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2022 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles: Jalen Williams

Another Mr. “Do It All Saul” but with high level production and the freaky wingspan

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NBA: Draft Combine David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next 3 weeks, GBB will be profiling various players the Memphis Grizzlies may target in the 2022 draft. We’ll primarily look at who they may pick with the 22th and 29th pick, or with a pick from a possible trade up in the draft.

Jalen Williams, Wing, Santa Clara

  • 6’6”, 7’2.25 Wingspan 209 pounds, 21yrs old from Gilbert, Arizona
  • Last Season at Santa Clara: In 33 games (34.8 minutes per game)—18 points per game on 51% shooting (39.6% from 3, 80.9% Free Throw %) 4.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals 0.5 blocks
  • Three seasons at Santa Clara, In 84 games total (72 games started) — 12.6 points on 46.9% shooting (35.2% from 3, 78.9% FT%), 2.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks,
  • 3 STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon): 2.0 Ast/TO ratio, 51.3 FG%, Offensive Win Shares 1.32
  • 3 STATS TO IMPROVE Three-point attempt rate 2.48, Defensive Win Shares 0.52, 4.6 Rebounds per game
  • Awards and Accolades: Two Time All West Coast Conference Selection & 2021-2022 First Team All-ACC Selection, Finalist For Mid-Major Player Of The Year (Lou Henson Award) Averaged over 25 points per game as a senior in High School, both of his parents served in the Air Force.
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENT: 37th (Tankathon), 25th (The Ringer), 24th (ESPN), 51st (CBS Sports), 25th (The Athletic), 20th (Bleacher Report)

“The Memphis Grizzlies have a type. They tend to gear towards players with size, college productivity, defensive tools — all while not giving a damn about draft age.”

I stole this from Site Manager Parker Fleming, because it applies to Jalen Williams possibly more than any other prospect in Memphis’ current draft range.

21-year old Jalen Williams has become quite the trending topic since the NBA draft combine last month, where he tested, measured and played well in scrimmages, thus vastly increased his draft stock. Williams was productive over the course of his three year tour at Santa Clara, where he averaged 18 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists — while shooting 51.3% and knocking down threes at a clip of 40%, and shooting just over 80% FT.

Jalen Williams was the only player in the nation to average such a level of production at such a high level of efficiency. He’s also shown he has strong two-way potential despite some athletic limitations. Talk about letting the numbers do the talking.

Jalen Williams’ IQ, vision, work ethic, size, skillset, and resumé of production this season are all undeniably great by anyones standards. In fact, it’s baffling that the consensus viewed Jalen as a second-round prospect just a few months ago. He bet on himself by participating in all phases of the combine, only confirming what the tape and stats already say about his immense versatility and potential.

AREAS OF STRENGTH

Jalen Williams is THE most all-around skilled player in this draft. This is especially the case amongst the guards and wings. Time after time this season he has proven it: from the regular season to the NBA draft combine. His body type, athleticism, level, and frame are built like peak James Harden. Though he has a few other similarities to Harden, I would certainly point elsewhere for a more accurate comparison of Williams’ game. For starters, he arguably has more of a mature, empowering approach already. Jalen is more prone to involve his teammates in the offense as opposed to scoring himself which he also does very well, but not in the same breath as peak Harden of course.

Among the players whom used the pick-and-roll at least 300 times as both a scorer and passer, Jalen ranked as the second most efficient player in the nation. He possesses a deadly pullup game that forces his defenders to play over the screen or suffer severe consequences. He has a very capable jab step as a deadeye three-point scorer — uses the hostage dribble incredibly well to trap defenders until he makes a play either with a pass, a floater, attacking the rim, or the pullup jumper. He’s excellent at controlling the game & playing at his pace. He has the ball on a string, as well as everyone else around him.

Jalen has an elite depth of variety in ball-handling skills and maneuvering. He has excellent footwork and ability to explode off of two feet for stronger finishes around the basket.

Jalen recorded a 39-inch vertical at the NBA combine as well. This further backs up what you see on tape with Jalen’s explosion off his feet. He adjusts well in mid air to finish shots. He’s also a legit lob threat and almost exclusively takes long drives to make scoop finishes using that freaky wingspan.

Jalen is also a solid defender with room to get even better defensively with NBA strength and conditioning training. He’s a great shot blocker when guarding one on one. Smart enough to simply raise his hands up. When opponents do attempt to shoot they end up highly contested or out right blocked. He also knows how to use his length well to recover defensively and will block shots from behind with that chase-down badge action.

He’s a great help defender and uses his wingspan to cover ground. He’s timely with ball stripping as he pokes at balls unexpectedly to create defensive plays. Jalen is a very active on-ball defender, using his 7’2” wingspan to wreck havoc on ball handlers, as well as in the passing lanes. He’s also great at defending handoffs, as he will quickly react to deflect passes causing turnovers in many cases which helps him average over one steal per game. He may actually be best when switched onto smaller guards being they have a really hard time shooting over his 7’2” wingspan

Even more notable are his synergy stats. According to Global Scouting, Jalen Williams ranks:

  • In the 97th percentile on spot-ups
  • In the 87th percentile as a cutter
  • In the 86th percentile as the PnR ball-handler
  • In the 86th percentile on floaters at the rim
  • In the 83rd percentile in transition

Again nearly every statistical category backs him up as an efficient playmaker and scorer. Jalen creates good separation when needed to get his shot. He can also play efficiently off-ball or even as a secondary facilitator. Jalen Williams played most of his preps career as a point guard. This served him well in developing his skill as he begin to have a massive growth spurt in his junior and senior years of high school.

Despite limited attempts, by all accounts Williams is a great shooter. This is especially so in catch-and-shoot situations as well as in zoom action shooting. He displays good potential as a moving shooter as well. Overall he shot nearly 40% from three this season on 3.2 attempts per game. On all contested catch and shoot jump-shots Jalen shot 61.5% (16/26) which ranks him in the 100th percentile, according to Synergy.

He has a quick release that many define as an unblock-able three point shot to go along with excellent & fluid form. He gets low in pre-catch to give himself a good rise on his shot arch although it can be higher.

Williams is a “late bloomer” prospect that clearly still has room to grow. Imagine how much better he can be once his body becomes familiar with NBA strength ns conditioning programs alone. He measured at roughly 6’6 in shoes with a massive 7’2 inch wingspan, which gives him a +8 wingspan and an even more intriguing piece of one’s core. His skill level not only heightens his ceiling but also raises his floor.

AREAS OF WEAKNESS

There aren’t many areas of weakness for Jalen Williams as his skill is immense. However, one area of improvement Jalen can improve is his strength and conditioning. He can add even more bulk, which would make him even more of a deadly finisher around the rim. His conditioning can also help give him more agility and lateral shiftiness. This will serve him better when defending more shifty, speedy guards on the perimeter.

His 4.4 rebounds per game are particularly low for someone who played as much as Williams, as he played 34.8 minutes per game. His rebounding per 40 is especially low when you consider how much he is utilized and how aware his stats suggest he is. Simply put, Jalen should have a better nose for crashing glass considering how high his activity & IQ are.

Defensively, Jalen is solid but could use some improvement. Better strength and conditioning can prevent him from being a prime target of quicker guards along the perimeter looking to take advantage of his struggles defending against shiftier guards.

There were times where you could see Santa Clara Head Coach Herbert Sendek yelling at Jalen Williams “You gotta defend outside. No excuses!” Or something to that tune. It wasn’t necessarily a lack of effort as Jalen is known as an active defender. However due to his heavy usage everywhere else, there were moments he would get caught upright and out of position. However, one can argue he was burnt out from doing so much for the team. When he lacks engagement on defense he gets caught upright and thus is not able to match the foot activity of the ball handler well. He’s currently a tad slower than desired laterally so he can’t afford to take plays off defensively. His load won’t be as big in the NBA which will give him more energy to defend to his potential.

Williams’ 3-point shooting frequency is cause of concern for some, especially considering his great efficiency from three when he does shoot the ball from beyond the arc. Some of that can certainly be attributed to how he was used by Coach Herbert Sendek. His skill, IQ, work ethic, efficiency and shooting form speak promise to his shooting potential.

FIT WITH GRIZZLIES

Jalen‘s skill level is nearly redundant at this point, but it’s also why he would fit well with nearly anyone. In Memphis he would be welcomed as a potential secondary playmaker ns possibly even backup point guard depending on who he’s running with. Ideally Jalen would replace the ever inconsistent De’Anthony Melton, and possibly Tyus Jones to an extent. Jalen’s size and shooting off/on ball also gives him flexibility to play a lot with Ja Morant, possibly full time depending on what happens with the roster. Ja can sit, and Jalen can run with a 1-3 combo of himself, Bane, Dillon, and Jaren and whoever playing with him in the frontcourt.

Jalen’s length gives them extended help defensively as well. You want as much length as possible when running small or looking to roll out a five-wide lineup to space the floor. An older prospect at 21 years old, Williams is already skilled enough to be a plug-and-play guy from day one. He’s also already accustomed to being heavily relied on for production so he has the mental consistency needed to maximize his potential. Jalen Williams also serves as a leadership guy and great teammate, which is always welcomed in locker rooms.

Defensively, Jalen is still solid enough to not only hold his own but provide the help defense and weak-side shot-blocking Melton has provided. With Williams being bigger, he would also give the Grizzlies more length than Melton along with lightyears more offensive reliability which will give the bench a more consistent spark in the backcourt.

Bottom line, I see Jalen Williams having the potential to bring a lot of positives this Grizzlies team, and his maturity brings even more of that young leadership they seem to mandate nowadays.

Stats per Synergy Sports and Sports reference.

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