Nickeil Alexander-Walker 16.2 points – 4.1 rebounds – 4.0 assists – 47.4 FG% – 37.4 3PT% – 4.2 FTA – 77.8 FT% – 1.9 steals – 2.9 TOV
Born: Toronto, Canada
Height/Weight: 6-5 – 205
School: Virginia Tech
Birthday: September 2nd, 1998
When doing research for this upcoming draft one of the prospects who’ve intrigued me the most was Virginia Tech’s guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Age 20, will turn 21 in September, NAW spent two seasons in Virginia before declaring for the NBA Draft. The first game I’ve seen him play was against Boston College – matching up against another guard I’m fairly curious in junior Ky Bowman projected to be a late 2nd round selection.
NAW represents the same platitudes applied to someone like Jalen Brunson the year prior. They are leaving college at an older age so they must be the most “responsible” prospects and carry the “least risk” if you take them. Brunson and NAW both sported impressive BBIQs and a decent ability to read the floor. Where Alexander-Walker loses me is his inability to create separation due to his lack of athleticism. NAW fit V.T’s defensive scheme perfectly. Buzz Williams scheme is mostly to play the zone on defense and some full court trapping. This is where NAW’s overall feel, awareness and BBIQ come into play. Able to garner steals despite his average frame.
Against Boston the Hokies could not have asked for a better game from Alexander-Walker. If you wanted to see a versatile, rangy, cagey prospect you’ll won’t be disappointed. Not only did NAW torch the Eagles for 25 he was able to do it by penetrating the lane and hitting his Js.
The speed of the collegiate game course pales in comparison to the pace of the professional ranks. NAW shown no indication he can keep up and belong in his current form. He’ll need to become quicker on his feet and showcase that he can shoot the three-pointer at an NBA level. NAW struggled mightily against a lengthy Duke squad anchored by R.J Barrett (6’10), Cam Reddish (7’1) and Zion Williamson (6’10). This matters because of the recent success of teams with crazy long wingspans, like Milwaukee and Toronto, the league is shifting away from one reliant on guards to versatile wings. Lacking that initial burst off the dribble NAW will need to develop some moves around the basket to even have a chance.
At the NBA level it is suspect Walker-Alexander’s defensive capabilities can translate. Despite averaging 1.9 steals a game, his per 40 totals out to a lowly 2.2.
I believe if Alexander-Walker carves a place for himself in the NBA it’ll be for his ability to knockdown jumpers and not for his defense. His average wingspan and body leave much to be desired and I think he’ll grade out to be a taller Terry Rozier than a shorter Danny Green.
Goga Bitadze – 62 2pt% – 67.3 3pt% – 6.1 PFs per 40 – 14.4 pts – 6.3 trb – 0.9 ast – 0.6 stl – 2.1 blk
Standing Reach: 2.25
Date of Birth: 6/20/1999 (Turns 20 on draft day)
I am typically skeptical of overseas prospects. The only leagues I believe are worth a certain respect from pro-league scouts are in Spain and Germany. Not too long ago Uncle Sam found himself playing catch-up to the Spanish after the 2004 Olympics ended in the U.S team being unceremoniously dethroned as King of Basketball World.
People tend to point to Dirk Nowitzki, Kristaps Porzingis and Giannis Antetokoumpo as reasons to remain optimistic in overseas talent. I’ve already stated the German and Spanish leagues are the best basketball products outside of the States’. As for Giannis, we don’t appreciate how much of an anomaly he truly was for Milwaukee. Nobody knew the level of competition Giannis faced. Giannis was also extremely skinny – there wasn’t much optimism about him putting on some muscle. The Bucks lucked out with Giannis becoming a workout freak and developing his body the way he did.
When initially reading about Goga Bitadze my first thoughts of him are of Dragan Bender minus all the hype. Bender was drafted a year after Kristaps-Mania overtook the NBA and a talking point going into the 2016 draft was finding the next Porzingis. Buying into the hype the Phoenix Suns selected the 7 foot, one inch power forward from Croatia over Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield and various other American prospects. Today Bender 21 with one foot already out of the NBA. Phoenix whiffed badly. Bender did not play enough minutes to warrant the hype he received from many respected basketball writers like Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. How in the world did a kid who played just 8 minutes a game for Maccabi the year prior get so high on every draft board? Beats me.
That all being said I have no such reservations about Goga.
Goga is not thin as a rail like Bender was and is quite filled out for someone so young. His 6’11 height is aided by his 250 pound frame and the bulking up he’s down between his age 19 and 20 seasons playing for Mega Bemax in the Serbian League. This past year Goga joins the likes of Danilo Gallinari, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotic (2x), Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Luke Doncic (2x) as recipient of the EuroLeague Rising Star award averaging 14 points off of incredibly efficient shooting. Goga is more than just a spot-up artist. He can run the floor, dunk, isn’t averse to contact and sports some mean post moves.
Here is the rundown of his Points Per Possession in certain playtypes:
Weak Side Cutter: 1.267
Guarded Jump Shots: 1.214
Post-Up Js: 0.957
He absolutely kills it in almost every facet of his game. As I stated before Goga’s ability to withstand contact on the inside is a major plus, it gets him more opportunities at the charity stripe. Averaging 5.8 attempts this past season shooting nearly 70 percent. His 7’2 standing reach allowed him to collect an awe-inspiring 13.5 blocks per game per 40.
His footwork is amazing, arguably the most polished part of his game. Can play with his back to the basket. If he is able to take his lumps in the NBA and develop further we are potentially looking a clone of Jusuf Nurkic. Despite being 25-pounds lighter than Nurkic was his rookie campaign Goga is roughly the same size as featured modern era bigs like Joel Embiid and Karl Anthony-Towns. Goga is right now the perfect size for the modern league and will thrive if given the opportunity and space to.
If Romeo Langford and P.J Washington are off the board for Boston at 14 I’d strongly consider taking Goga. His upside is too much to pass up on – especially for a team picking in the crap shoot area of the draft.