Rookie forward Patrick Williams scored a career-high 24 points in the Chicago Bulls’ loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
It was his first time notching double-digit points in the last five games, and his first time scoring 20 or more since a March 14th win over the Toronto Raptors.
With the Bulls’ eliminated from the playoffs, Williams provided fans with a silver lining performance and will look to do the same in the season finale on Sunday.
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A Concerning Trend
Fans and Patrick Williams’ teammates both have been all-but begging the 19-year old forward to take a more aggressive approach on offense all season long.
But he hasn’t always responded, and the team’s frustrations with that showed in Chicago’s previous game.
In a must-win bout with the Toronto Raptors, a game that the Bulls’ did go on to win notably, Williams was benched at the six-minute mark in the third quarter—and never returned.
His 18 minutes played were his lowest since a January 25th loss to the Boston Celtics, and only the fourth time this season he’s spent less than 20 minutes on the floor.
Head coach Billy Donovan thought the 19-year old was playing, well, timid in a game his team couldn’t afford it. He said as much after the game (via NBC Sports) when speaking with reporters:
I thought there were some opportunities for Patrick — I’m going to talk to him tomorrow — I thought there were some shots he should have taken. He had a travel I think one time and bypassed. He made that one three out of the corner, but he’s going to have to take those shots when they are there for him. And he’s got to be able to understand we need him to shoot the ball.
Donovan held up his word, setting aside time for a film session and discussion with Williams before the Bulls’ game against Brooklyn on Saturday, according to the rookie:
The result? A season-high in both points scored and three-pointers made.
The Rookie Sounds Off
After the game, the rookie spoke with reporters (via NBC Sports) about his career night.
Williams had a different mindset than we’ve heard in months past about the team’s vision for his role on offense:
This is the player they want me to be. It takes some getting used to, especially for me because it’s not natural to go out there and be aggressive, but this is who I gotta be in order to be the player that I want to be in this league. So I’m up for the challenge.
Head coach Billy Donovan, in crediting the team’s rookie for his performance, cited his lack of experience and role in college as reasons for his slow start on offense this year:
There’s a lot we’ve asked him to do this year that he’s never done his entire life. He’s never played in pick-and-roll. He’s never been an iso player. He’s always just kind of functioned in the system.
But he also made it clear that the Bulls’ expectations of the 19-year old are sky-high:
I get that he’s the fourth player taken in the draft. He’s got great upside. He hasn’t even come close to touching his ceiling. These are just things he’s going to have to go through.
It’s what Chicago’s counting on, Patrick Williams’ blossoming into an All-Star caliber player.
He’s closer to getting there on defense than offense assuredly, but Saturday’s game showed that he’s got the potential to perform at that level on both ends.