Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams is a 6-foot-6 guard that can dribble, shoot, pass, and defend — sounds like a guy the Sixers could use.
The 2022 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, June 23. Since the Nets decided to defer the pick owed to them as part of the James Harden trade, the Sixers will select 23rd overall. Ahead of the draft, we’ll look at several prospects that could fit the Sixers and be realistic possibilities at No. 23.
Jalen Williams comes from a mid-major school in Santa Clara, but the 6-foot-6 guard’s draft buzz is growing. The 21-year-old wrapped up an impressive junior season, averaging 18 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists on 51.3/39.6/80.9 shooting splits. He saw an increase in role and volume of shots and still managed to vastly improve his efficiency with a 60.1 true shooting percentage last season (up from 50.9 the year before).
Let’s examine the strengths and weaknesses of Williams and if he’s an option for the Sixers at No. 23.
Williams essentially played point guard for Santa Clara. At 6-foot-6, he’s an oversized playmaker in the form of guys like Luka Doncic and Tyrese Haliburton. He runs the pick-and-roll well as a ballhandler and makes some pretty pocket passes with either hand. He’ll take chance with risky passes, but his turnover numbers were decent for such a high usage rate. He also has the ability to finish downhill. He wasn’t an explosive finisher in college, but he has good touch and creativity near the rim. He also excelled in transition and likes to find outlets streaking up the floor.
Jalen Williams using the smitty to get around defender finishing with the reverse. pic.twitter.com/jugAIsC81L
— Josh Codinera (@JoshScoutEm) May 19, 2022
Not only is Williams 6-6, but his wingspan measured a whopping 7-2 ⅖. He uses that length offensively by shielding the ball from defenders, similar to Pascal Siakam. It’s even more useful on the defensive end where he’s able to get deflections (1.2 steals a game) and has the potential to guard one through four. It’s fair to wonder if he’ll have the lateral quickness to be an above-average defender at the next level, but he plays hard on that end and does well fighting through screens.
There are quite a few questions surrounding Williams.
How will he handle more athletic defenders that can match his size and physicality? Is he explosive enough to get to the rim consistently? The volume of threes is kind of low (3.2 attempts), how will he do with NBA range? How will he adjust to a complementary role?
Most of those questions stem from Williams playing at a mid-major. He did face off against a very good St. Mary’s squad and one of the nation’s best in Gonzaga, but the level of competition he faced on a nightly basis wasn’t near many of the other players in this draft.
There are a couple other nitpicky things. For a player of his size and ability you’d like to see him get to the line more (4.3 free throws a game). His rebounding numbers also weren’t very good for someone with so much length (4.4 rebounds). To be fair, the rebounding could be a simple result of him playing more of a point guard role and not due to any athletic deficiencies.
Fit with Sixers
Williams went from a player that might not have been a first-round pick to getting buzz to be a top-20 player. If he’s available to the Sixers at 23, he’d be intriguing. He’s a player that could help them now in a supporting role before possibly growing into a bigger one in the future.
When you watched him at Santa Clara, you didn’t see an explosive player, but his combine results paint a much different picture. He posted a 39-inch vertical and 33.5-inch standing vertical – both marks in the top five of players participating. He appears to be an ascending player and he could have untapped potential as far as translating that athleticism to the court more.
In the combine scrimmages he looked bouncier than his college tape. Overall, he was excellent across the two scrimmages, showing off all the traits that make him a worthy prospect against stiff competition. As mentioned, he wasn’t in a powerhouse conference, but he held his own against the better teams he faced. He excelled playing both on and off the ball, showing decent instincts and timing as a cutter.
Jalen Williams throwing live dribble left hand skip pass, relocating to the dunker spot and showing that vertical bounce for the flush. pic.twitter.com/mEsXbzMh01
— Josh Codinera (@JoshScoutEm) May 19, 2022
For the Sixers, he could possibly contribute immediately as a 3-and-D player that could also provide complementary scoring off the bench. Over time, he could possibly become more than that. The Sixers need more players that can dribble, shoot, pass, and play passable defense. Williams seems to tick those boxes.