Northwest Notes: J. Williams, Simons, KCP, McDaniels, Jazz

The Thunder entered last year’s draft determined to come away with both Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (Insider link), who takes a look back at how the team ensured it ended up with Williams late in the lottery. According to Windhorst, the Thunder were concerned that their interest in Williams had gotten out and that a team would trade for the Knicks’ pick at No. 11 to nab the Santa Clara star before Oklahoma City could take him at No. 12.

As Windhorst explains, the Thunder ultimately agreed to acquire the No. 11 pick from New York and used it to select Ousmane Dieng, then drafted Williams with their own pick at No. 12 — that way, if the deal with the Knicks fell through before becoming official, they’d still be assured of having Williams.

Williams is enjoying a strong rookie season for the Thunder, starting 45 of 58 games and averaging 12.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 3.1 APG while shooting 51.1% from the floor.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • After being sidelined due to a right ankle sprain, Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons returned to action on Wednesday, but he aggravated the injury in his first game back and said that he doubted he’d be able to play in Atlanta on Friday, per Jason Quick of The Athletic (Twitter link). Simons has since been ruled out for tonight’s game (Twitter link).
  • Nuggets wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been “exactly what we needed,” according to head coach Michael Malone, who added that KCP is a “great two-way player” and said there’s “nothing not to love” about him. In a subscriber-only story for The Denver Post, Mike Singer looks at how the Nuggets have been impacted by Caldwell-Pope, whose teammates call him “First Team” (referencing his case for an All-Defensive spot).
  • Speaking of All-Defensive candidates, Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels is making a strong case for consideration, says Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. McDaniels has said he likes “locking someone up” on defense more than hitting a big shot. “I know I’m going to make shots throughout the game, but stopping someone else from scoring when that’s what they like to do, I like messing peoples’ night up. Just trying to do that,” he said.
  • Are the Jazz in officially in tank mode? Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune explored that question following Tuesday’s loss to San Antonio, arguing that Utah’s injury report and rotation decisions certainly suggested the team wasn’t going all-out to win.
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