New Orleans Pelicans: The promise of Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Nicolo Melli

New Orleans Pelicans Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
New Orleans Pelicans Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans have two of the NBA’s least talked about rookies – Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Nicolo Melli

Entering the 2019-20 NBA season, Zion Williamson was touted as one of the most hyped-up rookies in a decade. Not since LeBron James has a rookie entered the league with loftier expectations.

However, Zion wasn’t the only rookie that the New Orleans Pelicans added over the summer. In fact, the Pelicans have four of them in the rotation. Two that haven’t been garnering as much attention as they possibly could be is Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Nicolo Melli.

Let’s start with NAW.

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Alexander-Walker, the 17th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, is known by his coaches as a hard-working student of the game. His story is incredible and is all about overcoming life’s obstacles. Alexander-Walker eventually found his way to Virginia Tech where he would play for two seasons.

During his second season, he helped lead the Holies to a 24-8 record and an NCAA Tournament berth for just the ninth time in team history. He averaged 16 points and four assists per game on 47 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent shooting from 3-point range.

Coming out of college, there were certainly questions about his game and the ability to make the move to the NBA level. However, after landing with the Pelicans, he’s shown some real flashes of potential during his rookie season.

Even being overshadowed by fellow rooks Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes, NAW is showing promise. During the NBA’s Summer League, he averaged nearly 21 points per game. He might be only averaging five points in 12 minutes of action per game in the regular season, but in extended minutes has produced.

In back-to-back games against the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors in November, NAW scored 27 and 19 points, respectively. Clearly, the potential is there. And it will continue to come with the necessary development.

In addition to the promise that NAW has shown this season, Nicolo Melli has been almost equally as impressive for a rookie. Melli is averaging six points per game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent shooting from 3-point range in roughly 16 minutes of action per night.

Like NAW, Melli has had his extremely bright spots in extended minutes this season. On opening night, he scored 14 points. Against the Warriors in November, he dropped a quick 16. Then, a few weeks ago against the Detroit Pistons, he scored a season-high 20 points on 64 percent shooting from the floor.

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a bright future with Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes. However, the team’s other two rookies –  Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Nicolo Melli – shouldn’t be overlooked either.