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Jalen Williams, Gear Shifter | Taking Out the Trash Volume 8
Jalen Williams is creeping into the lottery discussion after a strong showing at the Draft Combine. Garbage Time Ghim breaks down his deep offensive arsenal and why he deserves to be a lottery pick.
The 2022 NBA Draft Combine was pretty dope last week. Some players made some real money by improving their stock, while others may end up looking like me, powerfully poor. The one dude who definitely helped his stock a ton was Jalen Williams.
He started off by measuring out at 6’5” in shoes with a 7’2” wingspan which caught the attention of scouts and draft evaluators. He then went on to impress with his play during 5-on-5 scrimmages and showed the world that although he didn’t always play against the best competition in the world in college, his game is real. I know, I’d be an idiot if I went all in because of how he played in a couple of scrimmages and because his arms are really long. Trust me, I’m not your ordinary idiot. I’m an elite idiot.
I would never claim to be someone who was early on Williams and was a fan from day one. The credit for that would go to my buddies from No Ceilings, Tyler Rucker and Corey Tulaba. I’ve joked about it a lot recently, but I had no idea who he was when Tyler Rucker brought him up for the first time months ago. Rucker never wavered on him and continued to bring him up periodically. Eventually, I caved and tapped into the tape and started to understand why he couldn’t stop bringing him up. Jalen Williams is NASTY. With the outpouring of love that Williams is deservedly receiving right now, I didn’t want to bore you guys with a bunch of stuff you could read elsewhere. For this installment of Taking Out the Trash, I want to dive into the wonderfully diverse and nuanced offensive game of Jalen Williams.
Back in High School, I found out that I wasn’t a big fan of school. My friends and I both hated school, so instead of sitting in a place we hated, we excused ourselves from school quite often. Because our school had over 5,000 students, it was pretty easy to leave whenever we wanted. Our school was in a pretty suburban area, and there wasn’t much for us to do, but there was a mall nearby with a pretty cool arcade. I was never a gamer, but I do remember some of my friends playing this racing game called “Initial D.” They’d always play on the hardest difficulty where they’d have to drive down a really steep, winding road. To do so, they’d have to expertly change gears, maneuver through the crazy turns, and accelerate and decelerate perfectly to win the race. Watch the YouTube clip above if you don’t know what I’m talking about here. That type of skill and precision was really impressive to watch, even though it was a rinky-dink arcade game. Watching Jalen Williams attack the offensive side of the ball reminded me so much of those days.
Maxwell dropped an awesome recap of the Combine earlier this week and highlighted the fact that Williams actually tested really well athletically. That was really cool to see because I didn’t really think he needed to pop athletically for me to love him as a prospect. I think of his athleticism as more of a bonus than a necessity. Williams is an extremely cerebral player that has a robust offensive game. Whether it’s his handle, deep shooting ability, passing vision, or change of pace ability, Williams has many levels to his bag. Like my friends who could expertly navigate treacherous roads in Initial D, Jalen Williams is going to figure out NBA defenses. Let’s take a look at how he’s going to do it.
Pick and Roll Boss:
Let me start off by saying that I think Jalen Williams might be the best pick-and-roll operator in the draft. I know that’s pretty high praise, but I promise you I’m not drunk. Watch some of these clips and tell me I’m crazy.
Williams gets the handoff here and takes a sharp angle off the screen. As soon as he takes a couple of steps towards the rim, you can see he’s got the attention of all five defenders. The three defenders up top surround him and lose sight of the man who was on the opposite wing at the start of the play. Williams immediately reads that the defense is collapsing on him, and he makes an inch-perfect pass to the cutter for an easy bucket. This is some high-level stuff here. Williams being able to process at that speed and then deliver a perfect pass in a tight window is what makes this play so special. If that doesn’t do it for you, let’s check out this next play.
Of all the passes I watched Williams make, this one might be my favorite. Williams brings the ball up and immediately uses the stagger screens. Coming off the screens, he’s looking for a roll man. The thing that I love so much about this pass is as soon as he comes off the second screen, you can see his eyes identifying the weakside defender caught in between the roller and the corner shooter. As soon as he sees the help defender caught in between and late on the rotation, he whips another perfect pass up top to the big for the layup. The placement and pace on the pass are literally perfect. He put the ball just low enough for his man to get it and just high enough that the ball is out of the defender’s reach. The way he reads all of that so quickly and is so decisive is nuts. It’s not just the passing out of the pick and roll that gets me excited—check out this easy floater he gets out of this action below.
This one is fun to break down because it was against Gonzaga. The trailing big man comes sprinting into the frame and immediately sets the screen. Williams uses the screen and reads that Chet is in drop coverage. It looks like he might have had space to pull up for a mid-range jump shot, but I want to believe that Williams was very aware of Chet’s length, so he instead brings the ball to the left side of the lane and waits until his man recovers so he can get him on his hip. As Nembhard recovers to Wiliams, Williams quickly changes directions and finds himself in acres of space for the easy floater. The patience, the IQ, and the way he manipulates the defense are all on display in this one possession.
This was another fun one for me. Williams catches the ball at the top of the key, and he waits for the screener. The Screener comes and slips the screen, the best part of this play is the timing of Williams’ drive. As soon as the roller slips the screen, he attacks the left side of the floor as soon as the roll defender leaves to follow the roller. What seems like a pretty basic play makes me so happy because this is another example of how Williams uses his processing powers to overcome any physical liabilities. By timing his drive perfectly, he essentially makes his first step really fast. As his man was initially expecting to guard a pick-and-roll play, he was not ready to recover and get anywhere near enough to keep Williams in front of him. Williams knows he has a lane now and takes full advantage of it. Williams gets all the way to the rim and hits the lefthand layup. Plays like this just make his life easier too. He didn’t have to do 42 combo moves and waste a ton of energy to get the bucket. He read what the defense gave him, made a quick decision, and executed it to perfection. Williams is an efficient bucket-getter.
Now this next play below is not a pick-and-roll set, but it highlights again how savvy Williams is with how he attacks offenses. In this clip, we see Williams do something he did a ton of in College, attack the defense before it’s set.
Off the miss, he gets the ball from his teammate and immediately sees that the defense is nowhere near set, and he has a man with a runway to the basket. Williams is aware and ready to throw another laser to his man to collect an easy two points. Williams was so good at this all season, whether it was a pass like this one or a quick attack to the basket. Williams loved attacking defenses that were not ready and consistently got easy buckets for himself or others. I really love when players take advantage of chaos like this.
Jalen Williams is a really good shooter. The form is pretty, he’s confident in it, and it goes in a good amount. This past season he shot 39.6% from three on 3.2 attempts per game, 80% from the free-throw line on 4.3 attempts per game, and 51.3% from the field overall. Those are some good numbers. Williams is a good shooter, but he may not be a sniper. But considering all that he has to offer, being a good shooter is more than good enough. Williams also shot 66.7% at the rim and showed nice touch with both hands. Beyond the stats, Jalen Williams showed that he was a three-level scorer who could really get to his spots.
Chet Holmgren was probably the best overall defender in college basketball last season; it’s not every day that he gets faked out and beat this easily. Look at the wicked head-fake Williams hits Chet with on this one. Williams once again attacks the pick and roll with good tempo and completely fools Chet with the head-fake and gets an easy left-handed layup and the foul.
Watch the two clips above and tell me that shot doesn’t look pretty. In the first clip, he catches the ball at the wing. Before his defender can get set, Williams starts his drive. This is important because that means his defender is playing catchup the whole time while trying to find his balance again. Williams can feel that and pulls up at the free-throw line for the easy mid-range jumper. In the second clip, they run a high pick and roll at the top of the key. Williams can see that the defense is all over the place, trying to navigate the screen. While the defense tries to set themselves straight, Williams takes a pound dribble and easily steps into a long three that he drains. This is once again another example of how well Williams can read and react to what the defense is giving him and how he’s never rushed. The guy constantly plays at his own pace and refuses to let the defense speed him up.
Now we get to the last play that I want to show you guys. Williams has loads and loads of sauce and can seamlessly switch speeds to keep defenders on their toes. Look at how he just toys with his defender in the clip above. He initially drives right and can feel his defender on his hip. He knows he doesn’t have a good angle to the rim, nor does he have the speed advantage on him. Instead of stubbornly driving into oblivion, he snatches the ball back, quickly crosses back over to his right hand, and finally gets the step on his man for the easy bucket.
When you start to see the combination of IQ, handle, shooting, pace, and physicality in Williams’ game, it’s hard to not fall in love. In the great words of my partner Corey Tulaba, “If you think the game fast, you can play the game slow.” Jalen Williams is the embodiment of that, and that is why I can easily see him being a lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. To my beloved New York Knicks, take him with the 11th pick and smile forever. I’m pretty convinced that Williams would be the perfect player to pair with RJ Barrett. Williams and RJ could share the playmaking duties and be one of the most dynamic and exciting pair of young wings in the league. If Williams is sitting there on the board when the Knicks pick at 11, he would be a no-brainer perfect pick for them.