“It…seems apparent that Williams isn’t a power forward, that the Bulls badly need one, and the small forward spot has to be opened next season for Williams, who has become maybe the team’s best spot-up shooter and shown possibilities for making plays off the dribble from the wing,” argued Sam Smith of NBA.com. “He’s been toggled between positions, so you can see he’s been confused what to be. I think now he knows who he is and what he should be, and with a summer to concentrate on that he could be much improved next season. It’s up to the Bulls to clear the position for him.”
Williams has been a lightning rod since the day he was drafted fourth overall by Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas whose roster construction tactics have placed an undue amount of pressure on Williams to develop in a less-than-ideal setting.
He has had to find his way amid a big three that has struggled to jell this season.
But Williams has also left plenty to be desired including consistently rebounding the basketball as the teams de fact second “big” on the floor most of the time.
DeMar DeRozan in Patrick Williams’ Way
If it was unclear, Smith likely is suggesting the Bulls need to move on from six-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan occupies the starting small forward spot, although, in head coach Billy Donovan’s preferred small-ball-centric lineups, he often finds himself as the power forward. Still, DeRozan is a perimeter player, albeit one who spends a considerable amount of time working inside the arc.
Williams has just two possessions at small forward all season, per Cleaning The Glass.
That style of play – combined with a tendency to hold the ball – relegates Williams to the aforementioned role of a spot-up shooter when he’s capable of more.
There’s nothing wrong with that but Williams’ draft pedigree and talent suggest much more. Entering play on April 7, the 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward is averaging a career-best 10.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists this season. He is shooting 41.3% of his triples on a career-high 3.4 attempts per game.
With DeRozan (and Zach LaVine) sidelined against the Mavericks, Williams put up a season-high 23 points on 50% shooting including knocking down 3-of-5 triples with eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and two steals.
DeMar DeRozan Could Be Among Next Stars on Trade Block
“The Chicago Bulls are on the brink of a rebuild. They should be, anyway,” wrote Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report on April 5 citing the Bulls’ regression and Lonzo Ball’s murky future. “What could possibly convince the Bulls—and 33-year-old DeMar DeRozan for that matter—that things will be any different next season?”
Chicago’s big three has seen the most minutes of any trio this season, per NBA.com lineup data, and their net rating is minus-0.5 regardless of the win over the Dallas Mavericks. This coming offseason could be the time for a change in direction.
“With unrestricted free agency awaiting Nikola Vučević this offseason—and greeting DeRozan next summer—the Bulls have the chance to make a clean break,” adds Buckley.
The Bulls were third on DeRozan’s list of options when he was a free agent behind the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks. Perhaps one of those teams would be interested in adding what is still high-level shot-making prowess. It just so happens to be impeding the progress of arguably the most important piece for the Bulls.