For the first time since Dell Curry in 1986, Virginia Tech is poised to have a first round pick in the NBA Draft with Nickeil Alexander-Walker looking to surpass Chris Smith’s 14th overall selection in 1961 to be the earliest picked player in Virginia Tech history.
So where will Nickeil Alexander-Walker be selected? Here’s a look at four potential landing spots.
Atlanta Hawks (#8, 10, 17)
While it would be surprising if Nickeil Alexander-Walker was taken at 10, the Hawks’ 17th overall pick is definitely a potential landing spot for Alexander-Walker.
Atlanta is clearly building around their core of Trae Young and John Collins with a trade of this pick seeming unlikely after receiving it from Brooklyn. That trade also sent Taurean Prince to the Nets, creating a greater amount of need on the wing with Kevin Huerter and De’Andre Bembry as the only young wings on the roster.
With Young at the point, Alexander-Walker could easily slide in at the two with Huerter having the length to take over at small forward for Prince. The Hawks also have veteran wings like Allen Crabbe and Kent Bazemore who could allow the Hawks to ease Alexander-Walker in the rotation along with the potential of having the return of Vince Carter to mentor should he choose to return to the Hawks.
The tenth spot would likely be the highest point for an Alexander-Walker pick while the 17th spot feels like the floor for the former Hokies’ star.
Atlanta has traded their 8th and 17th overall picks as a part of a package for the fourth overall pick. While it is possible that Alexander-Walker is selected at 10th overall, the three teams below appear to be the most likely destinations at the moment.
Boston Celtics (#14, 20, 22)
The Boston Celtics seem poised for a youth revolution with Al Horford reportedly preparing to sign a new contract elsewhere and Kyrie Irving appearing to be unlikely to return. Additionally, Terry Rozier may be headed elsewhere as a restricted free agent, leaving the Celtics with Marcus Smart as a true guard to go with hybrid players like Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Jayston Tatum (who could also be used as a modern 4).
The Celtics could use depth in the backcourt and Alexander-Walker has the tools to come in and be a quality contributor off the bench immediately for Boston. However, Alexander-Walker still has work to do as an on-the-ball player and the Celtics would likely look to use him as such though having at least one veteran like Marcus Smart could help mentor him as an on-the-ball player.
Now it seems unlikely that the Celtics don’t sign at least one or two major backcourt players given the flux on their roster (or resign Terry Rozier), but Alexander-Walker could give the Celtics someone who could be more effective sooner. However, the Celtics may look for a guard/wing with more long-term upside given the versatile wings that they already have who can carry large roles, maybe considering someone like USC’s Kevin Porter Jr if they want someone who some may see as having greater upside.
Boston will be a team to watch with Nickeil Alexander-Walker and is among those who have shown interest in the Canadian.
Detroit Pistons (#15)
Detroit appears like a popular spot and though the Pistons do have Luke Kennard already, Alexander-Walker has the length and athleticism to guard NBA small forwards especially in a league where the simplifications of positions have changed some of the approach with rosters and on-floor lineups.
One thing that makes the Pistons a good fit for Alexander-Walker is the fact that Detroit has an established starting point guard in Reggie Jackson under contract for next season. However, Jackson’s contract runs out after next season and it’s possible that the Pistons could try to groom Alexander-Walker as a future point guard though that does not fit his skill set the best as a player who is much better off the ball.
CBS Sports is among the publications that currently have Alexander-Walker projected to the Pistons with Detroit appearing to be one of the most likely landing spots for the Hokies’ guard who has worked out in Detroit. The short term fit could work well with Alexander-Walker being a third guard for the Pistons behind Jackson and Luke Kennard in 2019 and the potential to be developed into a solid starter as a versatile on-ball guard and not as a wing first.
Orlando Magic (#16)
Orlando has emerged as a popular landing spot in mock drafts with Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report among the mock drafts that have Nickeil Alexander-Walker going to Orlando. The fact that multiple major mock drafts have Alexander-Walker going at 16 may be a sign that this spot may be the floor in tonight’s draft for the Canadian wing.
Orlando would be an interesting fit with Alexander-Walker likely to be purely a backcourt player given the presence of Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Issac, both of whom are forwards but neither of whom fit the center mold.
However, Orlando would provide some opportunity for lots of playing time with plenty of question marks after Evan Fournier and DJ Augustin with Markelle Fultz being a major question mark and both Terrance Ross and Jerian Grant being free agents. This situation would give Alexander-Walker the opportunity o have a fairly large role as a backup guard while also not being thrown right into the fire as a key starter for an Orlando team that will be looking to build on this past season’s playoff appearance.