Jaylin Williams's Pick-and-Roll Versatility | The Friday Screener
Jaylin Williams is extremely talented, but his offensive versatility shines the brightest when he is the screener in the pick-and-roll.
The 2022 NBA Draft is littered with big men who will have prolonged NBA careers. Some are specialists, while others bring a more well-rounded game. Few, though, show as much offensive promise as Arkansas center Jaylin Williams. Williams isn’t a knock-down shooter or a primary initiator, but his versatility in the pick-and-roll is incredibly valuable.
So far this season, Williams spends 20.7% of his possessions as the pick-and-roll screener, the most of any of his possession types. Not only does Williams spend most of his time in this role, but he is also incredibly effective at it as he is scoring 1.205 points per possession (PPP) (77th percentile), per Synergy. I know reading about a prospect’s screening isn’t initially the most captivating idea, but the variety and effectiveness of Williams’s screening paint a beautiful picture of what type of player he is on offense.
When it comes to high-volume screeners, most act as rim-runner vertical spacers, while others exclusively pop out to the perimeter. The uniquely valuable ones, though, are the ones who can roll to the rim, pop out for a jumper, and create for others out of the short roll. Williams lands in this last bucket.
Williams isn’t much of a vertical spacer, as he only has 11 dunk attempts on the season per Barttorvik.com, but that doesn’t diminish his rolling ability. Despite lacking the vertical spacing of most rollers, Williams still ranks in the 84th percentile with 1.452 PPP when he rolls to the rim, which he does on 42.5 percent of his pick-and-roll possessions.
Here, Williams uses his broad frame to set a solid screen and force the switch. Williams then disengages and rolls to the rim. While keeping his defender on his back, Williams receives the lovely wraparound pass and elevates for the dunk before the help defender can rotate.
What makes Williams so challenging to defend as the screener is his versatility. While he has the frame and strength of most quality screeners, he also has the agility and footwork to effectively slip the screen. This season, Williams slips the screen on 19.2% of his pick-and-roll possessions and scores 1.5 PPP (93rd percentile) when he does so. Additionally, Williams ranks in the 96th percentile with 1.75 PPP when he slips the screen and attacks the rim.
Here, Williams feels his defender push off his back to hard hedge the pick-and-roll too early. Knowing the lane is unoccupied, Williams immediately slips the screen into that space, ensuring he doesn’t cause a spacing issue. As Williams catches the pass, he keeps it high and secure while using a fluid drop step to set up the layup.
At the college level, Williams’s lack of explosiveness doesn’t hinder his ability to get to the rim as much as it will in the NBA. Against better athletes and defensive rotations, though, Williams will find it difficult to reach the same level of at-rim finishing that he has in college with 1.27 PPP (76th percentile) in non-post-up shots at the rim.
Thankfully, Williams is already showing he has a reliable counter with his floater. Williams is currently scoring 1.273 PPP (98th percentile) on his floater. Only 5.1% of Williams’s shots are of this variety, so that mark could be skewed by the small sample size, but his career free throw percentage of 72.7% is an encouraging indicator of his touch.
Here, Williams sets a brush screen that gives his teammate space to attack the mid-range. Williams initially moves like he is going to pop for three before patiently probing the empty space at the free-throw line. As Williams catches the pass, he decisively puts up a floater instead of wildly driving into contact or allowing his defender to recover.
When Williams slips the screen, he isn’t exclusively reliant on his teammate leading him to the rim, as he has the agility and skill to attack space out of the drive. Here, Williams knows his defender is at the level, so he quickly slips the screen into space in a Spain-esque action. After receiving the pass, Williams immediately attacks downhill, where he is aided by a screen. Williams doesn’t allow his defender to fully recover and uses his inside hand for a scoop finish through contact.
Williams doesn’t have the best shooting numbers, and he may never be a legitimate shooting threat but plays like this are incredibly encouraging. Arkansas runs the exact same play we just saw, but this time Kentucky preemptively switches the first screen to keep Oscar Tshiebwe away from the perimeter. As Williams slips the screen, Tshiebwe is eagerly awaiting to shut down his drive. Williams, however, catches this pass much deeper than the previous one and decisively rises up for the elbow jumper.
Again, Williams’s shooting numbers don’t necessarily align with the smoothness of the below clip. Williams is only shooting 24.1% from three on 1.8 attempts per game, but when he does stuff like this, it’s tough not to imagine it becoming a legitimate part of his game. Williams slips the screen, quickly and fluidly flips his hips to prepare for the shot, and knocks down the open three.
Scoring out of the roll in a variety of ways adds an immense amount of versatility to a big man’s offense. What further elevates the team’s offense, though, is if he can create for others out of the roll. Williams’s scoring versatility will put pressure on opposing defenses, but his passing creativity and accuracy will give them nightmares.
Here, Williams rolls hard to the rim after his defender hedges at the ball-handler. Williams immediately takes off, but he is quickly met by the timely defensive rotation. Instead of trying to finish through contact, Williams spins to avoid contact while dropping a pass off to his cutting teammate.
This time, Williams doesn’t bother setting the screen as his defender immediately goes for the trap. Williams slips into the mid-range and swiftly spins against the help defender’s rotation. This dribble move creates a three on one situation for Arkansas against John Fulkerson. As Williams attacks, Fulkerson has completely lost track of the corner shooter who has cut baseline. To create a more prominent passing lane, Williams stares down the corner to move Fulkerson in that direction before delivering a no-look pass to his teammate under the rim.
Standing out among centers in the 2022 NBA Draft is a difficult proposition, as the position is littered with NBA talent. Jaylin Williams, though, has a versatility to his screening that few others possess. While his skills are evident in the pick-and-roll, it also suggests that these can be harnessed in other facets of the offense. Being a positive contributor in the pick-and-roll should be the expectation with Williams as he can score and pass. How he harnesses and manipulates those skills to produce elsewhere, though, is the real puzzle.