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Jalen Williams Continues to Develop at Exponential Rate

In his sophomore year, Jalen Williams has taken the next step as one of Oklahoma City Thunder's franchise cornerstones.
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With a win over the Dallas Mavericks looking all but secured, Jalen Williams made sure to leave zero doubt less than a minute left in the fourth quarter.

Cason Wallace found a cutting Williams with 45 seconds to go going full-steam ahead inside the paint, allowing the sophomore wing to slam down an uncontested dunk with authority and put the dagger in an eventual 126-119 win. 

Williams was brilliant in his 35 minutes of action, recording 27 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal and three blocks on 11-of-21 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. Out of those 27 points, 14 came through in the fourth quarter, where he's been the most effective all season long.

The rising star has served as Oklahoma City's fourth quarter man of sorts, continuously showing up in the final 12 minutes of games and helping it pull through with wins on many of occasions. He gets hot in the right moments, which is a welcomed sight for his team to see in close games. 

After a highly promising rookie season that had him at the forefront of the Rookie of the Year conversation alongside Paolo Banchero, Williams has made a huge jump as a sophomore. He's increased his points per game total from 14.1 to 19, while making improvements in his 3-point shooting abilities. Being the second scoring option on a championship contending team already is a high bar to reach, but he's done it in stride. 

Although the "sophomore slump" idea has been thrown around the NBA circles before, its been the opposite effect for Williams. 

"I don't really accept the whole wall thing. It's just's basketball at the end of the day, and I'm trying to get better every game," Williams said following the win over Dallas. "I just throw out the rookie wall/sophomore slump thing out the window and just play."

That mindset has given Williams the status of being one of the brightest young talents in the league, and the only other player contending with Banchero to be considered the best in the 2022 Draft class. Not only that, but he's become a fan-favorite amongst the Thunder crowd. 

"Sam Presti made a good point to don't know what people are going through to be able to get to the games," Williams said. "You don't know whose first game it is or what the circumstances are."

Williams has embraced the Oklahoma City fanbase completely, praising it during press conferences and expressing his love to be with the franchise. Staying connected with fans is vitally important in building a championship-level team, and because of his dedication to them, it has the full support of the city ahead of its first playoff run since 2020, and the first in his young career.

When the Thunder drafted Williams with the No. 12 pick out of Santa Clara, expectations of him being an All-Star level talent in just two season were not exactly high. But through continuously working and embracing the franchise he joined, the future is bright for the 22-year-old. 

And even though he lacks experience, as long as he sticks to the same mindset that's guided him in his first two seasons, Williams will be a set for a great first impression on the playoff level.

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