The Trail Blazers’ memorable postseason run might be over, but the the 2019 NBA Draft is right around the corner. Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey currently has the No. 25 pick in the draft at his disposal and he will look to supplement the Blazers’ roster with a talented prospect in the latter stages of the first round. Today we look at Nickeil Alexander-Walker of Virginia Tech.
- Height: 6’5.5”
- Weight: 204
- Wingspan: 6’9.5”
- Shooting Hand: Right
- Position: Combo guard
- Age: 20
- Projected draft range: 16-26
- PTS: 16.2 | Per 40: 18.9
- REB: 4.1 | Per 40: 4.8
- AST: 4.0 | Per 40: 4.6
- STL: 1.9 | Per 40: 2.2
- BLK: 0.5 | Per 40: 0.6
- FG%: 47.4
- 3P%: 37.4
- FT%: 77.8
Nickeil Alexander-Walker played point guard and shooting guard in his two years at Virginia Tech. He has the skills to operate in either role: passing and court vision when running point, off-ball movement and shooting otherwise. Outside of being the ball handler when Justin Robinson suffered an injury, Alexander-Walker played the bulk of his minutes as shooting guard. His off-ball speed and navigation through screens created open opportunities all over the court. Assisted by his long arms, the Virginia Tech guard was a crafty finisher at the rim and displayed a variety of mature moves to avoid bigger defenders.
Despite his craftiness in the paint, Alexander-Walker struggled to finish through contact and rarely drew fouls. Despite being a solid passer, he frequently kept his head down on drives and forced tough looks in traffic. The lack of physicality extended to off-ball plays like defensive switches or box outs, where opponents effortlessly bodied him out of the way.
Away from the key, Alexander-Walker exhibited streaky shooting. In eight of 34 games this season, he shot below 30 percent from the field; he shot over 60 percent in the same number of games. In his final two contests at VT, Alexander-Walker tallied six and nine points on 2-8 and 3-10 shooting, respectively.
With more minutes and an increased role on offense, Alexander-Walker improved his numbers across the board. The most notable development outside of his efficient scoring was the jump from 1.5 assists to 4.0 assists per game. Robinson’s injury thrust Alexander-Walker into the point guard role, a role that induced more assists but also significantly more turnovers. Even in a passing-heavy role for the second half of the season, Alexander-Walker remained the team’s leading scorer at 16.2 points per contest. He unfortunately ended his career at Virginia Tech with back-to-back disappointing outings in the March Madness Tournament. But a successful sophomore campaign has Alexander-Walker in line to be the Hokies’ first ever drafted underclassmen.
Strength and agility training at the NBA level can transform Alexander-Walker into an elite dribble-drive guard. He needs to absorb contact and add pop to first step to capitalize on his ball handling and finishing skills. Improved court vision and spatial IQ will diversify his drives and get his teammates involved as well. Alexander-Walker has the size and portfolio to play a combo guard role on both ends of the floor, a useful ability for players paired with another shooter in the backcourt. Until he bulks up and polishes his game, Alexander-Walker figures to provide inconsistent, instant offense off the bench.
After drafting two guards in the 2018 draft and already possessing an elite backcourt signed long-term, another guard shouldn’t be on Portland’s radar with the 25th pick. On the contrary, the first two workouts hosted by the team have consisted primarily of guards. Even if the Blazers do look to add depth in the backcourt, Alexander-Walker isn’t the right type of guard. He plays well off the ball but isn’t an elite catch-and-shoot prospect like other players that should be available at the end of the first round. His defense isn’t stellar either—the Blazers need someone to compensate on that end of the court in lineups that stagger Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Do you want to see Alexander-Walker in a Blazers jersey next season? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.