athleticism recommends him as a decent addition to Portland’s star-studded backcourt. Whether he’ll actually remain undrafted until the mid-20’s is anybody’s guess, but it’s not impossible the Blazers could find a way to snag him.
Lonnie Walker IV - Freshman, Miami Fl
- Height: 6’5”
- Weight: 204
- Wingspan: 6’10”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: SG
- Age: 19
- Projected draft range: 14-18
- PPG: 11.5 | Per 40: 16.6
- RPG: 2.6 | Per 40: 3.7
- APG: 1.9 | Per 40: 2.7
- STL: 0.9 | Per 40: 1.4
- BLK: 0.5 | Per 40: 0.7
- FG%: 41.5
- 3P%: 34.6 (56/162)
Lonnie Walker surprised many when the Pennsylvania native bypassed offers from Kentucky and Villanova to sign with Jim Larranaga’s Hurricanes as arguably the top prospect that the program had ever signed. Walker struggled out of the gate but was able to capture a starting roll after the new year and quickly evolved into Miami’s go-to guy from that moment on. Walker averaged over 15 points per game as a starter, a tremendous jump from averaging just over 6 as a reserve. There were stretches where the product was starting to match the potential. Miami scored a 6 seed in the NCAA tournament but a Walker turnover followed by a Walker missed free throw on the front end of a one-and-one led to a buzzer beating three and first round upset at the hands of Loyola-Chicago
Watching his workouts or highlight reels, Walker looks like he could be a lottery pick. He has great size, strength, length and athleticism. He has a tight handle that even at 6-5, he keeps his dribble low and compact. He balances that control with creativity in his moves and is clever at switching up speeds. Although he’s is quick with the ball, his strides are long and powerful on the drive. He’s just fluid and smooth in his movements and is tough to contain in a if he gets a step on the defense. The feel for angles around the rim is impressive and he can finish through contact, especially going to his right. His build is good for an NBA shooting guard, but he could be used as a primary ball handler on occasion. His jump shot was streaky in his freshman year but his form stays pretty consistent and he has a ton of confidence in it, even on a pull up. That bodes well for that transition to the next level.
Have you ever watched a guy in warm ups and thought he was a class above everyone else but then when it came to watching the game you kind of forgot about him? Meet Lonnie Walker. There were a few particular games that Walker’s presence was felt for the majority of the time he was in, but for the most part, if the ball was not in Walker’s hands, he wasn’t offering much. Even with the ball, Walker would take 6 extra dribbles if it meant there was a better chance of getting a shot off, as opposed to fixing and passing or finding an options for a quick kick on the catch. In his defense, Walker’s role in Miami was to score, but he did not create for others in his first year in South Beach. Walker has all the tools to be a capable rebounder and strong defender, but during his freshman year, he was unimpressive overall on the glass and had a very minimal impact defensively. It’s not that he defended poorly, but he wasn't the guy tracking loose balls or making plays from the help side positions. More often than not, Walker could be found floating on the defensive side of the court and avoiding the action.
Lonnie Walker has some obvious weaknesses that should and will be a cause for concern. But the majority of those weaknesses are correctable. Players can learn to play without the ball. He is not going to be a hindrance to the defense. He can learn to be more effective in less dribbles and learn to create a bit more for teammates. Those are not insurmountable issues.
Walker’s game is better suited for the NBA than the college level. He is the type of player that if he got in the right situation a light bulb could turn on. It’s next to impossible to tell if that is actually going to happen. The tools are there, but it’s a bit of a guessing game on what they’re going to produce.
Most mocks have Walker in the early teens. Shooting guard is a coveted position in the NBA so that will help, but the odds of him sliding are not slim. He may be a bit out of Portland’s current spot, but as we’ve seen as recently as last year, Portland isn’t shy about moving up if they need to.
Size, strength, athleticism, length, shooting, scoring in the Blazer backcourt? Yes please. Walker would be a bigger stronger, version of Pat Connaughton with a less NBA-ready 3 ball and a much better complete offensive game. Walker also has some NBA-ready on ball skills so he could be a factor in his rookie year—a necessity for Portland. I would be surprised to see Walker in a Blazers uniform come draft time, mostly because I don’t expect the former ‘Cane to be available when the Blazers are selecting. If the Trail Blazers were to trade up, it seems more likely they would do so for a small forward of the future than for a backup PG/SG. Walker could play the small forward position in small lineups, but he is better suited to be at the 2 position.
What are your thoughts on bringing in Lonnie Walker IV? Let us know in the comments below!