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2022 NBA Draft Profile: Jalen Williams

Jalen Williams is a lengthy wing out of Santa Clara that has a very well-rounded game. He’s actually a local to Colorado, living in Denver for the first seven years of his life before moving to Arizona. Jalen was a bit of a late bloomer, standing just 5’10” his junior year of high school. As he continued growing into his body his senior year of high school and first two years of college, he worked hard on his craft and it culminated in a breakout campaign last season. In 2021-2022, Jalen led the entire WCC in total points, made First Team All-WCC, and set new career highs in most statistical categories.

Every year there’s at least one prospect that shoots up draft boards at an exponential rate throughout the pre-draft process. Jalen Williams is one of these aforementioned players and likely the very highest riser of 2022 NBA draft class. A mere month ago Jalen Williams was projected by most as a second round pick, and not even an early second rounder at that. Fast forward to June and now it looks like Jalen might be selected before the Denver Nuggets’ 21st overall pick.


Jalen Williams, Wing, Santa Clara

Vitals

Height (w/ shoes): 6’5.75”

Wingspan: 7’2.25”

Weight: 209

Age: 21 (4/14/2001)


Career Per Game Statistics

Season School Conf. MPG PTS FG% 3P% FT% AST TRB STL BLK TOV
Season School Conf. MPG PTS FG% 3P% FT% AST TRB STL BLK TOV
2019-2020 Santa Clara WCC 25.5 7.7 0.436 0.352 0.763 1.9 2.8 1.3 0.5 1.1
2020-21 Santa Clara WCC 31.6 11.5 0.399 0.274 0.757 2.3 4.1 1.2 0.6 1.7
2021-22 Santa Clara WCC 34.8 18 0.513 0.396 0.809 4.2 4.4 1.2 0.5 2.1

Strengths

Three-level Scoring

Jalen’s confidence and ability to knock down threes this past season completely opened up the rest of his offense. In his first two seasons, teams would almost exclusively go under the screener while Jalen was the pick and roll ball handler. While teams began this past year with the same strategy, as the season went on, the opposition was being forced to change up their coverages in an attempt to try and take away an open three point attempt for Jalen. Before he finished the season going 2/9 from three point range in his final two outings, Jalen was sitting at an outstanding 41.2% from three on the season.

The two biggest concerns on his three ball translating are likely his unremarkable 32% clip from three in his first two seasons and that the associated volume wasn’t particularly high, at just 3 attempts per game in his collegiate career. Jalen can be a bit hesitant to let it fly from deep and his three point attempts per game actually went down slightly from his sophomore to his junior season while taking 3.6 more total shots per game as junior. Despite these concerns, Jalen is still coming off an efficient campaign from both the three point line (39.6%) and the free throw line (80.9%).

When Jalen gets inside the three point line, however, he has a variety of finishes in his bag. He’s shown he can pull up for long and short mid range jumpers, but where he’s most effective is at the rim. His floater game is reliable and when he gets in all the way to the rim he has good touch with either hand. Beyond that, he’s solid at both avoiding contact and finishing through it. The latter of which should only get even better as he gets stronger. He’s also very patient when there’s a defender in position to make a block and has enough athleticism to occasionally catch a body for a highlight dunk.

Playmaking for others

Jalen fractured his right thumb while growing up and this forced him to start using his off hand more. He gave credit to this injury forcing him to become more comfortable with his off-hand while hooping. This skill with his left hand certainly shows up in his finishing ability, but I believe it’s actually most prominent in his passing. He’s able to pull off passes from some absurd angles and was one of the best pick and roll ball handlers in the country last season. He can keep his defender on his back with a hostage dribble and manipulate the big, patiently probing for an opportunity for a dime or a bucket. He’s also good as an outlet passer on the fast break. Not only does Jalen Williams projects as a very solid secondary playmaker at the next level, but he just makes the game more entertaining with some of the most unique pass attempts you’ll ever see.

Defensive Upside

Jalen Williams has all the tools to be an elite defender at the next level. His absurdly long arms and 39 inch max vertical make that very clear. Despite all the obvious potential on the defensive end of the court, Jalen is more of an offensive than defensive player at this point in his career. Weighing in at just 195 pounds last season, Jalen allowed opposing bigs and forwards to get positioning down low without as much resistance as one would hope. He is well aware he needs to get stronger, however, and has already put on 14 pounds from last season. Weighing in at 209 pounds at the 2022 NBA draft combine, Jalen’s speed and overall athleticism appeared unaffected by the weight gain during the scrimmages. This is a good sign that he could potentially continue to get stronger without sacrificing any of his quickness or hops.


Improvement Areas

Scoring in Isolation

While Jalen was able to have some success creating his own buckets last season, he was much more efficient scoring as a spot up shooter and while playing a two-man game. While this is normal for all players, the level of drop-off suggests Jalen may be better suited as a secondary scoring option in the NBA. His repertoire of ball handling moves are developing, but at this moment in time they can’t consistently get him enough separation to get off a clean look. Combine this lack of an elite handle and shake with average acceleration and top-end speed and Jalen has an up hill battle if he wants to become a reliable isolation scorer at the next level.

Defensive Versatility and Consistency

While it’s reasonable to believe Jalen will become a player the can guard the 1-4 effectively on defense, he may never get there. He’s not the quickest laterally, which could prevent him from being able to keep up with faster guards. Additionally, he may not have the muscle to keep stronger forwards from backing him down for easy buckets close to the basket. As he enters the NBA, I actually would expect him to struggle a bit on defense for these very reasons. His ridiculous 7’2”+ wingspan and solid vertical should always allow him to be at least somewhat disruptive defensively, but wether or not he turns into more than that is up in the air.


Expected Outcome

Projected Draft Range: mid-to-late first round

Denver Stiffs Big Board: 26th overall

NBA Comparison: Caris Levert


Verdict

Jalen Williams may have been initially overlooked by scouts due to his slightly older age, as 21 year old college juniors typically have less room for improving their game than a teenager. Or, perhaps it was his decision to play for a mid-major program at the University of Santa Clara. The West Coast Conference doesn’t have quite the same depth of competition as the power-5 conferences, but they do have top end talent and are filled with programs doing their best to compete with Gonzaga. Whatever the reason Jalen wasn’t as highly touted early in the draft process, his current draft stock feels much more in line with his talent level.

I can legitimately see Jalen Williams developing into a Khris Middleton type hooper and with the 21st selection it is rare to get a player of that caliber. He can play the 2 or 3 with basically any lineup and contribute positively in all aspects of the game. This type of large wing player with a versatile skill-set is so in-demand that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Jalen winds up as a late lottery selection on draft night. If he is still available when the Nuggets are on the clock, however, I don’t think they should hesitate to select Jalen Williams.


Highlights