Jose Alvarado of the New Orleans Pelicans drives to the basket against Ayo Dosunmu of the Chicago Bulls.

Pelicans 2022 preseason profile: Jose Alvarado

Jose Alvarado’s storybook rookie NBA season culminated in April, when he became known to basketball fans everywhere as the bulldog backup point guard responsible for a unique brand of out-of-nowhere, “sneaky steals.” He’s the defensive menace who forced future Hall of Famer Chris Paul into an eight-second violation in the playoffs, constantly badgering the Phoenix star for 94 feet. Not bad for a player who went undrafted in 2021, a man who was highly appreciative even to sign a two-way G League contract with New Orleans.

It turns out all Alvarado needed was an opportunity, for one of the league’s 30 franchises to believe in him enough to let him prove his value. Just two months after cracking Willie Green’s rotation in January, the New York City native signed a four-year contract extension with the Pelicans, paving the way for the 6-footer to buy a new home and car (the latter for his father) in the offseason.

Asked on Media Day what will motivate him now that he’s able to afford those kinds of purchases, Alvarado smiled and replied, “I want a bigger house, a nicer car. I want to get paid, right? I’m going to keep motivating myself. It’s a blessing to put the (NBA) jersey on, so that’s the most important thing.”

Jose Alvarado | New Orleans Pelicans Media Day 2022

Alvarado’s tenacity helped New Orleans’ bench reverse its effectiveness last season after it struggled through December. With Alvarado and Naji Marshall bringing a defensive-minded approach every night, the second unit emerged as an attacking group that forced mistakes and turned them into transition points.

Nicknamed “Grand Theft Alvarado” and the "Brooklyn Burglar,” the first-year pro averaged 15 minutes in the regular season, then 20 in the playoffs vs. Phoenix, applying end-to-end pressure against opposing ballhandlers.

“Man, Jose applies fullcourt pressure,” Pelicans forward Zion Williamson said. “When I see a player doing something like that, that’s a dawg. Gutsy player. Applying fullcourt pressure makes everybody else lock in on defense.”

Alvarado also made steady progress offensively as a rookie, something he’s carrying over into Year 2. The Georgia Tech product appears to be a more confident driver, including dishing six assists – nearly all for uncontested shots – in Tuesday’s preseason opener in Chicago.

Jose Alvarado steal and score | Pelicans-Bulls NBA Preseason Highlights 10/4/22

“Be a more consistent shooter,” Alvarado said of one short-term goal, after finishing at 29 percent on three-pointers as a rookie. “I think I did a lot of good things. I’ve got to improve and be more consistent on certain things like jumpshots. Don’t turn the ball over, run the team. My mindset is (opposing defenses are) going to leave somebody open. I think they’re going to try to leave me open and I’m going to make them pay.”

Alvarado’s early NBA success came partly from the immediate embrace of his role, as a defender and opportunistic offensive player. It’s something he’s reiterated often this fall. Surrounded by dangerous scorers including Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas, Alvarado is very content to focus on what he does best.

“We’ve got so much offensive firepower that we don’t worry about what’s going to happen on offense,” he said. “My job ain’t going to be that hard. I’m going to pressure (defensively) every time on the court. I’ve got my big dogs to do the rest. I can (defend) for 82 (games), 92, however long. I can do it. As long as I’m healthy, I’m going to go out there and push as much as I can.”