Jalen Williams saved the OKC Thunder season, literally

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

The Oklahoma City Thunder survived against the Detroit Pistons, winning on a last-second putback from their 12th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Jalen Williams. On the heels of the OKC Thunder falling to the Hornets, this saved the season in the playoff sense, but it is a lot deeper than that with one tip-in.

The OKC Thunder sit with a 38-39 record, clinging to the 10th seed in the NBA Western Conference play-in tournament. Despite many people casting the Thunder off as a tanking team, well in the mix for the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes before the season began. This has been a surprise run, especially after losing Chet Holmgren for the entire year due to a foot injury.

Jalen Williams saved the OKC Thunder season with a tip-in against the Pistons, but his impact on this campaign goes beyond that.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have seen Shai Gilgeous-Alexander take a leap. He should find himself on the first-team All-NBA docket. He was tabbed as a first-time All-Star just weeks ago and averages over 30 points per game this season. Once the season ends, a few top-five MVP votes should be cast toward Gilgeous-Alexander. While he gets the lion’s share of the credit, rightfully so, Jalen Williams has played a big part in saving this season of Thunder basketball as well.

While no one would have complained had the OKC Thunder prioritized their draft position this season as a team-building strategy, Sam Presti stayed true to his vision and let the team declare themselves this season. By not placing a limit on them, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, and Josh Giddey all forced the Thunder into postseason contention with just five games left in the year.

Despite losing the second overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and the lone top-five pick of this rebuild, the Thunder still boast, at worst, the second-best rookie this season in Jalen Williams. However, he is quickly coming for that top spot against Magic forward Paolo Banchero.

That breakout has saved this season and provided a ton of joy, highlights, and competitive games, for the second-youngest team in the history of the NBA.

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