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The Art of Momentum

Jaylin Williams’ energy on defense changes the Thunder’s tempo and morale

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Last month, I wrote an article about Jaylin Williams and his rise on the Thunder’s roster which felt necessary at the time. Jaylin had been playing very well at the time and the night before the article came out, he turned in a top level performances against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Since then, Jaylin Williams has only gotten better as a player and we are starting to see his skill as a disruptive force on defense. Williams has wreaked havoc over the last few weeks and has been massive in creating forward momentum for the Thunder in tight games.

Oklahoma City have needed J-Will to change the energy within games. With Gilgeous-Alexander being absent, the Thunder’s offense has been less potent and OKC have needed strong defensive work to hang onto victories.

Williams and his 27 charges have been huge in stopping other teams from scoring inside. As a rookie, Jaylin is leading the league in this statistical category and has turned a quirky number into being a genuinely useful part of his game.

Jaylin reads the game well and his quick feet allow him to slide into a spot just above the charge circle where he can get stops at will. Opposing players run into his chest and the referee is forced to blow the whistle.

In some cases, the referee will call a blocking foul and the possession starts again from the sideline. This is a solid outcome on the possession, the break in play allows the Thunder to reset their defense and refocus their attentions. The side-out also cranks up the pressure on the other team. The clock goes to 14 seconds and there is less time to hunt out a good shot.

Oddly enough, Jaylin Williams is getting respect from the referees and favourable calls have been going his way. When this happens, you see the man in black and white raise his arms and point in the opposing direction.

As soon as the air goes into the whistle, you can feel the crowd noise go up and you can see his teammates look reinvigorated. The charges drawn break tension and the Thunder get the perfect result; the referees hand over the ball without a shot even being taken.

In the abstract, 27 charges do not seem like a lot and it is difficult to quantify their value to the team. When you consider the act of drawing a charge, it becomes a lot easier to see the value of this decision.

At home, a vocal crowd can make all the difference in breaking the opposing team’s will. Charges are a good way of tapping into that energy and bringing the fans into the game.

The value of a charge goes deeper than that. If you consider the key actions in the game of basketball, there are a very few decisions that are moments of true sacrifice. Scoring, rebounding and even passing can be selfish actions done to improve individual numbers.

Charges do not show up on boxscores and taking a charge is a bruising process. J-Will’s chest takes a beating whenever a ball-handler runs into him at top speed; he is willing to take the pain for the team’s benefit. It is a selfless decision and shows a commitment to defense that his teammates are challenged to match.

The last point on this matter relates to momentum, J-Will’s desire to put himself in the line of the fire stops the opposing team dead in their tracks. Teams cannot just drive at the rim for easy looks if they are fearful of meeting a strong, resilient center. Taking charges creates doubt.

When you look at the intangibles and the actual measurable results of Jaylin taking charges, you can quickly recognise the value of his choice.