How Jalen Williams' Tentativeness Could Send Thunder Home

The star Thunder sophomore has been touted as arguably one of the best second options in the league this season, but that hasn't seemed to be the case against Dallas.
May 13, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) knocks the ball away from
May 13, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) knocks the ball away from / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a series of stagnant offense, unreliable shooting and questionability for the Thunder's second option. Jalen Williams' play all season long has abruptly been supressed in this series against the Mavericks, and it's to the detriment of Oklahoma City's scoring production.

Self creation for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can only be relied upon so much, especially when the role players surrounding him aren't able to hit the open three off the kick out -- but adding insult to injury, Williams being unable to create for himself and remaining hesitant to convert the correct play has dragged down the Thunder offense.

Statistically speaking, he's still putting up numbers relatively close to his regular season averages outside of efficiency, having 16.0 points. 6.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists throughout the series. But those numbers on 31.3% from three and 40.8% overall coupled with 1.4 turnovers a night, his mistakes have outweighed his efforts.

A focused Dallas defense has continued to give what was one of the best offenses and the best 3-point shooting team in the regular season fits, as their length and ability to muddy up the lane has flustered Williams along with others down the line.

This isn't to say Williams hasn't had an impressive postseason. But in the second round, his efficiency woes and incapability of turning on the switch has really hindered the Thunder offensively. And in Game 5, that was very prevalent. Scoring just 92 points on the night, Dallas held the Thunder to under 100 points for the first time this series and took advantage of that, rallying in front of an Oklahoma City home crowd and claiming a pivotal win to take a 3-2 series lead.

Williams' responsibility all season long had been much bigger than he's assumed in this round, and his uncharacteristic inefficiency could be a key piece that sends the Thunder packing if he's unable to revert.

But as we've seen this entire season, this young Oklahoma City team tends to thrive under pressure. With their backs against the wall, they took Game 4 on the road to knot up the series. Now heading back to Dallas, Game 6 is of course a win or go home situation. Nothing has seemed to show that the Thunder will extend the series to seven on Saturday night. But with how the Thunder have completed several late-game comebacks into the playoffs, it'd be unwise to count them out completely.


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Nathan Aker

NATHAN AKER

Nathan is a senior at the University of Oklahoma majoring in Public Relations set to graduate in May 2024. He holds experience covering multiple sports, primarily basketball, at the high school and collegiate level.