With the NBA draft just 72 hours away, the Cavaliers are locking in their big board at no. 14 while simultaneously keeping the door open for a trade-down.
Recently, it was reported that the Cavs are interested in moving down from no. 14 to acquire a future first-rounder.
The move would make sense, considering the Cavs are without a first-round pick next season.
But ever since the Cavs’ season ended a few months ago and March Madness came to a close, several names have consistently been linked to the Cavaliers.
Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji and Ohio State’s Malaki Branham are two college prospects that are featured regularly in Cavs draft talk.
But recently, another name has joined the chat: Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams.
Here are three things to know about the junior wing:
1. He’s Got Range
We’ll get to Williams’ play on the court in a minute, but first, we have to acknowledge a rare feat.
Heading into the pre-draft process, Williams’ name was missing from most early mock drafts entirely, let alone the mid-to-late first round.
Now, Williams is seen as a guaranteed lock in the late teens or early twenties.
It’s an incredible rise, but here’s an illustration to hammer it home.
For instance, Bleacher Report’s February mock failed to include Williams.
As of early June, B/R had Williams slotted at no.16.
It’s hard to tell whether Williams’ slotting is due to the Cavaliers being an ideal fit or whether any team picking at no. 14 would pick the Santa Clara product.
If a team does trade up with the Cavs, they likely wouldn’t take Williams, though.
Given the wide availability of wings projected to be available in the 20s, a team is far more likely to move up to snag a guy like Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan or a falling Johnny Davis.
Santa Clara's Jalen Williams has received a green room invite to attend the NBA Draft with his family on June 23rd, a source told ESPN. pic.twitter.com/cBVYjXpKk4
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 15, 2022
2. Steady Improvement
Speaking of range, Williams has it on the court as well.
Some have qualms with how long it took Williams to break out of the “lowly” West Coast Conference.
A little context: Williams did spend three years at Santa Clara.
But his second season saw his playing time cut nearly in half from his freshman year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And in that freshman season?
Williams started only 22 of 33 games he appeared in, again cutting into his breakout potential.
But in his junior year, Williams made the most of 33 starts across 33 games.
He shot nearly 40% from three (39.6%) on a decent volume (3.2 three per game).
From the floor, Williams shot 51.3%, a number backed up by a strong 80.9% free throw percentage.
Further, he’s a long 6’6 wing, adding immediate size to any team’s backcourt.
Don’t want to take my word for it?
Here’s Sam Veccinie of The Athletic:
“[Williams] can shoot off the catch and make plays off the pass. He can act as a secondary ballhandler in spots and also has versatility in terms of who he guards on the other end.”
Sounds like Williams was ready-made in a lab for the Cavs.
3. High Demand, Good Company
Williams met with the Cavaliers on Monday, putting in a final workout before the draft.
But don’t think the Cavs are the only team that has Williams on their radar.
Jalen Williams is in Cleveland🙏 hopefully he impresses enough to the point where the cavs trade back to draft him while gaining another pick in the process pic.twitter.com/jMu7vO4vay
— 𝔼𝕧𝕒𝕟𝕄𝕠𝕓𝕝𝕖𝕪ℝ𝕆𝕋𝕐⁶𓅓 (@GarlandEnjoyer) June 20, 2022
Throughout the pre-draft process, Williams has met with the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Los Angeles Clippers.
That’s nine teams total, including the Cavaliers.
If the Cavs want Williams (they should), there will be no shortage of competition to land his services.
Williams is in good company, as he’ll become the first Santa Clara since Steve Nash to hear his name called on draft night.