Jalen Williams moves to higher offensive gear

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) /

If there is a player who has taken the heaviest cudgels for the Thunder at this point of the season, — with All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out, and other players struggling to find their mark — it was rookie Jalen Williams.

On Wednesday versus the Sacramento Kings, he posted a career-high 27 points, alongside eight assists and five rebounds on 56 percent shooting from the field on 24 percent usage rating. He followed that up a night later with 24 points, and seven assists in another Oklahoma City loss against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have seen Jalen Williams flash his offensive upside without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Williams’ scoring bursts have been the consistent silver lining in this five-game losing string of the Thunder.  Often relied on to create on-ball, he has been averaging 22 points in his last four games, all were SGA-less.

If it would be stretched back to his last nine games, Williams’ have put up 19 points a night, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals on shooting splits of 54/44/90. In that stretch, he had also tallied a remarkable 63 true shooting percentage on a usage rate that bumped to as high as 27 percent against the Phoenix Suns.

On the eye test, J-Dub’s off-the-dribble creation has been impeccable. His driving burst coupled with his change of pace have been allowing him to get to the basket with a prolific finesse that have pushed the Thunder to play him more freely as the primary creator at offense.

Beyond that, he has also excelled in every role he has played so far this season. On a healthy lineup, Williams plays as a hybrid forward, often playing off the gravity of Gilgeous-Alexander while punishing defenses who tend to neglect his strides with the ball through a combination of  strength and craftiness.

Standing at 6-foot-5 with an outlandish 7-foot-2 wingspan, Williams has been attracting comparisons to All Star teammate SGA — who is also enjoying a 7-foot wingspan. Just like Shai, he uses those long arms paired with his innate athleticism to elude outstretched arms of defenders and manufacture shots around the rim.

Weighing on the pace he plays and the vertical threat poses as he leads all guards on dunks this season, J-Dub can be more of a young Andre Inguodala with a much better shooting and touch around the rim.

On Wednesday, coach Mark Daigneault said this about Jalen Williams after the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 123-117 loss against the Kings: “I thought he was on the gas tonight, did a good job, but it never felt like he was forcing it. It was a testament to his feel and his IQ.”

Still a rookie at 21 years old, Williams’ continuous offensive jump should still be felt from here on out as he gives the Thunder a capable secondary, if not primary, shotmaker alongside star Gigeous-Alexander. However, with the ball on his hands more as SGA sits out, expect some process-over-results junctures.

“He is still learning the balance between aggression, and making the right plays. As we’ve talked about many times, we’re leaning on him to be more and more aggressive, even if it comes with some early mistakes,” Daigneult emphasized.

Shouldering a bigger and bigger load for the young Thunder squad, rookie Jalen Williams has constantly proven himself to be one of this draft’s most exciting prospects. Considering everything he brings to OKC, Williams may have placed the Thunder to a much brighter place for the future.

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