The Oklahoma City Thunder were very impressed with the performance of their rookie swingman Jalen Williams. The 12th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft by the University of Santa Clara surprised some. Sure, Williams was the big winner of the NBA Combine and saw his stock soar, but maybe he figured he’d be leaving a tad later.
I even asked around if Williams saw OKC able to get their hands on him and the consensus was they couldn’t drop him past 12 and they didn’t. Having the same agent as Chet Holmgren and playing him in college ties the two OKC lottery picks together, but Williams got to that point through more than flashy lottery showing and great pre-draft workouts.
In college, Jalen Williams ranked in the 90th percentile on overall offense according to Synergy, scoring 1,050 points per possession for the Broncos offense. At Santa Clara, Williams dominated transition, off the spot, isolated, cutting and off the screens on the offensive end. For Santa Clara, Jalen Williams averaged 18 points per game last season, with four rebounds, four assists and a steal per tilt shoot 40 percent from deep and 55 percent from the ground.
It’s no surprise that Jalen Williams caught the attention of the rest of the OKC Thunder roster early on in training camp after a dominant stint in the Summer League. Kenrich Williams referred to Williams as a future All-Star.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are already seeing Jalen Williams make adjustments to the NBA playstyle
It’s not surprising to members of the Thunder organization, having picked him in the NBA Draft Lottery, that Jalen Williams has had this kind of success even as a rookie, winning the Western Conference Rookie of the Month award in October/November and the December honor also almost collapsed.
This season, Williams is averaging 11 points, four rebounds and three assists per tilt while shooting 51 percent from the floor, a touch under 30 percent from deep and 73 percent on the charity streak.
This month he’s averaging 12 points, two steals and nearly a block per game with four rebounds and three assists per tilt while again shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor, but the story of this eight-game streak is outside the box Score to examine the adjustments the OKC Thunder rookie has already made to life in the NBA.
Early in Sunday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, Williams was averaging 11 shot attempts per game, which is more than the eight shot attempts he averaged before the calendar change. Why is this a big deal?
One obvious clue is that as shot attempts have spiked, shot efficiency has remained high, making nearly half his shots, but perhaps the bigger point is that Williams is already responding to the coaching.
Oklahoma City Thunder bench chief Mark Daigneault mentioned earlier this season that players have a natural identity and gave an example of a number line. At one end of the line is a player like Lu Dort, who is ultra-aggressive and offensive, while at the other end of the line is someone like Jalen Williams, who has an instinct to adapt and go with the flow of the system.
The goal is to get all players in the middle. So I asked head coach Mark Daigneault about that analogy and if he’s happy with the progress Jalen Williams has made to be more offensively aggressive.
“Pretty good.” said the head coach, noting that while he plays in that power forward role, Williams does a good job of exploiting matchups against bigs and putting pressure on defense. Specifically, after the matchup with the Washington Wizards, Mark Daigneault said, “I thought he had a really good balance tonight.”
In that game against the Wizards, Jalen Williams finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals while shooting 53 percent from the floor and 2-on-4 from deep. This game tied for the third most shot attempts Williams has attempted in a single game.
While it may be a small detail for most, it’s impressive to see how Jalen Williams has already made adjustments to life in the NBA in just 40 games.