Jalen Williams making a late push to win NBA ROY honors over Paolo Banchero

Jalen Williams #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder celebrates after hitting the game-winning shot against the Detroit Pistons. (Photo by Joshua Gateley/Getty Images)
Jalen Williams #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder celebrates after hitting the game-winning shot against the Detroit Pistons. (Photo by Joshua Gateley/Getty Images) /

OKC Thunder rookie Jalen Williams has had a stellar rookie season, could he steal the Rookie of the Year award from Paolo Banchero?

On July 10, 2019, the Oklahoma City Thunder stunned the NBA world by trading away All-Star Paul George in a blockbuster deal with the LA Clippers. This trade included a record number of draft capital. Those picks have begun rolling in for the Thunder and with one of them, OKC selected Jalen Williams out of Santa Clara with one of those picks in the 2022 NBA draft.

Despite, being a late lottery pick Williams’ production has far exceeded all pre-draft expectations throughout his rookie campaign thus far, with only five games remaining it is safe to declare J-Dub’s rookie season a smashing success.

Due to the unique situation with Oklahoma City having two players with the same name, with only slight variations in the spelling of their first name, OKC’s tandem of Williams has gone by nicknames often this season, whether it be their self-proclaimed nicknames of J-Dub and J-Will or as beat writer for The Oklahoman Berry Tramel cleverly came up with, swapping Jalen/Jaylin for the names of the schools each player attended dubbing the duo Santa Clara Williams and Arkansas Williams.

Moreover, since Williams just hit a game-winning shot for the Thunder versus the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night; helping the Thunder narrowly hold onto their spot in the Western Conference’s tight play-in race; should Santa Clara leapfrog first-overall pick Paolo Banchero for Rookie of the year?

The answer is more complicated than it sounds let’s dive into the numbers below:

Team success should not always be a massive deciding factor when discussing individual awards, the exception to this rule is when said player is directly impacting team success so drastically it cannot be ignored and when individual statistics between two, or more players are so close additional factors begin to influence voters. This is what we have here with Williams and Banchero.

When comparing both players’ traditional stats, surprisingly both players’ numbers are nearly identical as seen in the bulleted list below. Moreover, impressively despite attempting 332 fewer shots than Banchero, Mr. Santa Clara has only made 68 fewer shots.

  • Points Per Game: Banchero 19.9 — Williams 14.1
  • Field Goal Percentage: B 42.6 — W 52.4
  • 3-Point Percentage: B 29.2 — W 35.9
  • Rebounds Per Game: B 6.8 — W 4.5
  • Steals Per Game: B 0.9 — W 1.4
  • Blocks Per Game: B 0.5 — W 0.5
  • Assists Per Game: B 3.7 — W 3.3

Ultimately, I think Banchero will win this coveted award, he probably should win this award because he has been the best rookie for the duration of the 2022-23 season. With that said, once Williams moved into the Thunder’s starting lineup permanently on December 12, he has been slowly closing the gap in the race with Banchero.

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If OKC’s All-Star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander remains sidelined due to a sprained ankle and Williams continues leading the charge for the Thunder all the way into the play-in, Williams could eliminate the gap all together and walk away with the first piece of NBA hardware in his young and bright career.