How Nickeil Alexander-Walker can become Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Nickeil Alexander-Walker #0 of the New Orleans Pelicans guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Nickeil Alexander-Walker #0 of the New Orleans Pelicans guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

Nickeil Alexander-Walker had an up and down season for the New Orleans Pelicans but showed signs of star potential.

NAW has plus size played pretty good defense in his second season while nearly doubling his scoring and rebounds.

He had a few monster games where he was the best offensive player on the floor, but he wasn’t able to do it consistently and then got injured just as he was starting to put it all together.

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His cousin, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has a similar profile and game, though he has already evolved into a star for Oklahoma City.

So how can Nickeil Alexander-Walker make the same type of leap and be the third scoring option the Pelicans need? The answer is simple.

Pelicans: Nickeil Alexander-Walker needs to shoot fewer 3-point shots

If you look compare NAW’s statistics to his cousin, you’ll see the biggest differences all revolve around shooting.

SGA shot shot 50 percent from the field overall while NAW shot just 41 percent, a product of taking too many difficult shots.

The other problem is that NAW takes too many 3-point shots.

Neither NAW or SGA are great 3-point shooters, though Shai shot over 41 percent this past season on 4.9 attempts per game.

NAW, on the other hand, shot just 34 percent on the same number of attempts, which is crazy considering Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is playing more minutes and is the focal point of his team’s offense.

NAW has shown the ability to beat defenders off the dribble and get into the lane for mid-range shots and floaters, a skill his cousin has already mastered.

SGA doesn’t just settle for 3-point shots but tries to break down the defense and get into the range of his deadly mid-range game.

Yes, the NBA has shifted more towards the 3-point shot over the last few years, but NAW is not a great shooter from range and would be more valuable as a guy who could get his own shot and not just stand at the 3-point line waiting for Zion Williamson or Brandon Ingram to kick it out.

If Nickeil Alexander-Walker wants to make the kind of improvement that his cousin has, then he needs to balance his 3-point shooting with more takes to the rim.

In this era it’s rare to hear anyone tell players to shoot fewer 3-point shots, but SGA’s ability to kill teams at the rim and in the mid-range is what opened up his 3-point shooting and got him better looks.

If NAW is going to be the 18-20 point scorer the Pelicans need him to be, then he can’t just be a guy who launches 3-point shots.

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