New Orleans Pelicans: Player comparisons for NAW and Hayes

Nickeil Alexander-Walker #0 and Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Nickeil Alexander-Walker #0 and Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Projecting players in the NBA is not an exact science. Players nowadays incorporate so many facets of players from yesteryear that they now show shades of multiple players rather than one specific comparison. The New Orleans Pelicans have six players on the roster 23 or younger with tremendous upside or already playing significant roles.

This will be part one in a series in which we project what each player can be, starting with the two most polarizing.

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Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes are still largely unproven but both have upside that is similar to two established NBA players.

New Orleans Pelicans: Player comparisons for Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes

Nickeil Alexander-Walker – Jordan Clarkson

Offensively, Alexander-Walker projects to be a ‘gunner’ type of player filling either the traditional shooting guard mould or sixth man. The third-year guard is currently suffering through a prolonged slump after an off-season that provided lofty expectations.

Seemingly, New Orleans allowed Lonzo Ball to walk, thinking Alexander-Walker would, to some extent, fill the void left by Ball. Albeit a lesser passer and point-guard, Alexander-Walker possesses the scoring repertoire Ball lacks at the rim.

The season has not gone to plan to date, and Alexander-Walker now features off the bench as a scoring punch similar to Clarkson, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. Both players are tall guards with slight frames. Similarly, Alexander-Walker projects as a heat check guard capable of shifting games and play-off series on their head with hot shooting that can disappear just as fast. Last season saw both players take over games and stretches, making Alexander-Walker a tantalizing starting guard next to Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.

Defensively, Alexander-Walker is miles ahead of where Clarkson was three seasons into his career. In Utah, Clarkson has become a reliable defender on and off-ball. Still, Alexander-Walker’s potential could see him become a high-level defender.

Alexander-Walker needs consistency on both ends if he is to become a player of Clarkson’s calibre, but the signs are there that NAW could eventually be that guy off the bench.

Jaxson Hayes – JaVale McGee

Jaxson Hayes’ development, or lack of development, has been one of the most disappointing storylines for the New Orleans Pelicans. The center turned the corner towards the end of his second season and looked much the part of a future rim-running, shot-blocking big like Jarrett Allen. His third year could not have started any worse. Under a new coach, looking to play with pace and utilize all his players’ strengths, Hayes has struggled with focus and understanding of the game defensively.

Hayes is well in-truly the third-string center and on G-League assignment. Don’t let the incredible G-League stats fool you. Hayes’ traits carried over. The hyper-athletic center continued to lose assignments and show poor commitment at times, the traits that have kept him out of the rotation.

The flashes he possesses night-in and night-out are very much similar to JaVale McGee. Before becoming a championship center on multiple teams, McGee only flashed brilliance and never honed in his true potential. After his stint in Dallas, his career looked bleak. Still, a renaissance with Golden State revived it and gave him purpose as he been pivotal to team’s rotations.

The hope is that Hayes can begin to pile together some consistency and turn around his lackluster start to the season. The maximized potential of Hayes is the ideal center with the Pelicans’ young core. However, for now, Hayes looks like his best-case scenario is Warriors McGee and, worst case, maybe not in the league at all.

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