Jaylin Williams

Thunder Notes: Hartenstein, Claxton, Collins, Joe, Wiggins, Giddey, Williams

Following a breakthrough year in which they earned the top seed in the West, the Thunder are in position to address their most glaring need by adding another big man in free agency, writes Keith Smith of Spotrac. Oklahoma City can clear roughly $35MM in cap space, mostly by renouncing the rights to free agent forward Gordon Hayward.

Smith points to Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein and Nets center Nic Claxton as two ideal targets. Hartenstein can contribute on both ends of the court, and he may be easier to obtain because New York is limited in what it can offer. With Early Bird rights on Hartenstein, the Knicks can give him roughly $72.5MM over four years, a figure that OKC can easily top. Claxton would add a shot-blocking element to the team’s already-strong defense, but he’s limited offensively and Brooklyn may be willing to pay whatever it takes to keep him.

Smith lists a few other options if the Thunder decide to pursue a forward rather than a center, such as Pascal Siakam, Patrick Williams, OG Anunoby and Paul George.

If general manager Sam Presti prefers a trade, Smith suggests Jazz big man John Collins, who will make $26.6MM in each of the next two seasons and can be acquired via cap space with about $8.5MM left over. Smith notes that Collins’ contract will expire before OKC has to start handing out extensions to its young players.

There’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • The Thunder will likely pick up their $2.2MM option on Isaiah Joe for next season with an eye toward a possible extension, Smith adds in the same piece. Smith also expects the team to keep Aaron Wiggins, either by exercising its $2MM team option and trying to sign him to an extension or turning down the option and hoping to reach a new deal with him as a restricted free agent. Smith sees Lindy Waters III on the “roster bubble,” while the team’s other free agents likely won’t return.
  • There’s a growing perception that Josh Giddey will be traded this summer, but Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman contends the Australian swingman’s struggles were exaggerated. Even though Giddey was benched in the playoffs and saw his minutes reduced during the regular season, Mussatto notes that he has improved his three-point shooting, having gone from 26.3% as a rookie to 33.7% this season. Mussatto also cautions that it might be too early to make a long-term decision on Giddey, who has another year left on his rookie contract and won’t turn 22 until October.
  • Chet Holmgren‘s return from injury cut into Jaylin Williams‘ playing time, but Williams still showed he can be an effective big man in the Thunder’s system, Mussatto adds in a separate story.

Thunder Notes: Playoff Adversity, Giddey, Big Lineup, Williams

Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault isn’t worried about his team bouncing back from its 119-110 loss to Dallas on Thursday, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City is now facing some adversity for the first time in these playoffs after losing home court advantage in its second-round series.

“Curious, but confident,” Daigneault said. “I’m not sitting here wondering. This is a team that’s made a habit of getting back up. We keep a pretty steady temperament through the ups and downs of the season, and this is just part of the deal. This is just part of the deal. This is the playoffs. Playing against really good teams. These are deep waters. You’re gonna throw some punches, you’re gonna take some punches, and now we’ve gotta eat one, get back to zero tomorrow and be a better team in Game 3.”

We have more on the Thunder:

  • Josh Giddey may need to be replaced in the lineup after two poor outings in the series, Anthony Slater of The Athletic notes. Giddey only played 11 minutes in Game 2 and 17 minutes in Game 1. The team is a minus-27 with him on the court. Aaron Wiggins started the second half of Game 2 in place of Giddey. “It’s basically an in-game substitution,” Daigneault said. “So, I don’t view it any different than checking someone into the game with eight minutes to go in the third quarter. We’re going to keep it fluid.”
  • Chet Holmgren and Jaylin Williams have been used in two-big lineups with some success, Slater adds in the same story. After playing only 92 minutes together the entire regular season, the duo has played a combined six minutes in the series and the Thunder have outscored the Mavericks by nine points during that span. “In both games, it’s given us a nice rim presence, a nice rebounding presence,” Daigneault said.
  • Jalen Williams‘ ascent is detailed in a feature by The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov. The second-year forward hit 42.7% of his three-point tries this season and became a reliable go-to option late in games, with Vorkunov pointing out that only 11 players scored more fourth-quarter points this season than Williams. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game during the postseason.

Thunder Notes: SGA, Defense, Wiggins, Williams, Bench

Ahead of Wednesday evening’s MVP announcement, two of the three finalists for the award faced off in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, with Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander outdueling Luka Doncic of the Mavericks, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Doncic, who is still battling a knee sprain, struggled to score efficiently against a Thunder defensive attack led by Luguentz Dort, making just 6-of-19 field goal attempts. Gilgeous-Alexander, meanwhile, racked up 29 points and nine assists and was a game-high +21 in OKC’s 22-point victory.

As Slater notes, neither Gilgeous-Alexander nor Doncic is expected to win this year’s Most Valuable Player award, given that Nikola Jokic is the heavy favorite. But even if Jokic wins, as expected, it’s an open question which star guard will finish as the runner-up. For his part, Gilgeous-Alexander didn’t make it sound as if he’s been eagerly anticipating Wednesday’s announcement.

“If I’m at home (I’ll watch),” Gilgeous-Alexander said, per Slater. “I didn’t know it was (Wednesday).”

Here’s more on the Thunder:

  • Through five playoff contests, the Thunder have allowed just 90.6 points per game, the lowest mark by any team through five games since the 2016 Spurs, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “It’s where we hang our hat every night,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of the Thunder’s defense. “Especially this late in the season, we know that if we want to win basketball games, that it’s gonna start on that end. Obviously we have some really talented players on that end of the floor, but we also like to do it together and not just rely on those guys.” Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving described OKC’s “endless amount of energy” as an obstacle Dallas will have to overcome to have a chance in the series, MacMahon adds.
  • The Thunder showed off their depth in Tuesday’s victory, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Led by Aaron Wiggins (16 points) and Jaylin Williams (11 points, nine rebounds), Oklahoma City’s bench outscored Dallas’ by a 42-23 margin. Many of the Thunder’s key reserves are on team-friendly deals for next season — Williams is under contract for the minimum, while OKC holds minimum-salary team options on Wiggins and Isaiah Joe.
  • The Thunder haven’t necessarily been viewed as a legitimate title threat due to their youth and lack of playoff experience, as well as their lack of size and rebounding, but each one of their postseason wins serves as evidence that those perceived weaknesses might not matter much, says Zach Kram of The Ringer. As Kram details, Oklahoma City led the NBA in several statistical categories, including three-point percentage, transition scoring, and turnovers forced, and was the only team besides Boston to rank in the top five in the league in both offensive and defensive rating. It’s true that no team this young has ever won a title, but no team as young as the current Thunder has ever been this good, Kram argues.

Northwest Notes: Knox, J. Williams, Wolves, McDaniels

Free agent forward Kevin Knox has returned to the G League, having reported back to the Rip City Remix, according to a tweet from the Trail Blazers‘ G League affiliate.

Knox was with the Remix in the fall, but signed with the Pistons in early November and was in the NBA for three months before being sent to Utah at February’s trade deadline. The Jazz immediately waived him, and with no NBA opportunities immediately presenting themselves, the former No. 9 overall pick eventually decide to head back to the G League.

Knox racked up 26 points and 11 rebounds and was a +23 in a 15-point victory over Iowa in his return to Rip City on Friday. A few more performances like that could help earn him another shot at the NBA level. For what it’s worth, since he was waived before March 1, he’ll be playoff-eligible if he signs a rest-of-season contract with an NBA club.

Here are a few more notes from around the Northwest:

  • Thunder center Jaylin Williams has been diagnosed with a sprained left knee, head coach Mark Daigneault said on Friday (Twitter link via Rylan Stiles of Locked on Thunder). There’s no word yet on the severity of the sprain, but it’s often a week-to-week injury, so one of the team’s recent frontcourt additions – Bismack Biyombo and Mike Muscala – may get an opportunity to claim a rotation role.
  • Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter links) clarifies that incoming Timberwolves owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez have until the end of March to make their final payment to assume majority control of the franchise. Sources close to the Lore/Rodriguez group say they remain on track to make that payment, per Krawczynski. Current majority owner Glen Taylor said in a recent conversation with Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News that he was told Lore and Rodriguez planned to close the sale at the end of February, which didn’t happen. However, it doesn’t sound like the new ownership group has missed any deadlines.
  • Chris Hine of The Star Tribune explores Jaden McDaniels‘ importance to the Timberwolves and notes that the club will need an “even-keeled” version of the young forward in order to reach its ceiling. McDaniels memorably broke his hand when he punched a wall on the final day of the 2022/23 regular season and missed Minnesota’s play-in loss.

Injury Notes: Kyrie, Thunder, Mann, Lyles

After missing the last two games due to a sprained left foot, Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving has been upgraded to available for Friday’s game vs. the Nuggets, as first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The Mavericks are the only undefeated team left in the Western Conference, but will face a tough matchup in their first in-season tournament game tonight as they visit the defending champions in the altitude of Denver, so they’ll be happy to have Irving back in their lineup.

Here are a few more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • There’s good and bad news on the injury front for the Thunder. Center Jaylin Williams will be available for the first time this season on Friday after having been sidelined with a right hamstring strain. However, star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is among the team’s unavailable players vs. Golden State due to a left knee sprain (Twitter links via Rylan Stiles of Locked on Thunder).
  • Clippers guard/forward Terance Mann, who has yet to play this season due to what the team is calling a sprained left ankle, said in a YouTube video that he “overstretched” a muscle or “maybe tore it a little” (hat tip to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times). Mann added that there’s no timeline for his return and he’s still focused on trying to reduce the swelling in the ankle.
  • The Kings have ruled out forward Trey Lyles for at least two more games, the team announced today (Twitter link via Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee). Lyles, hampered by a left calf strain, has yet to suit up for Sacramento this season.

Northwest Notes: Hendricks, Sensabaugh, George, Williams, Nuggets

Neither Taylor Hendricks nor Brice Sensabaugh, the Nos. 9 and 28 overall picks in the 2023 draft, are in the Jazz rotation to begin the season. Instead, the duo will begin the year by practicing with Utah’s G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, in training camp, according to Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Larsen points out that fellow rookie Keyonte George, drafted after Hendricks with the No. 16 overall pick, has been a regular contributor. While Larsen notes that several former rookies who didn’t play much early in their careers went on to find success, it’s clear the Jazz don’t believe Hendricks is ready to contribute at the NBA level right now. Participating in G League training camp will give both rookies ample practice time.

You want young players to get reps, and live reps against good players. Once our season gets going, the amount of practice time shrinks considerably,” head coach Will Hardy said. “They practiced today for two and a half hours. We did not have a two-and-a-half-hour live shootaround this morning.

For what it’s worth, both Hendricks and Sensabaugh are appreciating the opportunity for more practice time, according to Larsen.

We’re seeing younger and younger players come into the NBA,” Hardy said. “Eight years ago, it wasn’t like you were drafting three 19-year-olds in the same draft. We’re just trying to get those guys as many reps as we can until they’re in a position to play enough minutes with our group every night that it would be overkill to send them there. Both those guys understand that this is the opposite of punishment.

We have more Northwest Division notes:

  • The Jazz are also taking a patient approach with fellow rookie George, according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones, and he partially holds the keys to Utah’s future. The guard had a dominant Summer League and training camp, but Utah is being cautious and won’t put too much on his plate too soon. Jones writes that George has the highest natural instincts for the point guard position of anyone on the roster and that it’s difficult to envision a scenario where he isn’t the starting point guard by next season.
  • The Thunder assigned Jaylin Williams to their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, on Wednesday, according to Rylan Stiles (Twitter link). This was part of Williams’ ramp-up to play, as he’s been dealing with a hamstring injury. Oklahoma City recalled Williams later on Wednesday (Twitter link).
  • The transition from last season to this one has been seamless for the Nuggets‘ bench so far despite losing players like Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, according to The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando. Denver’s bench, consisting primarily of Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson and Zeke Nnaji, outscored opposing bench players 132-105 through its first four games, shooting 50.5% from the field and holding opponents to 38.3% shooting from the floor. That group, along with Jamal Murray, boasts a defensive rating of 83.6. “Anyone can go off any night,” Nnaji said.

Thunder Notes: Williams, Micic, Dort

Thunder reserve big man Jaylin Williams will miss some early regular season games due a hamstring strain suffered in practice, Brett Dawson tweets. Williams will be reevaluated in a couple of weeks.

Williams projects as Chet Holmgren‘s backup this season after starting 36 of 49 games last season during his rookie campaign. A second-round pick in 2022, Williams averaged 5.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 18.7 minutes.

Olivier Sarr and Ousmane Dieng could see more action until Williams returns.

We have more on the Thunder:

  • Vasilije Micic has noticed some major differences between the EuroLeague and NBA, as Eurohoops.net relays. “It’s open space, with a much higher pace of play compared to the EuroLeague,” he said. “The paint is more open, providing a lot of opportunities for creative players to penetrate and gain an advantage, especially for skilled ball handlers. It’s also a bit easier to create from that spacing. I’m still trying to adjust. Everything is still new for me, but my teammates are helping me learn as quickly as possible. I believe that, together, we will get there eventually.” The former EuroLeague MVP signed a three-year, $23.5MM contract with Oklahoma City in July.
  • Luguentz Dort scored a team-high 24 points during the team’s exhibition game Thursday in Montreal. It was an emotional homecoming for the Montreal native, he told Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. He spoke in French to the crowd prior to the contest. “I just told them that we were honored to be here,” Dort said, “As a Montreal guy, it was an honor for me to bring my team here and play in front of them.”
  • Get all the details on the big Thunder-Rockets trade here.

Thunder Notes: Holmgren, Mann, Williams, Presti

No matter what else happened for the Thunder, the highlight of Summer League was seeing Chet Holmgren back on the court, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. After missing all of last season with a Lisfranc injury to his right foot, the No. 2 pick in the 2022 draft showed off his potential in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, averaging 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in four games.

While he looked rusty in some areas, such as committing 15 turnovers and shooting 1-of-9 from three-point range, Mussatto notes that the most encouraging part of Holmgren’s game was watching him protect the basket. He averaged 3.5 blocks per game and used his 7’1″ frame to alter numerous other shots.

“Conditioning wise, there’s millions of hurdles you have to go through in the process of returning to play,” Holmgren said after his Summer League return. “Not being able to play a game for a year, it’s really hard to test and see where you are. … It’s definitely something I have to continue to work on, and I’ll be ready by the time training camp starts. I feel like I’ll have myself prepared to be in in-season shape.”

There’s more on the Thunder:

  • Tre Mann was shut down in Las Vegas due to an avulsion fracture in his right middle finger, but it’s not believed to be a long-term concern, Mussatto adds. The Thunder expect the backup point guard to resume basketball activities by the end of July.
  • The selection of Jaylin Williams in the second round of last year’s draft will allow Holmgren to spend more time at power forward and avoid the physical contact that comes with playing center, notes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Williams is a rugged 6’10” big man who led the NBA in drawing charges last season and shot 40.7% from beyond the arc. “It’s good because it allows my length to be found in the game in different ways,” Holmgren said of playing alongside Williams. “When he’s at the five, he’s in (screen) coverage more, and I’m able to kind of move around and roam the court a little more on defense, be the low man in help and be able to come over for blocks if somebody gets beat or use my length in the passing lanes and as an on-ball defender.”
  • General manager Sam Presti didn’t add anyone this summer who projects as a long-term keeper, Slater observes in the same piece. Presti opted to use his cap room to collect more draft assets while taking on the contracts of Davis Bertans, Victor Oladipo and Rudy Gay. Slater views Oladipo and Gay as buyout options, while Bertans may reach that status eventually with just $5MM guaranteed for 2024/25. Presti also traded for former first-round picks Usman Garuba and TyTy Washington, but Slater doubts that they’ll see much playing time considering the talent that’s already in place.

NBA Announces All-Rookie Teams

Rookie of the Year winner Paolo Banchero was a unanimous choice for the 2022/23 All-Rookie First Team, the NBA announced today (via Twitter).

Players receive two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote, and Banchero received the maximum possible 200 points.

Here’s the full five-man squad, listed in order of their total points received via voters:

The All-Rookie Second Team was announced as well, with a couple of teammates headlining the group (Twitter link).

In my opinion, the most surprising omission from the All-Rookie Second Team was Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard, who received 46 points. Nembhard was actually listed on one more ballot than Eason, but Eason received two First Team votes versus Nembhard’s zero, giving him a narrow edge.

That’s not to say Eason (or anyone else) was undeserving — he had a strong season as a tenacious offensive rebounder and defender. I just thought Nembhard should have been honored because he started the majority of the season for a competitive Indiana team and was frequently tasked with guarding the opposing teams’ best player, as Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files notes (via Twitter).

According to the NBA (Twitter link), others receiving votes included Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe (36), Hawks wing AJ Griffin (26), Nuggets forward Christian Braun, Thunder center Jaylin Williams (seven), Mavericks guard Jaden Hardy (four), Spurs guard Malaki Branham (three), Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels (two), Hornets center Mark Williams (two) and Bucks wing MarJon Beauchamp (one).

In case you missed it, more NBA awards will be coming later this week. The All-Defensive teams will be announced on Tuesday, followed by All-NBA on Wednesday and the Teammate of the Year award on Thursday.

Thunder Notes: SGA, Butler, Jaylin Williams

Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman (subscriber link) calls Shai Gilgeous-Alexander another “too-good-to-be-true superstar,” noting that the fifth-year guard went out of his way to wear a Thunder– and Oklahoma City-inspired jacket to his first All-Star game. As Tramel writes, Gilgeous-Alexander may not have had the prospect pedigree of Kevin Durant, but he has developed into a star in his own right, and the 24-year-old is a “consummate leader, forever saying and doing the right things.”

When Tramel brought his “too-good-to-be-true” theory up to head coach Mark Daigneault, he readily agreed.

Part of the reason why it’s too good to be true, is because he doesn’t separate himself out,” Daigneault said of SGA. “Even with all the temptations and all the attention and status and money, and all the stuff that could tempt you to separate yourself.

And really, there’s nothing in the NBA stopping players from doing that. You’re kind of at the mercy of whether they want to. Fortunately for us, he’s on that track. He’s already checked a lot of those boxes. And yet, he wants to do it inside the team. He wants to do it inside the organization, he wants to be part of something bigger than himself.”

Gilgeous-Alexander’s maturity and team-first mentality, not to mention his long-term contract that runs through 2026/27, seems to bode well for the Thunder as they continue to build around him, according to Tramel.

Here’s more on the Thunder:

  • Gilgeous-Alexander cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Saturday and was able to suit up on Sunday, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Gilgeous-Alexander missed five consecutive games with a combination of an abdominal strain, right ankle soreness and then entering the protocols. The Thunder went just 1-4 in his absence, but were victorious last night against Utah. The 24-year-old didn’t miss a beat in his return, recording 38 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block.
  • Daigneault said Thunder GM Sam Presti was high on guard Jared Butler entering the 2021 draft, per Mussatto (Twitter link). Butler just signed a two-way deal with Oklahoma City last week, making one brief appearance thus far. The Thunder had four picks ahead of where Butler was selected (No. 40 overall), including two in the 30s, so they had multiple chances to take him. Instead, they wound up packaging the Nos. 34 and 36 picks (used on Rokas Jokubaitis and Miles McBride) in a trade to land Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (No. 32).
  • In an article for The Oklahoman, Mussatto details how rookie big man Jaylin Williams and the Thunder have perfected the art of drawing charges. The team has a league-leading 83 charges on the season, far exceeding the Heat’s 63, which ranks second. Williams is a ground-bound center, but he uses his game knowledge to protect the rim in a different way. “It stems from my dad,” he said, “just watching film with him from a young age, me understanding the game and understanding there’s more than basketball than putting the rock through the rim.”