Billy Donovan Advised to Make Drastic Decision on Bulls’ ‘X-Factor’

Billy Donovan. Chicago Bulls

Getty. Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls reacts to game action.

It has only been three games but the on-floor product and the record have some imploring the Chicago Bulls to make a significant change to their starting lineup. The rub is, it’s one they have already experimented with.

In fact, the Bulls trotted out variations of this suggestion in two of their four preseason tilts.

“Start Javonte Green on Monday against the Boston Celtics,” says K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Patrick Williams was a major storyline for the Bulls as they bypassed shaking up their roster despite their competition in the Eastern Conference doing so. With such little room for error – they are without starting point guard Lonzo Ball and are managing Zach LaVine to begin the season – time is of the essence.

Williams Failing to Impress

“This is less about rewarding Green for helping briefly flip the energy of an otherwise desultory, blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Saturday’s home opener,” writes Johnson. “It’s also not about some punitive demotion for Williams. It may not even have to be a permanent play.”

The Bulls fell 128-96 to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first game at the United Center and for LaVine this season.

It was a disheartening loss, perhaps, best embodied by Williams’ latest lackluster performance.

Williams finished with six points on 28.6% shooting (1-for-3 3P) with three rebounds and one steal. Despite drawing the start, he saw just over 15 minutes – fewer than Derrick Jones Jr. who was a DNP-CD in each of the Bulls’ first two contests.

Johnson is adamant that his suggestion is not about punishing Williams or even necessarily rewarding Green who had six points, three boards, two assists, two steals, and two blocks.

It is notable that Green did all that in just over 13 minutes of action and was more efficient.

Bulls ‘X-Factor’ Benched

As Johnson points out, Williams almost seemed “relieved” of the pressure of having to play alongside the Bulls’ stars during the preseason. And Donovan clearly isn’t afraid to remove Williams from the game for long stretches.

“Pre-garbage time, Patrick Williams played 11:24,” Johnson’s colleague, Rob Schaefer tweeted, “none after being subbed at 9:27 mark of Q3. Javonte (13:44), DJJ (16:56) each played more.”

Williams is tied with DeMar DeRozan for ninth on the Bulls in fourth-quarter minutes.

That is quite deceiving, though, as DeRozan got to rest during the fourth quarter of the Bulls’ season-opening win over the Miami Heat while Williams was off of the floor while each of the last two games was in contention.

This is a major problem this season and, potentially going forward.

“Chicago needs to know what it has in Williams,” explains Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report, “not just because his contributions will matter this season, but also because this isn’t a franchise overflowing with young talent… If this team is going to level up on the strength of internal growth, Williams is its best (and only?) bet.”

While the Bulls have Ayo Dosunmu, a former second-round pick, manning the starting point guard role and rookie Dalen Terry waiting in the wings, Williams is the “x-factor” Swartz says.

Truth in Donovan’s Deflection

Williams is shooting 33.3% from the floor this season and 25% from beyond the arc while averaging 1.0 rebound this season. Donovan avoided putting it all on Williams in his post-game media availability, opting instead to focus on his team’s listless efforts.

“I don’t think we started great in the third,” the coach said. “You’re trying to find and search for some energy. And when I put Javonte in there, put Alex [Caruso] in there, at that moment it changed. We’ve just gotta be more consistent. I know you’re asking about Patrick, but it was more the group was not playing well. And I was trying to search for different combinations.”

Given that the previously inactive Jones saw more minutes than Green and Williams, perhaps Donovan is not entirely trying to protect his youngster.

We will see how it all plays out when they face the Boston Celtics on October 24.

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