Thompson or Ginobili: What Type of Second Option is Jalen Williams?

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Highlights Jalen Williams has showcased exceptional shooting prowess from all over the court this season, similar to prime Klay Thompson.
Williams excels at creating offense off the dribble and can drive to the hoop with ruthless efficiency, similar to Manu Ginobili.
Williams has showcased a hybrid of skills that make him a deadly scorer in a well-rounded Oklahoma City Thunder offense.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have risen through the ranks this season, elevating them within the best teams in the NBA. The solidifying play of MVP candidate, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, along with the extraordinary impact of Rookie of the Year candidate, Chet Holmgren, has received the majority of the credit regarding the team’s success. However, the emergence of their second-best player, Jalen Williams, can’t be undermined.
Williams isn’t the flashiest player on the court, but he is currently having one of the best seasons of all players in the NBA. It’s clear that Gilgeous-Alexander is the go-to guy on the Thunder, but Williams has evolved into the perfect second fiddle, creating one of the league’s most dynamic duos. However, due to his excellent ability to generate offense and shoot the ball, it presents the question; what type of second option is Jalen Williams? Is he in the realm of Manu Ginobili, or more so on the spectrum of Klay Thompson?
The answer isn’t as convoluted as it may seem and there’s plenty of evidence which supports it.
Williams Can Shoot The Lights Out
Williams is an underrated perimeter shooter
Klay Thompson is a top-three shooter in the history of the NBA and by no means is this a comparison that Williams will eventually be as great of a shooter as Thompson or even surpass him. This is a reference to the type of complimentary piece that Thompson and Williams may share similarities in.
Of course, Thompson is no longer the player that once made the Golden State Warriors so feared. However, Williams’ ability to knock down the outside shot is eerily similar to the four-time champion.
Jalen Williams Shooting Stats 2023-24 Season Category Stats eFG% 59.4% FG% 54.0% 3P% 44.2% CORNER 3P% 52.0%
Williams is currently fourth in the league in three-point percentage, shooting from beyond the arc at an incredible clip of 44.2 percent from the field on 3.4 attempts per game. Thompson’s best three-point shooting season was in the 2014-15 season, in which he helped lead the Warriors to the team’s first NBA championship, shooting 43.9 percent from three on 7.1 attempts per game.
There is an obvious disparity in the volume of threes being taken from the two players, but there are similarities in how they complement the team’s star player.
The Warriors primarily used Thompson as a catch-and-shoot player. Although he was able to put the ball on the court at times, he wasn’t consistently creating his shots. Golden State’s offensive philosophy is predicated on movement and adapting to situational basketball. Whenever Stephen Curry is on the court, Thompson fills in the gaps and makes reads based on how the defense is guarding Curry. However, when Curry is on the bench, Thompson’s great off-ball movement is used to create opportunities for others.
Thompson’s shooting ability creates an immense gravitational pull. Teams were so focused on eliminating any opportunity for Thompson to get a good look from three that it opened up easy slips and back-door cuts for teammates to get high-percentage baskets at the rim. The former Washington State product was the ideal second option due to his ability to score in bunches through the natural flow of the offense. An ability that is shared by Jalen Williams.
This is an excellent stagger set from Coach of the Year candidate, Mark Daigneault, and the Thunder. Unlike the sequence of plays including Thompson, this is a set that featured Williams scoring at the basket. However, one of the greatest assets a player can possess is to be versatile. Williams is such a great shooter but doesn’t let that aspect of his repertoire be the only means of his offensive production.
Gilgeous-Alexander has a 34.8 percent usage rate, which is within the 95th percentile of the league. Williams’ ability to be productive while the ball is not in his hands is a trait that is known by few, and he’s already acquired it in his second year in the association.
His Ball-handling Ability Makes Williams So Dynamic
One of the best in the NBA at creating off the dribble
As great as a shooter as Williams has become, he’s just as good at creating offense off the dribble. The Thunder do a great job at staggering the minutes of Williams and Gilgeous-Alexander, so when the team’s All-Star isn’t in the game, Williams is given free rein to control the offense and does an amazing job.
Jalen Williams Offensive Stats 2023-24 Season Category Stats USG% 24.1% AST% 19.8 DRIVES 12.6%
Williams is second in the Thunder’s hierarchy of offensive creators but is still given one of the highest usage rates in the league at 24.1 percent. In the time that he is on the court, he is 28th in drives per game with 12.6, which is greater than Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James. He’s constantly putting pressure on defensives by attacking downhill, which is unlike Thompson but very similar to Manu Ginobili.
Although Ginobili was a sixth man for the San Antonio Spurs, he was easily a top-three player on their team. There were only two seasons in his career in which he started nearly every game he played, and it resulted in him being named an All-Star in 2005 and 2011. Ginobili was among the top in the league in usage rate despite never being the best player on the team, with 30.6 percent being the highest from the 2012-13 season. Regardless of the role that he had, Ginobili was sensational at creating something out of nothing, whether it was for himself or others.
Ginobili was ahead of his time in his ability to read defenses. In this play, he gets the big to switch onto him from the screen action with Tim Duncan. Although Ginobili can use his athleticism and easily attack this matchup, he instead surveys the court and makes an incredible skip pass which now forces the defense on their heels and scrambling, eventually resulting in the ball ending up in Ginobili knocking down a three. The natural in-game instinct to create for others is an aspect Williams thrives in as well.
Although this is different from the Ginobili play, the skillset on display is very similar. Denver Nuggets guard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is originally guarding Williams and the Thunder set a series of screens to get Michael Porter Jr. switched and then Peyton Watson. Once Williams gets the switch he wants, he immediately attacks Watson, who is off-balance and makes the dump-off pass to the open Cason Wallace for the finish. A play that started from nothing but due to Williams’ ability to create, it turned into something.
Jalen Williams is a special talent and isn’t receiving enough attention among the top young players in the league. In terms of which type of second option between Manu Ginobili and Klay Thompson, Williams would be, the answer would lean more towards Ginobili. Williams’ ability to create offense off the dribble propels him into a realm that is unlike Thompson.
Regardless, Williams is his own player and crafting a build that can be considered a hybrid of the two NBA legends. In just his second season, he’s transcended not only his performance but the success of his team, making them one of the most successful young teams in the history of the NBA. The future is bright for the young star and there’s no telling how great he can become.

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