Are Chicago Bulls fans putting too many expectations of Patrick Williams? The forward is heading into his potentially pivotal season and has yet to truly establish himself on a team thirsting for a long-term building block beyond Zach LaVine.
Many have hoped that would be Williams who has shown flashes of his tremendous ability sporadically.
But the Bulls’ lack of high-profile offseason moves has put additional pressure on Williams.
Perhaps all of that has been a little too premature and fans – and media – need to take a step back a bit before demanding so much. Or, are the expectations for Williams too low given his draft pedigree?
Not All on Williams
These were the tones of the conversation around Williams during the August 9 episode of the “Bulls Talk Podcast”. Host Rob Schaefer was joined by NBC 5’s Leila Rahimi and producer Anthony Gill on an episode titled after fans’ perception of Williams.
The trio was taking stock of the Bulls’ offseason which led Rahimi to point out the lack of two-way players on the team being exposed at the end of last season.
She went on to say that it is “such a big ask” for Williams.
“You’re asking for him to basically take up for all of the deficiencies of the team because…he’s the one you don’t know can do what he’s doing.”
Rahimi went on to explain that the defensive shortcomings of Lavine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic have been accepted by the front office in constructing this team. In Vucevic’s case, they leaned into it with the signing of Andre Drummond.
“But now you want Patrick Williams to shoulder the entire load? That makes sense….Why are you asking the least experienced player to become the most versatile”
It is Gill’s opinion that Williams should vie for Most Improved Player this coming season given he was a top-five pick which comes with certain expectations. And Williams’ flashes have also contributed.
Even if it may be unfair to Williams himself.
“He’s a top-five pick,” offered Gill, “There were other players right there that they could have taken. And I get it. It may be unfair…But it comes with a lot that they see all this raw talent, all of this raw ability that he can do in theory…I don’t think that it’s all that unfair to ask your No. 4-overall pick to play at an All-Star or near All-Star level.”
Rahimi pushed back by saying that, given what Williams has shown despite the injuries that he has endured, it’s “a lot to ask of one individual”.
After all, Williams, heading into his third NBA season is just 320 days older than this year’s first-round pick, Dalen Terry. He played in 71 games as a rookie but just 17 during the regular season this past year.
Schaefer called Rahimi’s stance “realistic”.
He added that he is open-minded to the leap. But he is sticking with a more conservative outlook for Williams’ progression.
A Bigger Issue
The entire discussion came back to the initial point that the Bulls currently do not have enough two-way players. Something vice president Arturas Karnisovas was asked about during his exit interview.
There are also not many high-ceiling young pieces on this team to look forward to, says Gill.
“The reason why we put so much on Patrick Williams is because, if he’s not that, the future of this team doesn’t look good.”
Rahimi again said she was not trying to relieve Williams of all responsibility. But Gill rebutted with the age of the rest of the roster and that most of them are more known quantities than Williams is.
“I don’t think he needs to be an All-Star to augment this group in the way they need to,” Shaefer said, “But he needs to be much more consistent.”
The crew agreed that, in the end, it is a roster construction issue that has led to all of the lofty expectations placed upon Williams’ shoulders. It’s why reactions to his Drew League debut were so visceral.
But the Bulls have practiced extreme patience with Williams with no signs of that changing any time soon.
Perhaps fans would do well to take that approach more frequently.