Rarely do you see a rookie guard who is so impactful as a finisher at the rim; but, Jalen Williams’ tough array of floaters, scoop lay ups and mini-hooks has allowed him to shoot 71% in the restricted area. He is maintaining a field goal percentage of over 50% despite his three-point shooting success from college not quite translating just yet.
The reigning Western Conference Rookie of the Month has emerged as an immediate impact player in his rookie season, something very few are capable of doing and his success can be mainly attributed to his finishing at the rim.
At 6’6” and 211lbs with a freakish 7’2” wingspan, Williams is not hampered by frame concerns like some of his peers. When his size is combined with his unteachable soft touch, it is a potent mix and suddenly, it looks like the Thunder have a guy with star-level scoring potential.
Does this remind you of any other 6’6” guard with an extremely soft touch who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder? Leaving the ground on your opposite foot and finishing with a soft touch off the glass at speed over long arms is simply something you cannot teach. When you look for star scoring upside in young players, this is EXACTLY the type of thing that gets you excited with the idea of what he could one day be. Don’t watch Jalen Williams highlights and drive folks.
First of all, let me clarify that this is not a fantastic shot for Williams to take. But when you have got the touch that he does, who cares? A high-arcing, heavily contested floater over two players but he gets the friendly bounce off the rim. Lots of guys would brick this straight off the backboard, but not Williams.
He takes and makes these drifting running floaters routinely and he makes a difficult finish look easy. The defender contests well but Williams’ absurd wingspan means he has no issues getting the shot off over the outstretched arms.
A reverse layup off the glass with the inside hand from directly under the backboard is nutty stuff, that’s for sure. But as he loves to do, Williams makes it look far easier than it actually is. Attacking the closeout in the corner is also a go-to move for him. He gets the defender to bite on a pump or head fake and he’s off. The slightest hesitation from the defender and he blows right past them.
The corner is a great spot for Williams in general. Not only does he love to attack closeouts from that spot, he is also incredibly good at reading his defender and cutting backdoor. As soon as Isaiah Roby turns his head, Williams cuts through the blindside and Roby is oblivious.
Williams was not seen as much of a dunker in college, but he has certainly been no stranger to throwing it down in his rookie season with the Thunder, with 25 dunks so far. Most of his jams have come from rim running in transition or off catch-and-dunks when the ball-handler drives and draws in the defense.
He is just such an aware and high-IQ cutter. Being able to read the defense and spot the open lane to the basket is a fantastic ability and shows why many dubbed him as one of the more NBA-ready prospects in the class. The highlight dunk over potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate Brook Lopez is the icing on the cake.
Whilst he is fantastic on his floaters thanks to his supreme soft touch, I would like to see him take that extra dribble to get closer to the rim and finish through contact, rather than settling for the floater.
Jalen is not necessarily afraid of contact, in fact, he handles it quite well, but rarely does he go out of his way to create contact. We know he is uber-talented at converting on floaters and scoop lays drifting away from the hoop, but initiating more contact on drives would serve to increase his efficiency even further.
You can see that on this possession when Williams is getting downhill. He attacks DeMar DeRozan in semi-transition, gathers the ball and immediately starts drifting away from DeMar.
I would love to see him go straight into the body and finish through contact. His shooting efficiency will improve as he gets closer to the rim and we should see an uptick in and-1s (even though this play is an and-1 because of DeRozan’s undisciplined reach-in).
Here is a hard-to-come-by example of Williams initiating contact with Reggie Bullock on the drive and getting the foul call. The contact is minor in this situation but the shot is harder to contest for Bullock adequately. He gets an easy shot to convert rather than a more tricky floater.
To tap into the full potential he possesses as a scorer, Williams needs to stop shying away from contact at the basket and be more authoritative with his inside looks. In time, it should happen and I look forward to his game reaping the rewards.
Very rarely do we see a rookie contribute efficient and consistent basketball within their role like Williams. The potential to be a star-level scorer is evident and if he can tap into that the Thunder’s outlook on the future of their rebuild looks very bright. I am fully aware that he has only played 26 NBA games, but I think Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder have got something special brewing with their 12th overall pick.