A lot about this season has been surprising for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Roughly a quarter of the way into the season, they are once again overachieving, Lu Dort has become one of the best 3-point shooters in basketball, SGA is an All-Star level player in year 3, and the best coach in team history pacing the sidelines, perhaps nothing is more surprising than the emergence of Kenrich Williams.
The 26-year-old referred to as Kenny Hustle, is a top-five defender in the NBA if you look at defensive rating. He holds opposing players to the second-lowest three-point percentage (28-percent) which really shows the ability he has to rotate well around the perimeter and contest shots that pop off the screen when you watch the team.
Kenny Hustle has a career-high 8.4 Player Impact Estimation coming off the bench for the Thunder. Williams has a positive net rating (3.4) and has been a massive bench contributor for Oklahoma City.
The best way to describe K-Rich’s game is to simply call him a disrupter. He just gets in the way of whatever the opposing offense wants to do. In limited bench minutes that can throw off his averages, he still produces 1.4 deflections per game, playing the passing lanes extremely well despite only coming away with half a steal per game. With 3.1 contested shots per game, an average that is increasing with more minutes, he can fluster the opposition as he did against the Suns. With a 1.3 steal percentage and the fact that the Thunder are +4.6-percent in defensive turnover percentage with him on the floor, his defensive impact is clear.
After shutting down a Chris Paul iso possession to close out the third quarter, Kenrich Williams chirped at the future Hall of Famer. That fearlessness and confidence are exactly what role players need to stick around in this league.
The biggest thing holding Kenrich Williams back from him being penciled into the future plans of the Thunder is the offensive end. Williams is legitimately one of the team’s best defenders and has been part of some pretty important closing lineups including the 22-point comeback against the Bulls.
Offensively, most of his shots are coming from the mid-range, and the corner three. If Kenrich Williams can master that corner 3, his game will truly take a jump to a new level. He is off to a good start from the corner, stroking the trey ball at a 44-percent clip from the corner despite him shooting 31-percent overall from deep. With his selective mid-range shooting, he is shooting 44-percent from the short mid-range but those numbers get worse as he continues to extend out. When you combined his numbers and look at his effective field goal percentage, Williams is at 48.9-percent, which is a career-high.
Look, it is clear that as a 26-year-old it will be an uphill battle for Kenny Hustle to be a mainstay with the Thunder, however, the fact he has a blueprint and a pathway to make that happen is already a better start than most fringe players. Williams will also have a numbers crunch going against him. Sadly at 26 his value and upside in the basketball world just are not there unless he proves himself the rest of the way this season, which he will have plenty of chances to do. You just have to account for the Thunder drafted 2-3 players in this draft that absolutely need spots next year along with the young building blocks they already have, the roster spots next year will be limited.
Without question, everyone in Oklahoma City is rooting for a player like Kenrich Williams who plays with heart, effort, a willingness to do the dirty work, and tenacity. Four traits that embody this city and four traits that allowed Nick Collison to have his jersey hanging in the rafters at Chesapeake Energy Arena, traits that this organization values.
Do you think Kenrich Williams is a mainstay for the Thunder?