If you hadn’t heard of NBA veteran shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker before he was part of the trade package received for surrendering PG D’Angelo Russell, you are not alone. Truth be told, when his name appeared in the three-team trade summary that included the Utah Jazz and the LA Lakers, I had to do some research. My first impression was that he was merely a player to balance out the salary components of the trade for all three teams.
I was oh-so-wrong and I’m glad for it.
SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker was drafted with the 17th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans. At the time, he was selected to complement the play of Pelicans star Zion Williamson, the first player selected in that draft by the Pelicans. NAW developed quickly as a versatile player for the Pelicans, primarily as a scorer off the bench, but also as a spot starter who offered some offense.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker is on the move
The Pelicans opted to trade NAW in a three-team trade, which put him on the Utah Jazz roster, where he competed for two partial NBA seasons.
Which led to the Minnesota Timberwolves acquiring him just weeks ago. So what was it about Nickeil Alexander-Walker that caught the eye of Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly? His perimeter shot became laser-guided during his time with the Utah Jazz, skyrocketing from 32 percent to 40.2 percent.
With the Pelicans, he was a volume scorer who consistently put up 10+ PPG. With the Jazz, he couldn’t get playing time, but when he did he made the most of it. So it seemed that if he was added to the Timberwolves’ roster and was given minutes, the Minnesota Timberwolves might benefit from the best of both worlds.
NAW, he’s good
So far that seems to be what is happening
While plenty of critics are quick to blast Minnesota Timberwolves President Connelly for his efforts to elevate the Timberwolves roster, the real appreciation for what he can do to help this team is not about one trade, but rather the overall roster.
This is the guy who drafted Walker Kessler, a player for the Utah Jazz who some now claim is a Top-5 rookie from the 2022 NBA Draft. He has added both Luka Garza and Matt Ryan to 2-Way contracts, and both players appear to have serious NBA playing potential. As well as Walker Kessler, the Timberwolves drafted Wendell Moore Jr., Josh Minott, and Matteo Spagnolo. We know that Moore has flashed serious defense, Minott can score, and Spagnolo is learning his craft in the Euroleague as a combination guard.
Timberwolves land a marksman in NAW
Now, the Minnesota Timberwolves can add Nickeil Alexander-Walker to that ever-growing list of young talent added by Connelly to the Timberwolves roster. While six games are hardly conclusive evidence, NAW has averaged 14.7 MPG, 6.3 PPG, and 1.8 RPG, and is scoring from beyond the perimeter at an eye-popping rate of 50 percent. Best of all, his minutes are increasing as is his impact on games.
His latest performance against the Sacramento Kings was 24 minutes, 16 points, five assists, one block, and one steal. He even scored on four of eight shots from the arc.
If there was one thing that was grossly absent from the Timberwolves roster before the NBA Trade Deadline that was not a dependable point guard, it was a player who could score from three-point range. Is Nickeil Alexander-Walker that player? It certainly appears that way so far. He is confident, aggressive, and best of all, dependable.
Did Timberwolves Tim Connelly do something special again in the latest trade? Yes, I think he did.