Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado is NBA All-Rookie Team material

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – FEBRUARY 10: Jose Alvarado # 15 of the New Orleans Pelicans reacts after scoring a three point basket during the fourth quarter of an NBA game against the Miami Heat at Smoothie King Center on February 10, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana , Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado is NBA All-Rookie Team material. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner / Getty Images)

Per Basketball-Reference, Gary Payton II leads the NBA with 2.8 steals for 36 minutes.

Jose Alvarado is racking up 3.1 steals for 36.

In order to qualify for the official leaderboards, the NBA requires players to play in at least 70 percent of their team’s games (58 in an 82 game season). Jose Alvarado has played in 48 games, and with only six left on the schedule, he’ll fall just four games short of the required number to be on the statistical leaderboards.

If, like me, you won’t hold those four games against him, then let’s circle back to our original point – Jose Alvarado leads the entire NBA in steals for 36 minutes. As an undrafted rookie.

Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado is NBA All-Rookie Team material

In his shortened season with the Pelicans, Jose Alvarado has made himself indispensable to the team, running the offense for the bench unit while wreaking havoc on defense. Alvarado has played like a veteran in his first 50 NBA games and deserves an NBA All-Rookie Team nod.

Statistically, the case is certainly there despite the lack of games played. For 36 minutes, Alvarado is second among rookies in assists, behind only Josh Giddey. And obviously, first in steals.

And, though net rating is a team stat, Jose Alvarado blows every other rookie out of the water with his 9.7 net rating. The next highest rookie is Day’Ron Sharpe at 6.9. The highest NBA All-Rookie Team contending players are Herb Jones and Scottie Barnes, with 1.9 and 1.5 net ratings respectively.

Jones and Barnes are starters, which naturally makes their net ratings lower, as they play against other teams’ starters. However, Alvarado’s 9.7 should not be discounted – when he’s on the floor Alvarado is running the offense, he’s not simply benefitting from a strong bench lineup around him. He makes the Pelicans 9.7 points better than their opponents when he’s on the floor.

In terms of traditional counting stats, Alvarado dwindles around the 30s among rookies in points per game. And typically, since rookies struggle to drive winning in the NBA, rookie awards are skewed toward players who laud high scoring averages.

But Alvarado shouldn’t fall victim to that line of thinking. Alvarado drives winning.

The Pelicans are 22-26 in games Alvarado has played, but 20-19 in games since he started playing more than 10 minutes per game. This is a team that’s 33-43 overall, meaning outside of Alvarado’s 20-19 run, the Pels are 13-24. That’s not entirely his doing di lui, of course, but Alvarado has been an undeniable contributor to winning for the Pelicans.

Despite playing half the minutes per game of other top rookies, Alvarado is ninth in assists per game, second in steals per game (behind rookie teammate Herb Jones), and first in +/-, all while playing on a team with a negative net rating and a losing record.

On a league-wide scale, Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes lead the rookie of the year race as important, productive pieces on surprisingly good teams. Jose Alvarado has played well enough to warrant the same logic, earning him NBA All-Rookie Team recognition.

There are 10 All-Rookie spots. Surely Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, Cade Cunningham, Franz Wagner, Josh Giddey, and Herb Jones are all guaranteed a spot among the 10.

From there, we have four spots up for grabs – and they could all be guard spots if Cunningham and Giddey are counted as forwards. With the stark difference between the Pelicans pre- and post-Jose Alvarado, I just cannot see a way in which Alvarado doesn’t deserve one of those spots.

Alvarado has put up highlights, wins, and league-leading steal numbers in his short NBA career. Playing like a veteran from the start, Jose Alvarado deserves NBA All-Rookie recognition.

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