Who are the biggest X-factors in the OKC Thunder vs Pelicans Play-in game?

Jaylin Williams #6 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images)
Jaylin Williams #6 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images) /
2 of 4
OKC Thunder
Jaylin Williams #6 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images) /

Jaylin Williams can unlock a different gear for the OKC Thunder and flip a Pelicans Advantage. 

It is clear that the Oklahoma City Thunder need more size. Their tallest active player will be the 6’10 Jaylin Williams. In addition, the Thunder were the worst rebounding team in the NBA and was led in that category by 6’8 guard Josh Giddey.

It appears evident that the New Orleans Pelicans have a huge advantage down low with Jonas Valanciunas, who averages ten rebounds and 14 points per game.

However, in the season’s final matchup against the Pelicans, the OKC Thunder limited Valanciunas to four rebounds and 13 points with three turnovers and as many fouls. This forced Willie Green to only play the big man for 16 minutes in the contest.

Jaylin Williams did an excellent job putting a body on Valanciunas, boxing out, and freeing up the glass. While Williams was only able to collect three rebounds on his own, there were many rebounds created by him moving the Pelicans’ big man out of the way.

Between Williams’s ability to scrap for box outs, his knack for drawing charges is incredible. As head coach Mark Daigneault puts it, it leads to rim protection from the ground. So if Jaylin Williams can get a couple of charges against Valanciunas early and force Willie Green to go small with Larry Nance Jr (which he likes to do), it could flip the advantage for OKC.

However, this game has two other critical areas for Jaylin Williams. First, on the perimeter, Williams is an elite passer for his position. He is creating the advantages with the number of cuts the Thunder use. He also shoots 40 percent from beyond the arc, which puts the Pelicans in a unique position.

Disregard Jaylin Williams if you want to, but what if he pops in a trio of triples? Okay, so close out on Williams, but now you have Jonas Valancuinas on the perimeter and away from the rim.

The other key area will be his screen setting. As the Postseason style of play gets wrapped into mismatches and hunting switches, Jaylin Williams is the center to lay screens and attempt to get switches for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Jaylin Williams set nearly five screens a game for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, producing 1.0 points per possession.