If you were to draw up the perfect dimensions for a modern NBA guard they're probably going to be similar to those of Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Standing at 6'5" with a reported 6'9" wingspan he's got the prototypical size for a guard and that could make the Canadian product extremely enticing.
In his two seasons at Virginia Tech, Alexander-Walker proved time and time against that he's a natural-born scorer with court vision in his DNA. Gifted with the ability to either go get his own shot or play a setup role he is a chameleon that can shift from volume scorer to pure point guard with ease. Seamlessly shifting from one role to the other within a game, or even sometimes within a possession, keeps the defence guessing and makes him a tough cover.
A premium is placed on versatility in today's game and Alexander-Walker provides that. You could easily play him as a starting point guard who gets the team into sets or you could have him play off the ball and be a catch and shoot threat. An instant offence threat due to his one-on-one scoring ability he also profiles like a perfect sixth man.
Alexander-Walker's draft destiny is going to depend on whether teams see him as the future quarterback of their offence or whether they see him as a complimentary piece who can knock down a shot when called upon. Sometimes players with an expansive skill set aren't viewed as highly as players with one or two marquee abilities as the players with a central defined skill can be more easily projected. One of the toughest things to do in basketball is score and Alexander-Walker can do it in multiple ways and that makes me think he'll be one of the first guards with his name called in June's draft.
Some players have the kind of jump shot where the ball leaves their hand and you always think it's going in and Alexander-Walker falls into that category. Part of the reason he's such a good shooter is the fact he shows great discipline in shot selection and that helps him not only put up points but put them up efficiently as evidenced by his 37.4% from three and 53.7% from two-point range. Not only is he dangerous when he gets his feet set and can catch and shoot, but he's also very good when pulling up which is a requisite skill for any NBA guard.
Today's NBA game is marked by a steady diet of pick and rolls and as possibly the best pick and roll guard in the draft class Alexander-Walker is going to really stand out. What makes him so dangerous in the pick and roll is his ability to play with poise and either come off screens quickly or slowly to force decisions from the defence before making his move. His constant changes of speed leaves defenders on their heels and vulnerable to whatever move he wants to pull out next. Attacking with speed allows him to get into the teeth of the defence and potentially come away with easy buckets but he'll also come off the pick slowly to string out a defence and find open shooters.
Perhaps the most underrated part of Alexander-Walker's game is his skill driving with either hand. He's the most ambidextrous prospect I've seen come through the draft the last few seasons and that ability to work with his off hand makes him unpredictable and allows him to be equally effective from either side of the court running pick and roll. He's also able to pass the ball confidently with either hand which, mixed with his court vision and length, makes him a tremendous distributor.
Alexander-Walker's feel for the game isn't limited to the offensive side of the game as he uses his anticipation to get into passing lanes and come away with steals and deflections, averaging 1.9 steals per game last season. Not super powerful going laterally on defence he does well to utilize his length as a way to deter players from dribbling at him. When defending smaller point guards he can really bother them with his size and that could create some interesting matchups at the NBA level.
While his 6'5" frame looks great at the guard spot he is extremely skinny and he could get pushed around even in the college game, a cause for concern when he makes the leap the NBA. He gives up a lot of ground to stockier players who can protect the ball and drive into his body and when you add in the fact he isn't super quick laterally there are going to be a lot of players that can turn the corner on him to get to the hoop. He found a way to defend well at the college level and he'll need to be savvy in figuring out how to defend in the NBA as well.
The lack of strength also affects him on offence as he struggles to play through contact. Those challenges to take contact and score inside makes him play smaller than his frame would suggest and he hasn't yet learned to utilize his length to be efficient around the rim.
His pull-up game is so strong he often goes to it instead of getting all the way to the hoop and challenging rim protectors but the pull-up will be much more challenging in the NBA and he'll have to be able to score at the rim to stay efficient.
Teams are also going to have some justifiable concerns about Alexander-Walker's athleticism. He's a fairly unique player that isn't explosive but also isn't particularly smooth.
The way to describe his movement is more herky-jerky than anything else and while he actually utilizes that irregularity on offence to keep defenders off balance it could be viewed as a major hurdle for his transition to the NBA. Alexander-Walker is going to be giving up either athleticism, or strength, or both in a lot of his matchups and that could scare a team that's thinking about taking him with a high pick.
Projected NBA Draft Range: 8-14
Projected NBA Role: Volume scoring sixth man.
NBA Comparison: Spencer Dinwiddie
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.