Jalen Williams is already making adjustments to the NBA

Jalen Williams #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Jalen Williams #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been very impressed with the performance of their rookie swingman Jalen Williams. The 12th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft out of the University of Santa Clara caught some by surprise. Sure, Williams was the big winner of the NBA Combine and saw his stock rise at a high rate, but maybe pictured him going a tick later.

I even asked around about Williams seeing how OKC could get their hands on him, and the consensus was, they could not let him fall past 12 and they did not. Having the same agent as Chet Holmgren and playing against him in College ties the two OKC lottery picks together, but Williams got to this point by more than just a flashy lottery showing and great predraft workouts.

In college, Jalen Williams ranked in the 90th percentile in total offense according to synergy creating 1.050 points per possession for the Broncos’ offense. At Santa Clara, Williams dominated in transition, off the spot up, in isolation, cutting, and coming off screens on the offensive end. For Santa Clara, Jalen Williams averaged 18 points a game last season, with four rebounds, four assists, and a steal per tilt shooting 40 percent from deep, and 55 percent from the floor.

It is no surprise after a dominant Summer League stint, Jalen Williams caught the attention of the rest of the OKC Thunder squad early on at training camp. Kenrich Williams tabbed Williams as a future All-Star.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are already seeing Jalen Williams make adjustments to the NBA playstyle

It is not surprising to those in the Thunder organization, given that they selected him in the NBA Draft Lottery, that Jalen Williams is already having this type of success as a rookie, bagging the October/November Western Conference Rookie of the Month Award and nearly grabbing the December honor as well.

This season, Williams is averaging 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists per tilt while shooting 51 percent from the floor, a tick under 30 percent from deep, and 73 percent at the charity stripe.

This month, he is averaging 12 points, two steals, and nearly a block per game with four rebounds and three assists per tilt while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor yet again, but the story from this eight-game stretch goes beyond the box score to examine the adjustments the OKC Thunder rookie has already made to life in the NBA.

Heading into Sunday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, Williams was averaging 11 shot attempts per game, which is up from the eight shot attempts he was averaging before the turn of the calendar. Why is this a big deal?

One obvious note is that with the uptick in shot attempts, the shot efficiency has remained high making nearly half of his shots but perhaps the bigger point is Williams already responding to coaching.

The Oklahoma City Thunder bench boss Mark Daigneault mentioned earlier this season that players have a natural identity giving an example of a number line. On one end of the line is a player like Lu Dort who is ultra-aggressive and offensive while on the other end of the line is someone like Jalen Williams who has the instinct to fit in and go with the flow of the system.

The goal is to push all players to the middle. So I asked head coach Mark Daigneault about that analogy and if he is pleased with the progress Jalen Williams has made in being more aggressive offensively.

“Pretty good.” the head coach said, mentioning that while playing up in that power forward role Williams does a good job of exploiting matchups against bigs and putting pressure on the defense. Specifically, after the matchup with the Washington Wizards Mark Daigneault commented “I thought he had 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-for-4 from deep. That game was tied for the third most shot attempts Williams has attempted in a single game.

While it may be a minor detail to most, it is impressive to see Jalen Williams already make adjustments to life in the NBA through just 40 games.

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