Jose Alvarado made a name for himself down the stretch of the 2021-22 NBA season. He's not a star player by any stretch of the imagination, but his tenacious style of play has made him a fan favorite throughout the league. Alvarado's hard-working mentality allowed him to carve out a role on the New Orleans Pelicans, and he received much attention for his play in their first-round postseason series against the Phoenix Suns.
For the most part, the Pelicans used Alvarado off the bench for 15-20 minutes of game action against Phoenix. One of his primary assignments on defense was Chris Paul, the Suns' star point guard. On paper, it may seem like a colossal mismatch having Alvarado, an undrafted, undersized guard, go up against Paul, a surefire Hall of Famer.
But Alvarado pestered Paul up and down the court when he found himself matched up against him, and he earned the respect of many throughout the league for his relentless style of play. With his rookie season under his belt now and a spot in the Pelicans rotation under his belt, Alvarado seems intent on continuing to turn himself into a household name for all basketball fans.
Alvarado was not intimidated playing against Paul in the playoffs
Playing against a star like Paul would typically be a pretty tall task for an undrafted player looking to make a role for himself in the NBA, but Alvarado didn't seem phased by the assignment. Alvarado recently discussed his mindset of playing against Paul with J.J. Reddick and Tommy Alter on The Old Man and The Three podcast:
"That's something I look forward to. He either gonna bust my ass, or I'm gonna bust his ass, it's one of those two. And I don't like anyone coming at me, and neither does he, so it's going to have to be a dogfight. There wasn't any intimidation, but it was a great feeling because it was like 'alright, you looked up to him growing up and you went to his camp, and you liked the way Chris Paul played the game, and now you got a chance to guard him at the highest level, so let's just give it all we got." - Jose Alvarado, The Old Man and The Three
Alvarado's mentality helped him do his part in slowing down Paul and the Suns for stretches of their first-round series. The Pelicans weren't necessarily expected to be able to hang around with the Suns, but they made them work for their win in six games, and Alvarado played a large part in that.
Alvarado's hard-working mentality has helped him become an essential part of the Pelicans
Alvarado's season averages (6.1 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.9 RPG) aren't anything special, but he brings a tenacity to his game that not many players in the league can. He became renowned for his "sneak attacks," where he would sneak up on opposing point guards in the backcourt and snatch the ball away from them while they weren't paying attention. It may seem trivial, but those extra possessions can go a long way in determining the outcome of a game.
It's not outlandish to say Alvarado has to work harder than others to succeed because it's the truth. He's only six feet tall, and he's not a natural scorer. But he works hard to generate open looks for himself and his teammates while making life as hard as possible for the guys on the other side of the court.
It isn't hard to see why the man known as "Grand Theft Alvarado" has become a fan favorite. Coming in as an undrafted free agent, he knew he would have to earn everything if he wanted to make it to the NBA. And he plays every possession with a sort of reckless abandon that has come to represent what needs to be done to make it as an undrafted player in the NBA.
Alvarado wasn't with the Pelicans to start the season. Still, he got his two-way contract converted into a four-year, $6.5 million deal midway through this season, meaning he figures to be a crucial part of their rotation moving forward. Alvarado's play against Paul showed he can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league, no matter how lopsided the matchup may look. And you can bet he will come armed with some new tricks up his sleeve to oppress the rest of the league by the time next season starts.