Checking in at six-foot, 179 lbs not much was expected of Jose Alvarado when the New Orleans Pelicans announced their Summer League roster. Looking at his listed height and weight alone ignores what Alvarado has done to this point in his career. During his four years at Georgia Tech, he averaged nearly 35 minutes and 13 points per game.
The scoring may seem low for someone playing that many minutes but Alvarado’s real impact came on the defensive end. In the 2020-21 season alone, he had 74 steals in just 26 games (2.8 per game). This vaulted him to earning the 2020-21 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award, along with finishing on the ACC First-Team All-Defense and All-ACC Second-Team for the 2020-21 season.
Those honors more than back up what we’ve seen in Summer League so far. Watching any of the Pelicans games so far and you’ll be drawn to the undersized guard who comes in and immediately wreaks havoc in opposing backcourts. His relentless attacking of the ballhandler has opposing guards looking to move the ball sooner than they’d like to.
In two games so far, Alvarado has a +5 net rating while typically seeing his minutes match up with guys who will be sent to the G-League. The Pelicans’ most used players so far are all expected to produce in the NBA this season, while Alvarado and the others will be called upon in case of injury.
Pelicans: Jose Alvarado’s energy will push his teammates
News that went virtually unnoticed in New Orleans was the signing of Alvarado to a two-way deal at the end of July. That will change soon though, Alvarado has brought an infectious (the rare good infection right now) level of energy and effort to Las Vegas.
When Alvarado is on the floor it seems like his teammates get a boost from playing with someone who just relentlessly hounds opposing guards. This display of passion and commitment to the little things is crucial for the recent draftees on the Pels roster. Guys like Trey Murphy III, Herb Jones, and Kira Lewis Jr need to study how Alvarado approaches each game because when their shot isn’t falling, defense and effort will be what keeps them on the court.
While it would be a nice story for Alvarado to make the NBA roster off of this showing in Summer League, I think he’s more likely to head to Birmingham once the season tips off. Alvarado will be in an interesting space while there though, a rookie with no pro-ball on his resume but old enough that he can mentor some of the youngest guys on the roster. At 23 years old, Alvarado is older than Zion Williamson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaxson Hayes, and the trio mentioned earlier.
The two-way deal means Alvarado will be among the first called into duty should the Pelicans suffer injuries in the backcourt. Here’s hoping that if (most likely when) that situation arrives, Alvarado will grab hold of the opportunity and make the most of it. Underdogs like him will continue to fight for that playing time while teaching his teammates how to do the same.