Miami freshman Lonnie Walker IV illustrates how much of a future-projection business the NBA draft has become.
Walker had his first pre-draft workout Sunday with the Charlotte Hornets, who hold the 11th pick. Based on research by his agent, 6-4 shooting guard Walker anticipates being selected somewhere between the 10th and 20th pick in the June 21 draft.
His statistics in one season with the Hurricanes don’t knock anyone over: 11.5 points per game on 41.5 percent shooting from the field. Walker started 18 of Miami’s 32 games last season (he was getting back in form early last season following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee).
He showed an explosiveness off the dribble that is valued in a sport where so much offense starts with pick-and-rolls. His 40-inch vertical leap at the draft combine and the defensive ability he showed with Miami factor, too.
Also, while Walker might be one of this draft’s younger players at 19, he demonstrated a fearlessness about taking big shots in crunch time last season.
“That’s in my DNA. My father instilled that,” Walker said following his Hornets workout. “Playing in high school or in AAU, I expected to take that last shot. Whether I miss or make, I’m happy with the outcome. I believe in myself and when there’s five or 10 seconds left, I believe I’ll make that shot nine times out of 10.”
While Walker now appears solidly in the first round, it was no automatic when he turned pro that he was ready to be an NBA player. He bet on himself; clearly bright and articulate, Walker said he’s doing this in part to test his own ability to adapt now and speed up the career process.
“I want to challenge myself. In my opinion, I can play almost every aspect of the game offensively and defensively,” said Walker, who grew up in Reading, Pa.
“If sooner or later I’m going to get to this place, then why not now? If I want to get stronger and have a higher (basketball) IQ – be the best player I can be – then why not take that chance? Play against the top talent in the world.”
He’s not a pioneer that way, more a member of a trend. Darius Bazley, a five-star recruit from Cincinnati, announced in March that he would play in the NBA’s G-League next season, rather than his original plan to play college ball at Syracuse. There is talk the NBA’s rule, requiring U.S. players to wait at least a year removed from their high school class’s graduation to enter the draft, may be changed.
Draft range: 10-to-20
Walker said he has six or seven more workouts. mostly with teams drafting between the 10th and 20th pick. For Walker, this is partially about marketing himself to teams, partially about a preview of how playing basketball as a job will be.
“I was a bit surprised how quick everything was, but I was happy with the outcome,” Walker said of his workout, with five other draft prospects. “You’ve got to understand everybody is fighting for a spot, everybody is looking for respect for each other: To get to that dreamland.”