Pelicans: These 3 plays show Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s star potential

Nickeil Alexander-Walker #6 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Nickeil Alexander-Walker #6 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans preseason didn’t start with a win but there were some positives to take away from the loss.

Without Zion Williamson and Jonas Valančiūnas, the New Orleans Pelicans had an offensive rating of 103.6. Admittedly, that’s terrible. As a team, the Pelicans shot 41.4 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from three and committed over 20 turnovers.

However, Nickeil Alexander-Walker was a bright spot in the preseason opener. Alexander-Walker put in major work over the summer to expand his guard skills, and it showed right away.

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The entire trajectory changed when he entered into the game, as he picked up an assist and a bucket almost immediately. He finished the game with 22 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, a block, shooting 7-of-13  from the field, 2-of-6 from 3-point range, and was a +12 while on the floor in just over 20 minutes. To emphasize his instant offense, let’s break down his first three plays of the game.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker: Finding the Open Man

Devonte Graham passes the ball to Nickeil Alexander-Walker at the wing. Hernangomez sets a screen for him, and he sprints towards the baseline. NAW’s attack scrambled the defense leading to three Timberwolves players collapsing the paint, leaving Josh Hart wide open. NAW manipulated the defense by stepping into the paint before kicking it to the corner. That settle action gave Hart enough room to put up a lightly contested jumper.

Finesse Lay-in

Here, NAW brings the ball up the court, uses Hernangomez’s slip screen to get Patrick Beverly behind him. This leaves Naz Reid to become the help. NAW bursts while Reid is slightly out of position, leading to an easy finesse lay-in.

Pelicans: Attacking the Close Out

On this play, it was a simple Jaxson Hayes screen and a kick out from Tomáš Satoranský to Alexander-Walker at the top of the key. Taurean Prince aggressively closes out, and NAW pumped faked and attacked. The finish was impressive, but the way he finished even more. NAW avoided contact from Naz Reid, jumped off his opposite foot, and hit a heavily contested floater with his non-dominant hand.

This is just a preseason game, but NAW’s potential to become the Pelicans third option will determine their ceiling as a team; on top of what Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson taking their games to another level as well. We don’t know what Coach Willie Green has in store just yet, but NAW will more than likely be a star in his role.

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