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Thunder’s Jalen Williams is on a path to NBA stardom. What’s his ceiling in OKC?

The player who leads the Oklahoma City Thunder in fourth-quarter scoring is a devastatingly smooth operator — a dude capable of beating you by pulling from deep, getting downhill to make a play or slicing all the way to the rim for a DIY bucket.

He’s adept at lulling defenders to sleep with the pace of his dribble before bursting past them on the way to the basket; once in motion, he’s got the brakes to stop on a dime and enough brawn for a bump-off to create space for a quick-trigger pull-up. Add all that to a combination of polished footwork, go-go Gadget arms and a feathery touch, unlocking all manner of nifty finishes on the interior, and you’ve got a real three-level nightmare.

You know what’s nuts? The Thunder also have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

That’s right: The top final-frame scorer for the title-contending Thunder isn’t the bona fide MVP candidate who’s averaging more than 31 points per game. Nor is it Chet Holmgren, the tall drink of water whose pathway to Rookie of the Year honors has likely been blocked by that other, taller bottle of Evian, but who remains a walking mismatch with a pure pick-and-pop stroke and a face-up game from Hell.

Nope: It’s Jalen Williams. The three-star prep prospect who turned into a three-year starter at Santa Clara. The 12th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft who turned into the second-place finisher in Rookie of the Year voting. Now, he’s the No. 2 option on a Thunder squad with championship aspirations as real as the talent they’re putting on the court every night … and a player whose all-around game — equal parts silk and smash, just as comfortable cooking with the rock as he is working to shut off an opponent’s water — might just turn him into an even more luminous brand of star.

Consider:

He’s averaging 19.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this season, shooting 54% from the field. Before this season, only five players age 22 or younger had ever averaged better than 19-4-4 while making more than half of their shots: Giannis, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, David Thompson and Kevin Johnson. (On pace to join J-Dub in…


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Publish date : 2024-03-06 15:03:59

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