Lakers to Sign $6.5 Million Former Top Prospect in Upside Move: Report

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka

Getty Lakers GM Rob Pelinka

The Los Angeles Lakers are using their $6.5 million exception on former San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The Lakers were already $41 million above the salary cap heading into free agency, per Spotrac, meaning the most the team had to spend this summer was their taxpayer exception which will be allocated on Walker.

Barring a trade, the Lakers will be forced to fill out their remaining roster spots by signing players to veteran minimum deals. The former five-star prospect comes with plenty of upside at just 23 years old. Walker posted career-high numbers last season with 12.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists during his 23 minutes per game in 70 appearances. Walker is a career 34.3% three-point shooter but only shot 31.4% from long range in 2021-22.

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Walker Was Selected by the Spurs With the No. 18 Pick of the 2018 NBA Draft

Coming out of Reading High School in Pennsylvania, ESPN ranked Walker as the No. 13 overall player and No. 2 rated shooting guard with a 93 overall grade in 2017. After a standout season at Miami, the Spurs selected Walker with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft.

Walker was widely regarded as a potential lottery pick. Former ESPN analyst Mike Schmitz (who joined the Blazers front office) labeled Walker as “one of the more talented two-guards in the draft.”

“Miami off guard Lonnie Walker showing off his explosiveness and shooting potential here in LA. One of the more talented two-guards in the draft,” Schmitz tweeted on May 20, 2018 during a pre-draft workout.

Walker Has a Chance to Compete for a Starting Job With the Lakers

The good news is the Lakers got a bit younger by adding Walker, but Los Angeles also lost Malik Monk to the Kings on the first day of free agency. The Lakers giving Walker the biggest deal they possibly could shows how much they wanted to land the guard.

As the roster stands now, Walker has a good chance to compete with Austin Reaves and others to become the starting Lakers shooting guard next season. During a January 2020 interview, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich praised the development he saw in Walker’s game since he arrived in San Antonio.

“He’s learning very quickly, pretty good decision maker but he prides himself first on playing defense and running the floor and trying to do all the basic things,” Popovich said at the time, per San Antonio News 4. “…He’s paid his dues and, as I’ve said, he’s learned about how important decision-making is and his time to score, what’s a good shot, not a good shot, and how to play with his teammates.”

Walker becomes yet another Klutch Sports client to join LeBron James’ Lakers. Time will tell if the Lakers will be able to make any other significant additions this offseason with no available cap space to offer veterans. The Lakers also made several other notable signings including former Warriors wing Juan Toscano-Anderson and ex-Bulls forward Troy Brown.