Pelicans: 3 signs Nickeil Alexander-Walker is going to blow up this season

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

The New Orleans Pelicans lost their opener to the 76ers in a spirited game where the Sixers pulled away late to get the win. There were plenty of positives from the loss, as the Pels played hard but were ultimately undone by a ton of missed shots at the rim. Jonas Valanciunas had the worst shooting night of his career, hitting just 3-of-19, which isn’t going to happen often, so this is a game the Pels will win a lot of times.

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The most impressive part of the night to me was the play of Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who showed signs that he is going to be a star this year.

New Orleans Pelicans: The efficiency of Nickeil Alexander-Walker

If NAW is going to be the third scoring option for the Pels, he has to be more efficient than he has been so far in his young career. He isn’t always going to get a ton of shots, especially when Zion Williamson returns, so NAW has to be efficient and make the most of his chances. Alexander-Walker did that last night against Philly, scoring 23 points on just 16 shots and shooting 56 percent overall including 4-of-8 from long range. What I liked most is that NAW didn’t take any bad shots and instead was taking what the defense was giving him.

Getting to the rim

My complaint with NAW has always been about shot selection, as he often takes high degree of difficulty shots that look great when they fall but look awful when they don’t. Last night he repeatedly tried to get closer to the rim instead of just settling for mid-range jumpers, especially in the 2nd quarter when he had two plays in rapid succession where he got to the rim. NAW has an offensive bag and the size to beat a lot of defenders, so he needs to keep working to get good shots like he did vs. the 76ers.

Initiating the offense

Even though NAW was technically the shooting guard, he initiated the offense a lot of the time when he was out there with Devonte’ Graham. I like this, as NAW is a much better creator than Graham and Graham is a better spot up shooter, which he showed, hitting 4-of-6 from 3-point range. The best part was that NAW was reading the defense well, as he did in the 2nd quarter on a beautiful give-and-go with Valanciunas. NAW’s initial drive was cut off, so he gave it up, but didn’t just stand there, instead making a hard cut to the rim and before getting the pass from JV for a bucket and foul. Nickeil Alexander-Walker played efficiently and under control, showing better shot selection and movement off the ball, and if he plays like this all season, he is going to be a star and have a shot at the Most Improved Player award.

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