Things were starting to slide for the Los Angeles Lakers while Anthony Davis sits out with a foot injury. It took LeBron James going into superhero mode to will Los Angeles to back-to-back wins over the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets to help stop the bleeding.
After these back-to-back wins the Lakers have a 16-21 record and remain in striking distance in the Western Conference. They are still the 12th seed but they are close enough to make a run if Davis returns in enough time. Los Angeles is two games back of the play-in, 3.5 games back of the seventh seed and four games back of the sixth seed.
LeBron playing at a superhuman level is not the only trend from the last two games, though. It just so happens that Lonnie Walker IV hasn’t played in the Lakers’ last two wins. In fact, Los Angeles is 3-1 in games that Walker does not play and LeBron does play this season.
This Lakers winning streak may reveal an ugly truth about Lonnie Walker IV.
Lonnie Walker has surpassed many people’s expectations and from an individual standpoint, he has been great. This has probably been the best individual season of Walker’s career as he has even blossomed as a three-point shooter for a team that so desperately needs it.
That being said, individual efforts don’t always lead to team success and that might be the case here with Walker. While he is filling up the box score, he is not contributing as much to winning basketball as Lakers fans may think.
The fact that the team has won back-to-back games and is now 3-1 without him (when LeBron plays) is not a mere coincidence. There are concrete numbers to indicate that Walker is not contributing to success.
Walker’s on/off numbers this season tell a pretty concerning story. The Lakers’ net rating when Walker is off the floor is 7.3 points higher than it is when he is on the floor. That is a massive difference and is by far the worst on/off split on the entire team.
The biggest problem is that Walker has a bad defensive impact on the team and isn’t the most efficient offensive piece. Opponent’s offensive rating is five points higher when Walker is on the court as opposed to when he is off. That is a problem.
So what does this mean for Walker? It could lead to reduced playing time with Walker not being on the floor in key moments. I also would not totally rule out a trade, especially considering he is one of a few salaries the team can actually trade and has value.
If the Lakers are getting a nice return and can include Walker instead of draft capital that might be the move to make. Regardless, despite how good the individual numbers are, Walker has not been as positively impactful to the Lakers as it seems.