After a promising season from the sensational freshman, Lonnie Walker is moving on to the NBA and should be one of the first 30 players to hear his name called on June 21. Often, the team that drafts the prospect is as important as the player’s raw talent. There’s a reason why the worst teams are always picking at the top and their previous picks are considered busts. Walker is an especially unvarnished talent, someone who has a high ceiling if he can put it all together but may struggle if he needs to take on a bigger role right away.
Walker may not wind up being a top ten player but he should mostly likely hear his name called anywhere from the late part of the lottery (picks 11-14) to the latter part of the first round. This works in Walker’s favor; he’ll be able to land with a team where the expectations on him won’t be sky-high and he’ll likely be on a good team that is a playoff competitor. Here are three teams that could serve as the best fit for the start of Lonnie Walker’s NBA career.
1. Pick 18 – San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs might just be the best team to select Walker and could do the best job of getting his career off the ground. The San Antonio coaching staff is among the best in the entire NBA and their ability to develop prospects is second to none in the Association. Rotational contributors like Dejonte Murray, Kyle Anderson and Davis Bertans have all been a part of the Spurs’ development of young players into difference makers on their roster.
A playoff roster with grizzled vets like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard would be a perfect place for Walker to hone his craft and learn from players who he should hope to follow in the footsteps of. All three were not highly touted coming out but under the coaching of the GOAT, Gregg Popovich, they developed into championship-caliber players. Clearly Walker has a long way to go before he gets to that level but on the Spurs, the players he would be surrounded by and Popovich’s comfort with playing young players early could allow Walker to shine.
2. Pick 15 – Washington Wizards
The Wizards desperately need more depth on a team that is likely a mid-tier competitor in the East. They can’t quite keep up with the LeBron-led Cavs, Celtics or even 76ers. With their tight salary cap situation, they’ll be looking to add a capable role player at pick 15 overall. Outside of John Wall, the Wizards are also lacking a legit penetrating threat, a player who can get into the teeth of the defense and finish at the rim.
Unlike the Spurs, Walker probably wouldn’t have to prove himself right away to get a 10-15 minutes of playing time a night. The Wizard’s roster isn’t very deep and Walker would have some expectations but certainly nothing too daunting for a first year player. He could be the fourth or fifth scorer on a playoff team and have the opportunity to play alongside a supremely talented backcourt. What attacking Guard wouldn’t want to play next to John Wall dishing dimes and Bradley Beal threatening defenses from outside?
3. Pick 24 – Portland Trail Blazers
Portland is very much like “Washington West.” They have a talented, youthful backcourt, some decent role players and have done a great job of consistently making the playoffs. However, salary cap tightness has made it difficult for them to add the required depth to make a deep playoff run. Portland could use one more backcourt partner for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum since high-price free agent acquisition Evan Turner hasn’t been as difference-making as hoped.
Walker would have to prove himself as an effective player earlier and with more consistency with the Trail Blazers than the Wizards since Portland does possess slightly better depth on the perimeter. And if the Miami frosh can show himself to be a consistent outside scorer, he’ll make himself even more important to the Trail Blazer lineup. Outside of Lillard, Portland doesn’t have another player on their roster who can be as effective penetrating as they are taking outside shots. If Walker can continue his development and take better shots at the next level, he’ll be a big help for Portland, San Antonio, Washington or whichever team ultimately drafts him.
What’s the best landing spot for Lonnie Walker?
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San Antonio Spurs
Portland Trail Blazers
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