Bulls Rookie Has Most to Gain in Starting Lineup Switch?

Patrick Williams

Getty Patrick Williams dribbles the ball past Kyle Lowry in a March 14 game against the Toronto Raptors.

Not only did the Chicago Bulls’ new starting five get them the win on Sunday night, but it also paved the way for a career-night for rookie Patrick Williams.

The 19-year old finished the game with a career-high 23 points on nine-of-14 shooting, along with six rebounds, four assists, a steal, and a block in 27 minutes.

It’s not only his highest-scoring bout this season, but it was the best all-around game of his career thus far.

The fact that it came alongside two new members of the starting five is no coincidence.

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A New Starting Lineup?

Head coach Billy Donovan’s hand was forced with the team’s recent struggles, having lost four of their previous five games by an average of 12 points. Chicago’s previous starting lineup held a minus-17.6 net rating.

So he went with veterans Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young over Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. for Sunday’s game against the Toronto Raptors. Both of the aforementioned youth have struggled largely in recent weeks, but responded well to their being benched, combining for 25 points and 15 rebounds.

Chicago saw near-immediate results from their new starting five. Both veterans recorded 10 points and seven assists apiece, on a night where all nine of Williams’ makes were assisted.

Satoransky and Young accounted for five of them.

Expect head coach Billy Donovan to continue his starting lineup experiment in the Chicago Bulls’ next matchup against the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder.

Chicago’s Opened Things Up for Williams

Williams had been quiet in recent games, tallying just seven points over the Chicago Bulls’ back-to-back losses out of the All-Star break. But his ability and IQ as a cutter were showcased next to Satoransky and Young.

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Billy Donovan touched on that after the game (via NBC Sports) when speaking with reporters:

He’s got to cut, and he’s got to know when to cut. Because sometimes young guys can just start cutting all over the place and they can get in the way. But he really made some very effective and I thought very, very good cuts that allowed us to steals some easy baskets. We need a lot of that out of him.

Satoransky also praised Williams’ growth as a floor-reader, acknowledging that he’s taken a step forward:

He had a lot of cuts when Thad (Young) found him in the pocket, when we found him when we got to the paint. He has been getting better in reading it. I think that is the biggest step for him.

After the Chicago Bulls win on Sunday, Patrick Williams is shooting 17-for-24 on cuts this year.

Young isn’t a floor spacer (he’s made just five three-pointers this year), but with a trio of Satoransky/Lauri Markkanen/Zach LaVine on the floor, there should be opportunities aplenty for Williams as an off-ball threat.

Head coach Billy Donovan didn’t anticipate a career-night for Patrick Williams when he made his starting lineup change. Maybe it’s a sign that prioritizing winning doesn’t exclude player development.

Even if isn’t planned that way.

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