Nickeil Alexander-Walker is x-factor for Pelicans in 2021-22

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

Don’t look now, but the New Orleans Pelicans have won three in a row and are threatening to climb out of the cellar.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been screaming that the Pels are going to make the play-in tournament, a belief I hold because of their schedule, the competition they are chasing and their ability to add more talent in a trade.

The starting five has been great for the Pelicans this season, particularly Brandon Ingram, who is playing like an MVP candidate, Jonas Valanciunas, who is a double-double machine, and Josh Hart, who is the glue guy and vocal leader.

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The Pelicans have a winning  record since Brandon Ingram returned from injury and are 8-5 over their last 13 games, vanquishing some good teams in the process.

But the Pelicans’ bench has been horrible, so without an upgrade, they are going to need more from their second unit to have a chance to continue their improbable run towards the playoffs.

Without a splashy trade, Nickeil Alexander-Walker will be the x-factor in the Pels’ playoff chances.

Is Nickeil Alexander-Walker turning it around for the Pelicans?

NAW has not had a good start to the season, putting up the worst shooting numbers of his career.

But he is the Pelicans’ only hope on the bench right now, and we saw what can happen when shots start falling, as he dropped 27 points last night on just 16 shots, flashing the tantalizing talent that we know he has.

NAW carried the Pelicans through a rough stretch, going on a 10-0 run by himself against Portland. The Pelicans need him to be a consistent scoring threat off the bench because they don’t have one otherwise.

Garrett Temple and Tomas Satoransky are terrible, Willie Hernangomez is solid but hardly going to light up scoreboards and Trey Murphy III and Jaxson Hayes have barely gotten off the bench.

The only reasons NAW hasn’t been benched is that the Pels literally have no other options and he has still been playing good defense even through all of his shooting struggles, which you love to see from a young player.

I don’t think NAW is going to put up 27 every night, and the Pelicans don’t need him to, but they do need him to be efficient and to be a threat.

It’s weird to say about a team that has Brandon Ingram and (hopefully) Zion Williamson, but this team will only go as far as Nickeil Alexander-Walker will carry them this season.

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