Lonnie Walker IV was a major factor in helping the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and reach .500 for the first time this season last Friday.
The 20-point outing, rounded by Walker’s three steals and going 4-8 from three, was unexpected but not surprising. Walker arrived in LA in the summer as one of the Lakers’ major acquisitions and early on in the season he acted accordingly; a full-time starter averaging a career-high 14.7 points on 38.4% from three, while providing some needed defensive competence. This was until a left knee injury forced him to miss 14 straight games.
After his stint on the shelf, the explosive guard lost his starting job and saw a big reduction in his minutes although he was still an essential part of LA’s rotation. Then came the trade deadline and everything changed for the former Spur.
The Lakers managed to finally trade Russell Westbrook away at the trade deadline and, in the process, they replenished their ranks with guards and wings who provided ever-needed shooting and defense. The team added D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Mo Bamba when it was all said and done.
Lonnie Walker IV was the big loser of the Lakers’ trade deadline moves.
Walker saw his role reduce drastically after all of these additions. This resulted in Walker falling out of the rotation collecting five DNPs and a 1-minute appearance in six of the seven games preceding the Thunder game. Furthermore, Austin Reaves’s recent surge put another strong piece on the chessboard.
Walker’s game never really declined through these ups and downs. His contribution has remained constant and efficient regardless of the minutes he received or the time spent away from the floor.
Nothing in his production could justify his increasing loss of playing time. He has just been an unfortunate victim of the Lakers’ new depth and the new rotations put in place by head coach Darvin Ham to maximize this roster and accumulate as many wins as possible in a crucial moment of the season.
Anyway, the former Spur has always been ready when his name has been called. Friday’s game was the latest and maybe the best example. So what did the Lakers do the following game? Played him just 13 minutes in an ugly loss to the Chicago Bulls.