The New Orleans Pelicans will have a different look at the guard spot this upcoming season. Starters Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe have left the picture, leaving plenty of minutes open for the taking.
David Griffin tried to address this problem, acquiring combo guard Devonte’ Graham from the Charlotte Hornets. Unless Griffin and the front office have an ace up their sleeve, a guard on the roster would still need to increase their role. Enter: Nickel Alexander-Walker.
New Orleans Pelicans: Nickeil Alexander-Walker is about to blow up
The 6-foot-6 Canadian has shown plenty of promise throughout his first two years in the NBA. With the sheer amount of talent at the position the New Orleans Pelicans have had in the last few seasons, Walker hasn’t been able to show his potential on a regular basis.
There was notable growth in his game this past season, which has gone largely under the radar. In his sophomore campaign, Walker improved his FG%, 3PT%, and FT%. He looked more assertive with his shot selection and more comfortable on the floor.
Even as the season was underway, Walker was still improving. With Lonzo Ball sidelined with injury, he was able to excel with starter minutes in the 18 games he played post-All-Star break. He has only scored 30 points three times in his career, and two were during this time. That was while shooting 38% from downtown and averaging over 15 points per game.
This off-season, Walker was able to get valuable experience on Canada’s senior team during FIBA Olympic Qualifying. He was 5th in the tournament in the group in scoring while shooting over 45% from the field. We’ve seen before players take their game up a notch after impressive showings in international basketball. Even though his stint was short, it could be the start of bigger things to come.
It’s been no secret that the Pelicans front office has prioritized spacing around franchise cornerstone Zion Williamson. Walker and Zion had a positive net rating when the two were on the court last season, and their contrast in styles proved to be a formidable combination.
Whether some people like it or not, everything New Orleans does in the future revolves around Zion. The players on the roster have to fit the mold needed to best help the former top pick shine. Walker is a guy that can be a pillar of this team with Zion for the foreseeable future.
With a less convoluted offensive system and more steady minutes, this is shaping up to be a breakout year from Nickeil Alexander-Walker.