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Underrated Thunder Star Barely Misses Award Finalist Cut

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams, a near NBA MIP finalist

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams finished fourth-place in the vote for this season’s Most Improved Player.

Williams averaged 19.1 points, 4.5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game in the 2023-24 regular season, shooting 54.0 percent from the field and 42.7 percent from 3.

In the 71 games he played, Williams blocked at least one shot in 32 games, passed out five or more assists in 33 games, scored 20 or more points in 34 games, and had at least one steal in 48 games. He’s one of three players this season to average at least 19 points and 4.5 assists per game while shooting at least 42 percent from 3. He’s one of eight players to average those numbers in a season before turning 23 years old.

Jalen Williams Barely Misses MIP Finalist Cut

A crafty and confident scorer and two-way playmaker that operates at a methodical pace, his only weakness may be his lack top-end athleticism.

Williams is a dynamic finisher nonetheless, whether in a fullcourt or halfcourt setting. Though listed at 6-foot-5, Williams has long strides and even longer arms, boasting a 7-foot-2 wingspan. He’s also a quick leaper who has no problem finishing above the rim.

It Was Foretold

Williams was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft out of little known Santa Clara. The first lottery prospect that Santa Clara has produced in the modern era, he’s the school’s highest draft pick since Steve Nash (15th overall) in 1996. A fast-riser up draft boards after NBA Combine, Williams has been everything he was expected to be and more.

As a rookie, Williams’ scoring prowess wasn’t as pronounced but he still managed 14.1 points per game on 52.1 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from 3. One of the more well-rounded wing prospects, he also posted 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game. The result was Williams earning the second-most votes in the Rookie of the Year race, easily outstripping players like fifth overall pick Jaden Ivey.

Although there’s no trophy for runner-ups, it was a nice hat tip for the Denver native.

It was also an indication of what was to come.

What’s Next for Jalen Williams?

Looking forward, the Thunder may have to decide between Williams and Josh Giddey as the latter is approaching extension territory. However, where Williams has improved his dependability from deep, Giddey remains unreliable from 3-point range.

With that said, Williams’ younger brother is a lottery-bound 2024 prospect who OKC could see as an ideal replacement for Giddey. Colorado’s Cody Williams’ DNA profile that would appeal to the Thunder because it could take their chemistry to a whole new level. He’s also a knockdown 3-point threat (41.5 percent) and versatile defender at 6-foot-8.

In addition, this move allows the elder Williams brother to further explore his playmaking potential. The next step in his evolution might require him to take a more aggressive approach in general. Williams breaking the 20-point threshold is an easy goal to set. He should also have a more pronounced playmaking role.

This is another reason the Thunder could be forced to choose between Giddey and Williams. Giddey’s best skill remains his passing ability.


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