Timberwolves

Nickeil Alexander-Walker Is Your Seventh Man Of The Year

Photo Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s NBA awards season, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are poised to take home some hardware in several major categories for the first time in a generation. Despite the Twitter bot discourse around Rudy Gobert getting punked by Nikola Jokic and Christian Braun in Minnesota’s loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, Gobert is still in line to win his fourth career Defensive Player of the Year award at season’s end.

Chris Finch is in the mix to become the first Timberwolves coach to win Coach of the Year. And Naz Reid is gaining ground on Malik Monk in the Sixth Man of the Year race with two games left. Anthony Edwards will show up on some MVP ballots and will make an All-NBA team. Gobert and maybe Jaden McDaniels will make one of the All-Defense teams, and Tim Connelly is my Executive of the Year. None of the individual awards matter as much if the Wolves don’t bring home the Larry OB, but Minnesota should be well-represented in the awards categories this season.

However, Nickeil Alexander-Walker likely isn’t up for any officially sanctioned NBA awards. The fifth-year combo guard is having a beautiful season coming off the bench for the Timberwolves a little more than a year after they traded for him as a throw-in part of the Mike Conley trade. NAW has appeared in all 80 games this season, averaging 8.0 points per game on nearly 40 percent shooting from three in 23.5 minutes off the bench. He slots in perfectly as a third guard behind Conley and Edwards, forming a three-headed monster with Edwards and McDaniels as the best defensive backcourt in the league.

Still, other than maybe snagging a few All-Defense votes, NAW isn’t in the running for any awards. He’s not the Most Improved Player in the league, although he’s having arguably the best season of his young career. He’s not the MVP or DPOY, and he can’t win Rookie of the Year in his fifth season. 6MOY is the only realistic award for NAW. However, he’s behind his teammate Naz Reid in the race and isn’t quite up to the level of the other candidates around the NBA.

So what can we give NAW to commemorate a wonderful season and simultaneously make the conservatives worried that the NBA has become a participation trophy league?

If Adam Silver and the NBA are too scared to sanction it themselves, then I am proud to present the inaugural Zone Coverage Seventh Man of the Year award to Nickeil Alexander-Walker. NAW faced some competition from his teammate, but Kyle Anderson has been too inconsistent to steal this prestigious award away from the ‘Popsicle.’ (That’s a real nickname for NAW on Basketball Reference).

Outside the organization, some guy from the Boston suburbs might use outdated movie references to give you 23 reasons why Payton Pritchard is the Seventh Man of the Year. Or a Los Angeles Clippers fan might tout Russell Westbrook‘s attributes if there was such a thing as a Clippers fan. But NAW feels like the right pick to become the poster child of this award, and not just because we’re the sponsors, proprietors, and custodians of this particular hall of records.

NAW is a 6’5″ triple-threat guard who can shoot, play point, and defend most players 1-3. He’s worked to become one of the best shooters in the game. He hits 45.5 percent of his corner threes, the second-best mark on the Timberwolves behind Mike Conley and the ninth-highest percentage of anyone who has attempted at least 100 corner threes.

NAW has upped his game since Towns went out with a meniscus injury. He’s averaging 10.7 points per game on 44.6 percent on 4.6 three-point attempts. Alexander-Walker scored 28 points in a road win over the Clippers. He also had 25 points in Minnesota’s important comeback win against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, which kept their pursuit of the top seed in the West alive.

Seventh Man of the Year might not be as glitzy as MVP, and you could argue it’s several degrees less important than Sixth Man of the Year. But Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a vital part of the Timberwolves’ machine and will play a huge part in their pursuit of the franchise’s first championship.

The NBA rebranded its major awards two years ago, naming them after some of the greatest players ever. The MVP is now the Michael Jordan Trophy. The DPOY receives the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy, and the Sixth Man of the Year trophy is named for John Havlicek, who started for most of his career. I’m not going to spend a lot of time going through the annals of the NBA record books trying to find the consensus best seventh man in the history of the sport. But I’m going to name this trophy after Robert Horry, who, for all we know, is the greatest seventh man ever to touch a basketball.

Congratulations to NAW. Please contact us if you’d like to come by and collect the Robert Horry Trophy, the NBA’s inaugural Seventh Man of the Year, a totally real award.

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