Jalen Williams is making a strong case for an All-Rookie team selection

Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /
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Jalen Williams is even having a defensive impact.

As an on-ball defender, he has quick feet and long arms, which make it tricky for players to get past him. Oklahoma’s coaching staff is more than aware of Williams’ defensive upside and often tasks him with guarding one of the opposing team’s best players, like Ja Morant, for example.

Over two games, he guarded Morant on 27.9 possessions. Morant is one of the most explosive and crafty scorers in the entire league and made 50 percent of his field goals against Williams, but the matchup could have ended much worse for the rookie and was surely a great learning experience.

Williams also had some more successful matchups against star players, though, that further showed his defensive potential. He guarded Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown on 44 possessions. Over those possessions, Brown scored 6 points and had 4 assists, but he made only 3 of 7 field goal attempts and went 0-2 from three. The rookie also forced a turnover and recorded a block.

Williams is only 21 years old but is still older than a decent number of his draft classmates and displays a mature, collected style of playing, which usually puts him into the closing lineup and made his transition to the NBA easier. By now, he has risen up to sixth place on the NBA Rookie of the Year ladder, as he is outperforming expectations this early on in his career.

People were intrigued by the prospect of a 6’6” player who can fill in several positions and has a giant 7’2” wingspan, which is what eventually catapulted him up the draft boards, but few expected him to have a meaningful impact this early on.

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Considering his play thus far, a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team should be safe for Williams, as he is only trailing Paolo Banchero, Bennedict Mathurin, Jaden Ivey, Jabari Smith Jr., and Keegan Murray in the Rookie of the Year race.

If he continues with the same productivity and has one or two more games like his career-best performance, however, he could knock someone off the All-Rookie First Team and secure the honor for himself.