IV: Nickeil Alexander-Walker
While not a new face in the purest sense of the word, shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker will enjoy his first full NBA season on the Timberwolves roster. Let me explain. He arrived at the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline as part of the compensation that sent veteran point guard D’Angelo Russell to the Los Angeles Lakers. Since he arrived late in the season, his initial role with the team was a bit limited.
This season, his role could and should expand for the Timberwolves. And that can only translate into positives for the young Timberwolves’ versatile wing. After all, when starting small forward Jaden McDaniels was injured and unable to compete in Round 1 of the 2023 NBA Playoffs, the Timberwolves turned to Alexander-Walker to start four of the five contests.
Playoffs suit NAW
While he did not put up an MVP performance, he did step up in a very difficult situation, playing incredible defense and even modestly spiking on the offense half of the basketball court as well. Best of all, his perimeter shot improved from a 36.1 percent accuracy rate up to 40 percent accuracy.
Two areas with a strong need to improve this season are the Timberwolves’ ability to defend the perimeter and the ability to score points from the perimeter. It was no mere coincidence that after NAW’s arrival, the Timberwolves turned the corner in both areas and began to show improvement.
The Timberwolves bench last season was a blend of young players and veterans who were a bit long in the tooth. The Timberwolves front office made the best of the situation, but the roster was assembled with no more strategy than a person tossing darts at a dart board.
Beginning at the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline, strategy has taken the driver’s seat in how this Timberwolves roster has been fitted. NAW is the perfect example, as he has an ideal blend of experience and youth, offense and defense. I would not be the least bit surprised if he scores 12+ points per game while shooting 40+ percent from three-point range this season.