Lonnie Walker IV wasn't greeted with a long line of suitors when he entered unrestricted free agency this summer. After struggling to earn a consistent role with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2022-23, the former first-round pick signed with the Brooklyn Nets for the minimum, citing opportunity within a young core as his reasoning.

Three weeks into the 2023-24 season, Walker is making a strong case for the NBA's most productive bench contributor.

The 24-year-old's elite three-level scoring – 65 percent at the rim, 49 percent from the midrange, 45 percent from three, per Cleaning The Glass – has kept the Nets afloat amid injuries to Cam Thomas, Ben Simmons, Nic Claxton and Cam Johnson. His 15.7 points per game lead the NBA in scoring among players averaging 26 or fewer minutes, while his 35.3 points per 100 possessions rank 14th overall, ahead of players such as LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, Jaylen Brown and Trae Young.

After scoring a season-high 23 points Thursday at Miami, Walker credited the Nets coaching staff for offering him an expanded role within Brooklyn's offense.

“This is my sixth year in the league. It's really the first year where I can showcase my abilities offensively as far as a three-level scorer,” he said. “(Head coach Jacque Vaughn) is allowing me to play through that, and I really thank God and him for the opportunity. I take it to the heart.”

“I really wanna play to the best of my capabilities but play smart as well. It’s not all about me. I’m not trying to shoot 30 shots. I wanna get my teammates involved as well.”

Lonnie Walker IV has done well for the Nets 

Cam Johnson, Lonnie Walker IV, Nets

Walker can score from any spot on the floor using his blend of ball-handling, efficient jump shooting and athletic finishing ability. He was the only Net capable of consistently attacking the rim against an aggressive Miami defense Thursday. With the Heat threatening to pull away, he scored 13 third-quarter points on 5-of-8 shooting to keep Brooklyn within striking distance.


Walker is leading a Nets bench unit that ranks seventh in net rating this season. His high-level scoring has forced him into closing lineups down the stretch of several games with several of Brooklyn's top players sidelined.

“He’s proven that he can play with our starting group, he’s proven that he can come off the bench and be a sparkplug for us,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said Thursday. “And then in games like this, he’s able to finish because we need his scoring, we need his ability to get to the rim. He spreads the floor for us. He’s really utilizing his minutes to attack, so that's definitely a luxury as a coach.”

Walker showed flashes of brilliance throughout his first five NBA seasons. The Pennsylvania native averaged 10.6 points on 54 percent shooting during the Lakers' second-round series against Golden State last playoffs. That included a 15-point fourth quarter in Game 4 to give Los Angeles a 3-1 series lead.

After a humbling offseason, Walker's untapped scoring ability has found a home in Brooklyn. The first-year Net is off to the best start of his career, surprising everyone except himself.

“I sacrifice a lot of time and effort into the game. What you put in is what youre gonna get out of it, and I think my work ethic is starting to show,” Walker said earlier this season. “Very composed, just a lot of growth, and truthfully a lot of confidence from last year considering all the ups and downs and the roller coaster and then being able to play in the playoffs and play how I did, it carried over to this season.”

“I got a lot of trust in my game. I feel like I can score from a plethora of different places and my teammates and my coaches are starting to instill a lot of confidence in myself as well.”