Jalen Williams Deserves Your Attention
NBA Draft fans love the idea of finding a "Sleeper." Well, let me tell you about one prospect that has my attention.
The term “Sleeper” is thrown around often in the NBA Draft world. We often use this word to express the idea that there’s a prospect out there who simply isn’t receiving the recognition or attention they might deserve. An idea is born that this player could transform into a basketball magician, installing unexpected happiness to a future fan base.
As fans of the NBA Draft, we find ourselves obsessed with names that are trending towards becoming potential lottery selections. There are players in every class that are simply the “belle of the ball,” and we find ourselves levitating towards them with a thirst of curiosity. All of us are guilty of it. We get a grasp for the blue-chip prospects for the incoming slate of young talent destined for the NBA, and we start to monitor their progression on a nightly basis.
But there’s also the other side of the fence that keeps some of us up late into the night. It’s the late hours that involve heavy eyes and questionable timing of caffeine consumption. Chasing “sleepers” can be a mindset that drives an individual insane. You find yourself traveling into a dark realm, consuming film of teams that you would never have previously imagined.
When I alerted the No Ceilings crew of who I was going to write about for my next piece, the first response I got made me want to do this article even more…
“You mean Jaylin Williams of Arkansas?”
My response politely was… “No, I do not.”
Our goal here at No Ceilings is always to educate you on the depth of prospects that are going to be mentioned in each Draft Class. There’s always going to be plenty of time to talk about the popular names that are trending in the scouting world, but it’s important to get a grasp for the full slate. By the time the 2022 NBA Draft comes around, there’s a chance that there’s going to be a number of prospects we discuss who simply won’t be drafted. Does that mean they don’t deserve the attention as the others? No, it does not.
Let me tell you about a prospect who I believe deserves your attention. That player is Santa Clara guard Jalen Williams. Throughout my time evaluating prospects, I’ve managed to build some relationships with some individuals who have an eye for finding talent. Usually, these conversations involve some of the notable prospects in the class, but when there’s a wildcard name mentioned…you listen.
That’s just what happened with Jalen Williams. I quickly found myself rushing to dive into the film of Williams, and I quickly became intrigued. When it comes to looking closely at an “unknown” talent, you start to go through a checklist of boxes and see if you can continue to get more intrigued after you answer each question. The first was the measurables. Williams is listed at 6’6”, 195 pounds, and definitely looked the part on tape for a potential NBA wing. So far, so good. The next was the background. Although Williams is listed as a junior, he won’t turn 21-years-old until April of this year. Again, we are trending in the right direction. Then you go and look at the production over the years. This might just be something that I personally go crazy for, but I love to see when a player has continued to improve across the board throughout their career.
Here’s a look at Williams over his three-year career at Santa Clara so far.
7.7 PTS, 2.8 REB, 1.9 AST, 1.3 STL, 43.6 FG%, 35.2 3P%, 76.3 FT%, 25.5 MIN
11.5 PTS, 4.1 REB, 2.3 AST, 1.2 STL, 39.9 FG%, 27.4 3P%, 75.7 FT%, 31.6 MIN
2021-22 (as of 2/10/22):
18.1 PTS, 3.8 REB, 3.7 AST, 1.2 STL, 52.3 FG%, 41.0 3P%, 83.3 FT%, 34.4 MIN
That is the type of stuff that makes me start to drool. While the second year percentages might scare you, it’s important to realize that this type of stuff is more common than not when it comes to players returning to school. Once players establish themselves at a school or team, they are going to be asked to take on more of an offensive load. Williams saw a big spike in his shot attempts throughout his sophomore season, so it’s not shocking to see that he struggled from the field. What is fascinating is the eye-opening jump in production from this year compared to his sophomore campaign. That’s when I knew that a dangerous amount of film was about to be consumed.
Let’s get to it.
FEEL FOR THE GAME
When I started to dive into Jalen Williams’ film, his overall shiftiness with the ball in his hands really caught my attention. This is what is so great about players returning to school for extended years of development, as you can see their confidence and comfort with the game start to come together. Williams understands that he can use his hesitations and shiftiness to create enough of a window to do damage when he’s getting downhill. All he needs here is that quick little hesitation, and he explodes to take advantage of the reacting defender before finishing strategically on the other side of the rim.
After seeing Williams successfully do work in traffic on a number of occasions, I found myself wanting to see how he could create off the bounce. Immediately, I was intrigued as there are some fascinating tools to work with. Williams knows how to set up defenders and does a great job of creating separation when he needs to. He’s a confident outside shooter who can get hot and stay that way in a hurry.
NBA RANGE? CHECK
When Jalen Williams is rolling, you know it, I know it, and boy…does the opposing defense know it as well. Williams only needs a couple of shots to fall before that basket starts to look drastically bigger. He’s a player who understands where his defender is, and he can stop on a dime at any moment to give himself a wide-open look.
PATIENCE ON THE ATTACK
This is the type of play you’ll frequently see when it comes to Jalen Williams getting downhill. He’s not this type of super freakish athlete who is going to wow you, but the junior guard understands how to use his body to put defenders in uncomfortable positions. Love the patience by Williams here to allow this drive to develop and then cap it off with a gorgeous finish.
MORE RANGE PLEASE
Another promising development when it comes to Williams is his ability to get shots up in a hurry. There are plenty of times on film where you’ll see that Williams can be a lethal threat in catch-and-shoot opportunities. Although Jalen has shown the ability to be a dynamic threat off the dribble, he also has the potential to be an intriguing asset off the ball.
PLAYMAKING PART I
Williams has had a number of games this year in which he’s put up impressive performances against some tougher competition. That’s definitely notable, especially when you’re trying to value the idea of a potential “sleeper” prospect in an upcoming NBA Draft class. His most recent game was an eye-opening performance in an upset win over 22nd-ranked Saint Mary’s. He went on to finish the night with 18 points, two rebounds, and ten assists while shooting 70% from the field. What stood out to me in that game was Williams’s ability as a playmaker. This is a great example of it here as the junior guard makes a beautiful read on this P&R action.
PLAYMAKING PART II
Another play from the Saint Mary’s game that really stood out to me, as it showed Williams’ ability to make quick decisions on the fly. After this P&R action up top, Jalen is going to have to whip his head around after the defensive pressure and analyze the floor quickly. He does that and makes a beautiful pass on the money for an easy two.
Although the 20-year-old guard continued to impress me on the offensive side of the ball, I wanted to get an idea of his potential as a two-way player as well. There will definitely be some growing pains with Williams, but it’s nothing I don’t think can be coached out of him with time. Overall, I came away impressed with the flashes that he’s shown on the defensive side of the ball. There’s some good awareness to his game, as he has the ability to read the floor and make quick decisions on the fly. Something that stood out to me with Jalen was his hands defensively. He has VIOLENT hands that are quick to attack.
HELP ME HELP YOU
Another play that caught my attention from the Saint Mary’s game. Great weakside help here from Williams, who continues to creep and reads this play like a book. This was a massive momentum shift in the game for Santa Clara, who eventually went on to pull off the upset.
You’ll see this as a good example when I’m talking about the potential that Williams has on the side. There’s no doubt that he has the tools and ability to become a solid defender at the next level, but he’s probably going to just need some work on his fundamentals. Still, great job of contesting throughout this play, and then we get to see Williams finish this play with a great rejection.
WATCH THAT ON REPEAT
The weakside help on this play is sensational from Williams, as he flies across the screen to make an emphatic play on the ball. What was so fascinating about this steal is the fact that you have to watch this play on repeat to realize how ridiculous it was. Williams doesn’t even get this ball on the first attempt. If you slow it down, he actually reaches back and steals it with his left hand. Could be freaky, could be a fluke, but it’s pretty remarkable, in my opinion.
DO NOT COME IN HERE
Although there are plenty of plays in which Williams defeats his defenders with his shiftiness and feel, he also has a number of plays on tape where you can see that he has some sneaky athleticism to his game. Love the awareness and activity from the 6’6” junior on this sequence. Jalen does a great job of coming over to give baseline help before quickly getting his head around to make an empathic rejection on the ball.
There are going to be plenty of “sleepers” in every NBA Draft class who are going to get the attention of basketball fans and evaluators out there. It’s one of the most exciting parts when it comes to scouting for an upcoming Draft. You find something that you believe could turn into a diamond if it ends up in the right situation. I’m not trying to tell you that Santa Clara junior Jalen Williams deserves to be an automatic first-round selection in the 2022 NBA Draft…
I’m just telling you that he deserves your attention.