The New Orleans Pelicans have a dilemma in their backcourt as Lonzo Ball has competition with the emergence of second-year-man Nickeil Alexander-Walker. In NBA trade rumors, Alexander-Walker’s 37-point explosion against the LA Clippers on Wednesday seemed so good that he could one day take over the starting spot in the Pelicans’ roster ahead of Ball.
More than that, it appears that some basketball minds have entertained the idea that Lonzo Ball’s time in New Orleans could be over.
As NOLA.com’s Scott Kushner suggests Alexander-Walker needs more playing time and that could mean moving Ball elsewhere.
“No matter the impact elsewhere, it’s clear Alexander-Walker needs to play in meaningful minutes surrounded by starters,” Kushner wrote. “Because the Pelicans have to see if what unfolded Wednesday is the guy they used the No. 17 pick on last year and not some fluke that comes around on a night no one else can score.
“Because if that was the real Alexander-Walker, it changes the calculus of how this roster should be employed and what trades should be made in the coming months.
“For starters, it makes moving Ball look a lot more logical.”
After just one game, trading Lonzo Ball may seem like a knee-jerk reaction to a solitary performance from a young player. But there’s more to the story than Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s emergence from out of nowhere.
NBA Trade Rumors: Lonzo Ball hasn’t improved, making Nickeil Alexander-Walker a logical choice
Lonzo Ball is averaging 12.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists this season. Pretty pedestrian numbers for a former No. 2 overall pick. In fact, they look eerily a lot like his numbers from his previous three seasons.
In contrast, Nickeil Alexander-Walker has shown marked improvement from his rookie season. Looking at the numbers, Alexander-Walker has already proven that he’s a better shooter across the board than Lonzo Ball ever was.
One of the biggest knocks against Ball and one that brings up NBA trade rumors has been his lack of a perimeter game, something that’s expected of point guards. What’s worse for the 6-foot-6 guard is his diminishing shooting percentages. As his 3-point shooting has gotten worse, so have his other shooting numbers.
Lonzo Ball is shooting 30.8 percent from three, 60 percent from the line, and 39.4 percent from the field overall this season. Now in his fourth season, there’s almost no excuse for Ball to be shooting as poorly as he has been this year.
Enter: Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
In two starts this season with Ball out of commission, Alexander-Walker is averaging 24.5 points on 64.5 percent shooting from the field and 63.6 percent from three while adding 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. These numbers are naturally bloated with miniscule sample size, but with more playing time, it could show that he’s a better fit for the Pelicans than Lonzo Ball especially with Eric Bledsoe now in the lineup.