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Let’s Watch Nickeil Alexander-Walker Play Against the Mavericks

A look at some of NAW’s pluses and minuses early in the season via Monday’s matchup in Dallas

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Hey guys! My name is Mat, and sporadically throughout the 2021-2022 season, I will be doing film breakdowns of certain Pelicans players (or sometimes the entire team). If you like these and want to recommend a particular player or game you want me to breakdown (I’ll even do games from past seasons), let me know in the comments section below. Now without further ado, let’s breakdown the Pelicans’ 2019 first-round pick, Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

For this analysis, we will focus on two aspects of Walker’s performance last night: his defense and playmaking.

Defense

Something that has gotten lost in his poor shooting start this season is how good Alexander-Walker has been at navigating through screens & staying with his man on defense. In what I consider his best defensive possession of the game, he angles through not one, not two, not three, but four screens to stay attached to Tim Hardaway Jr. while also pestering Kristaps Porzingis for a moment (and grabbing the board!).

On this play, he battles through two KP screens in succession to provide a contest on the corner three.

Still, to become a solid positive on that end of the floor, he’s going to need to be more of a presence as an off-ball defender. Too many times in this game, I observed him either over-tagging his man on the corner or in a stationary stance that afforded him little opportunity to spring into action if the play required doing so.

Pause this next clip at the four-second mark. Jalen Brunson is already releasing the ball, and Walker is still standing there watching him. He probably could have gotten a piece of that ball had he closed out a second earlier, but his gaze is fixated on Brunson for a second too long.

Playmaking

His playmaking was uneven at best yesterday as he left a couple of rim assists on the table. In this example, he does a great job getting downhill penetration, but a more advanced playmaker finds a way to dump that ball off underneath to the low man once they have the defender’s eyes upwards.

He needs to bounce that ball back to Jonas Valanciunas (gosh, where would the Pelicans offense be without him) the moment he realizes that he’s got Hardaway on his back and Boban Marjanović in his front view; instead, he gets caught in the mud.

Ending on a more positive note, there are some moments of high-level playmaking sprinkled into his performance. On this play, he makes a nice stop and pump that causes Brunson to try and tag Garrett Temple and leaves Jonas to seal his man and score.

Closing

I’m going to try and save my more concrete takes on these players for later on in the season when I have a larger data set on them. As the season progresses, I plan on giving more in-depth opinions on where I think some of these players fit in the Pelicans season.

For now, I will bid you ado. If you enjoyed this breakdown, be sure to follow me on Twitter to keep up with all the other work I’m doing around the league. Thank you for tuning in, and like I said before, if there is any game/player you want to see me breakdown for The Bird Writes, be sure to let me know in the comments section below.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @matissa15.