Nickeil Alexander-Walker helped lead Team Canada to within a game of the Tokyo Olympics before falling 103-101 to the Czech Republic in the last seconds of overtime. He scored 21 points in the loss but being tested on the international level was great for his development. Alexander-Walker also proved he belonged on an NBA court. He is beyond just sitting on the bench at watching the game go by and the Pelicans’ front office will be pressing for him to get more minutes next season. Alexander-Walker will need to step into a larger role next season and produce the same results he has been giving in limited minutes to help New Orleans earn an NBA Playoff spot.
Find someone that believes in you as much as New Orleans Pelicans Executive Vice President David Griffin does in Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Griffin’s unwavering confidence in Alexander-Walker has reportedly led to not being on the same page with his head coaches, both former and future, according to Jake Fischer’s Bleacher Report article. Griffin said when introducing his first rookie class, “Nickeil Alexander-Walker came in with the mentality that he will be getting minutes and no one will stop him. If he doesn’t get playing time, it’ll definitely be a shock to him.”
Alexander-Walker is ready to shock the world but it was no surprised at all that he was the preferred starter of both the front office and the fanbase after the NBA All-Star break last season. In a baker’s dozen with of starts, Alexander-Walker cooked up an average of 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. His per 36 numbers which account for even his cold nights off the bench suggests his starter-level production is sustainable.
Alexander-Walker said of his successful end to the season, “I’ve been more calm and mature. The first half of the season, I was so eager to try to prove something that I became my worst enemy. A lot of people tell me all the time, if you know me, I have a tendency to do that. But everybody in the organization, my family, people around me, were trying to keep myself out of my own head and just play the game. Letting everything come and flow.”
He showed a variety to his game and attacked the rim well, though he will need to continue adding muscle to finish more efficiently. Still, he provided sparks and spacing by shooting 46% overall and 41% from beyond the arc. Should Alexander-Walker prove capable of handling a starting role, it would make Griffin and the coaching staff’s jobs that much easier. The Pelicans are facing mounting pressure to make the playoffs. New Orleans needs a backcourt that can handle the burden.
Alexander-Walker handled the meaningful international games well. He brought life to a lethargic Team Canada in a win over Greece. The New Orleans Pelicans need him to have a breakout season so they can focus on building the rest of the roster around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. The team does not need Alexander-Walker to become a star, just a solid starter. After taking a few months to settle into professional life, Alexander-Walker finally seems ready for the role Griffin pictured when drafting him.