- Age 22
- Experience Two seasons (two with Pelicans)
- Games Played/Games Started 46/13
By the end of Alexander-Walker’s second NBA season, it was no longer a surprise when the guard excelled in a starting role. It was expected.
Over 13 starting assignments, Alexander-Walker averaged 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists, while shooting 46 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point range. He nearly always capitalized on the opportunity to be on the floor more, tallying at least a dozen points in all but one of his starting nods.
“He’s always ready when his number is called,” said forward Zion Williamson, a member of the same 2019 first-round draft class. “He’s been in this position before, and he’s showed out before. Nickeil doing this, we expect that from him, because we know how great he can be.”
“If you look, when he knows he’s going to get big minutes, he plays better, as most people do,” head coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He relaxes a little. He’s not forcing the action, he’s more under control. When his minutes are (less), he was pressing hard and trying to prove (himself).”
- PTS Per Game 11.0
- REB Per Game 3.1
- AST Per Game 2.2
- STL Per Game 1.0
Nickeil Alexander-Walker Key Stats from 2020-21 NBA Season
Indeed, Alexander-Walker acknowledged that one of the main adjustments he needed to make in Year 2 was to stop creating so much self-induced pressure. Realizing he needed to – as Aaron Rodgers might put it, R-E-L-A-X – the Toronto native showed major improvement in the second half of the season, resulting in a big jump in role and impact. He averaged 28.5 minutes and 15.4 points in 18 games after the All-Star break, compared to 17.7 and 8.2 in those categories prior to the early-March hiatus.
“I’ve been more calm and mature,” Alexander-Walker said. “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.”
A severely sprained ankle sidelined him for 18 games in April and May, but for a second straight season, Alexander-Walker finished with a flourish. Starting three of the final five games, he averaged 17.6 points and 4.2 assists.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker | By The Numbers
Alexander-Walker points in the final game of his rookie season vs. Orlando, an outing he said gave him a high level of confidence entering what turned out to be a relatively brief August-November 2020 offseason. That was his first start as a pro.
Three-point shooting percentage after the All-Star break, with him going 52/137. In the first half of the campaign, he shot 32.6 percent from beyond the arc, at 70/215. He sank four-plus three-pointers in six different games, with five of those coming in starts.
DNPs during the first half of this season. New Orleans’ March trade of reserve guard JJ Redick to Dallas helped pave the way for Alexander-Walker to move into a larger role. He logged 24-plus minutes in 19 games this season, compared to just six as a rookie.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker | Most Notable Games from 2020-21 NBA Season
#1, March 21, New Orleans 113, Denver 108
Starting in place of Lonzo Ball, Alexander-Walker helped the Pelicans notch a quality and much-needed road victory, scoring 20 points on 8/15 shooting. He was a vital third scorer on a Sunday afternoon when Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram posted 30 points each.
#2, March 27, New Orleans 112, Dallas 103
Prior to fouling out for the first time in his career, Alexander-Walker did major damage from long distance against the Mavericks, going 6/10 on treys, part of a 20-point performance. He grabbed five rebounds as the Pelicans pulled away in the second half.
#3, Jan. 13, LA Clippers 111, New Orleans 106
During the second half of a career-best 37-point eruption, ESPN’s Dave Pasch summarized his performance by saying, “What a night for the second-year pro out of Virginia Tech, showing he belongs.” Alexander-Walker shot 15/23 from the field and 5/8 from three-point range.