The New Orleans Pelicans have started the 2022-23 season extremely well. While they were an offseason pick to surprise the established order by some, they have already won over some of the more casual fans with their star power, depth and the perception that they look like they are having fun out on the court.
They may have lost Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019, but at this point, you can now make a strong argument in the Pelicans’ favor. Would you rather have the bubble championship that the Lakers do or the avalanche of young talent and exciting prospects that the Pelicans boast? Only one of these options is set up for the next five years.
New Orleans Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado will get his dues before long.
This writer is here to establish his spot on the Jose Alvarado bandwagon nice and early. If you’ve watched him play this season, you will know exactly what we’re talking about. Alvarado is a blur of speed, steals, solid defensive decision-making (despite usually giving up size) and severely underrated drives to the rim.
He’s been so good that the Pelicans have kept it rolling, despite missing the wrecking ball Williamson and Ingram for some of their wins so far. This isn’t all down Alvarado of course. General Manager David Griffin has done an exceptional job of turning a franchise that was viewed as a laughing stock at drafting players, into one that suddenly sees it as a strength.
Trey Murphy III, Herb Jones and this year’s lottery pick, Dyson Daniels are all steady contributors and provide real depth in New Orleans. Back to Jose Alvarado though, and he’s looking more and more like a real one-of-one player in the league. Just listen to this from teammate Murphy III;
Or how about the fact that on more and more of his drives, he seems to possess an almost prime John Wall-like speed in how he gets to the basket? That is high praise, and Alvarado is not the player prime Wall was. But he gets downhill in an instant and has no problem taking contact from mammoths in the paint. More than that though, he’s got some moves in his bag to create space.
All of this would be less noticeable if Alvarado played elsewhere, so we need to acknowledge the fact that he is in the perfect spot in New Orleans. A young team on the come up, that has real offensive firepower. Right now the Pelicans rank second in the whole league in offensive rating, a truly brilliant start to the season for them.
Yet Jose Alvarado is only averaging 8.3 points per contest. He has only started a single game so far, and his best role likely is coming off the bench. But when he checks into a game, you feel the intensity turn up right away. Defensively obviously, but even on the offensive end, there is a decisiveness in everything that he does.
If all of this sounds a bit too much like “eye test fluff” for your liking, then consider this. Alvarado is shooting 36.4 percent from deep, providing a release valve for his teammates in how he is able to knock down a respectable amount of shots from deep. His effective field goal percentage of 66.7 percent trails only Daniels (75 percent) and Murphy III (81.4 percent) as well.
Those numbers will even themselves out for everybody over the course of the season, but it just serves to highlight the ability Alvarado has for getting to the rim and finishing. Players like P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon have been rightly lauded in the past for their defensive abilities despite not being tall players.
Alvarado falls into this category, but is also a hybrid. A guard who is quick enough to stick with the All-Star point guards of the league, but also physical enough to contest for loose balls with bulky forwards. Offensively he will never be the focal point of what head coach Willie Green is trying to implement, but that is the beauty of Alvarado’s game.
He is the kind of player every contender needs. Think what he could do for the Lakers, who signed Patrick Beverley with the hopes he could do exactly what Alvarado currently does. There’s a certain irony in that. Alvarado is never going to win a Most Improved Player award, because the field is too crowded and he likely will never make a huge statistical jump.
But he is the perfect Sixth Man of the Year candidate for what the Pelicans are trying to build. He defers to the stars, defends diligently and sets a tempo for the group. But when some of their stars are unavailable, he has no problem taking on more of an offensive load, and leading a young second unit in getting stuck into opponents.
Jose Alvarado is only 24 years old and is already one of the most unique players in the NBA. He has started off the season showing what an integral part of the rotation he is for the Pelicans, and you can bet there will be more starts and notable statistical nights in his future.
Even if there isn’t, there will always be more of this, and we can never have too much of this.