3 Timberwolves who are underperforming, 3 exceeding expectations at the midseason break

Minnesota Timberwolves v Portland Trail Blazers
Minnesota Timberwolves v Portland Trail Blazers / Alika Jenner/GettyImages
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Exceeding expectations: Nickeil Alexander-Walker

One of the more intriguing transformations the league has seen, Nickeil Alexander-Walker went from an offensive gunner to a defensive menace. To begin his career, the Virginia Tech product looked to score early and often.

As a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, Alexander-Walker averaged 9.9 points per game, but he shot a nauseating 38.9 percent from the field and 33.0 percent from beyond the arc. Before departing New Orleans in 2022, Alexander-Walker was attempting 12.6 shots per game and only converting on 4.7 of his attempts.

After the swingman was traded to the Utah Jazz, his transformation began. He played limited minutes in his first half-season in Utah. But once the 2022-23 season had commenced, Alexander-Walker turned a new leaf and his play carried over to Minnesota.

This year, in his full first season with the Timberwolves, Alexander-Walker is averaging 7.0 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 0.9 steals per game. He's also shooting a rock-solid 37.6 percent from beyond the arc.

His offensive contributions aren't otherworldly, but his defense has been fantastic. Of all players who have appeared in 25 or more contests, Alexander-Walker ranks 38th in field goal percentage difference. Alexander-Walker's opponents shoot 4.0 percent worse when he's the primary defender.

The Minnesota guard is especially stifling on two-point attempts, forcing opponents to shoot 7.7 percent worse from inside the arc. The 6-foot-6 Alexander-Walker uses his lateral quickness and long frame (6-foot-10 wingspan) to stay in front of both guards and wings and contest their attempts at the rim.

On a modest two-year, $9 million contract, the former first-rounder has become an invaluable part of the Wolves' rotation. He's a slasher and a capable spot-up threat on offense. And on defense, he's more than up to the challenge of defending the opposition's best perimeter player.