Santa Clara product Jalen Williams has been exactly what Thunder General Manager Sam Presti drafted him to be, a more experienced rookie who is still young enough to fit Oklahoma City's timeline. After spending three seasons in college, the young ball handler already looks comfortable on the floor in crucial moments for OKC.
In the Thunder's most recent victory over the Washington Wizards, Williams was in the closing lineup as Oklahoma City completed a ferocious comeback. The 21-year-old wing even knocked down a crucial 3-point shot in Washington to keep OKC alive late in the game.
Williams was ranked ninth in the most recent edition of the NBA.com Kia Rookie Ladder, with Pacers wing Bennedict Mathurin taking the top spot. The Thunder rookie's inclusion in this list thrusts his name into the NBA All-Rookie team discussion.
The Gilbert, Arizona, native has played 11 games this year, missing four contests after an elbow to the face in Oklahoma City's season opener left Williams with a broken orbital bone. Williams is averaging 8.5 points, 2.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds on 52.6% shooting in just over 23 minutes per game.
The 12th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft is competing for a wing spot on the all-rookie teams with MarJon Beauchamp, Shaedon Sharpe, Tari Eason, Jaden Ivey and Mathurin. Ivey, who was picked fifth overall by the Detroit Pistons, and Mathurin, the sixth overall pick, are both averaging over 14 points per game, and are likely well on their way to appearances on the All-Rookie First Team.
Beauchamp, the Milwaukee Bucks first round selection, is currently averaging seven points and almost four rebounds per game while Eason, the 14th overall pick, is putting up totals of 8.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game for the Houston Rockets. Sharpe, who was taken five slots ahead of "J-Dub" by the Portland Trail Blazers, is averaging 10.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.
One thing that sets Williams apart is his high level defensive ability. The Thunder wing is able to switch onto most offensive players, and has frequently guarded both wings and big men this season.
Last year, then-rookie Josh Giddey earned a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team with averages of 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game while shooting 41.9% from the field. Based on Williams season thus far, it appears as though OKC will have representatives on the All-Rookie second team in consecutive seasons.