With the Sixers officially having a first-round pick in hand, the focus must turn to preparation for the draft. Daryl Morey is sure to be scouring the trade market if there is value for the selection, but there is a good pool of players set to be available at the 23rd pick. This draft has been regarded as very top-heavy; however, many appealing plug-and-play role players would fit the Sixers’ needs. One player to keep an eye on for the Philadelphia 76ers is Santa Clara wing Jalen Williams.
Who is Jalen Williams?
Jalen Williams was born in Colorado but moved to Arizona when he was just seven years old. Both his parents served in the US Air Force. He graduated from Perry High School in Gilbert, Arizona, where he averaged over 25 points per game as a senior. He was the number 9 ranked player in the state but did not receive any major offers coming out of high school. The wing ultimately decided to go to Santa Clara, where he spent the past three years playing his college ball.
Williams had a major growth spurt late in his college career, which changed his basketball trajectory. After playing point guard for most of his life, he sprouted to about 6’5″ with a ridiculous 7’2″ wingspan. The experience as a ball-handler has helped his game, and he remains a high IQ basketball player.
There was great progress shown in the development of Jalen Williams during his time at Santa Clara. He improved each of his three seasons and averaged 18 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.2 steals this previous season. This year, Williams took a noticeable step forward in his three-point production and connected on 39.6% of his three-point attempts. He also shot 48.4% on catch-and-shoot threes. Although he can look rigid at times, there is nothing mechanically wrong with his shooting stroke, and it should remain effective at the NBA level.
The 21-year-old also possesses intriguing shot creation potential. He plays with a controlled pace and is effective in his pick and roll reads. Williams is a capable ball-handler and potential second or third playmaker on the court.
His 7’2″ wingspan is a major asset on the defensive end. He uses his length to swallow up smaller guards and can bully the opposition at times. While he gambled too much and was too reliant on going for steals, he made some impressive plays when coming over as a help defender. Williams lacks as a post defender and needs to add weight to his overall frame but will be effective guarding guards and wings.
The shooting numbers took a notable step forward this season, but the shot was still not respected by opponents. Opposing defenses were comfortable going under screens, and there is some concern about just how consistent of a shooter the Santa Clara product can be. Williams shot 35.2% on three-point attempts his freshman year and just 27.4% as a sophomore. He looks comfortable creating off the dribble but lacks the elite burst or shiftiness that will be needed to create separation in the NBA.
There also are obviously questions about the level of play as Santa Clara did not match up with the top college programs. Jalen Williams will also have to make some notable changes to his role as he will need to shift from the ball-dominant primary option he was in college to a more complimentary floor spacer at the NBA level. He attacks the basket well and uses his length to his advantage but will need to add muscle to his frame moving forward. Williams will need to become more consistent on the defensive end. For the most part, they are fairly easy tweaks; however, his pick-and-roll defense is somewhat concerning.
NBA Outlook and Fit With 76ers
Jalen Williams is projected to be drafted anywhere from the 20th pick to the early second round. He likely will be best used as a shooting guard in the NBA who handles the ball at times. His frame may be more like a wing, but he would be most productive if able to use his length advantage against opposing players. The level of shooting ability is his biggest swing skill for NBA.
When looking at the Sixers pick, Jalen Williams would be a useful player immediately. He would provide a nice burst of athleticism and is a guy who plays with some toughness. Williams has long strides, an impressive vertical, and is not afraid to dunk on someone’s head. His ability to read coverages with the ball in his hand, especially pick and roll, is especially intriguing. The ability to serve as an additional ball-handler on the floor would be a major asset to the Sixers and something the team has missed.
While he was asked to do much more during his time at Santa Clara, Williams projects well as a three-and-D role player. I expect most of the defensive concerns to fix themselves when there is more taken off his plate. The 21-year-old is far from a polished product but would be capable of playing minutes at the NBA level almost immediately. He likely will not be their top target, but the Sixers should be comfortable walking away with Jalen Williams with the 23rd pick if this is how the draft plays out.