Veteran Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan thinks teammate Patrick Williams is like Superman.
“You ever see the ‘Superman’ movies?” DeRozan asked the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley in a March 10 story. “He’s on Earth, has these great powers but doesn’t know how to hone in on them, maximize them. It’s kind of that thing. That’s where Pat’s at right now.’’
Williams finished with just three points on 1-for-3 shooting, an assist and three blocks in the Bulls’ 119-111 win over the Houston Rockets on March 11. But, to DeRozan’s point, the effort belied what has been an ascension for Williams over just under the last month. Since Valentine’s Day, Williams is averaging 11.2 points on 70.5% true shooting while knocking down 56% of his looks from beyond the arc and sporting a plus-21 plus/minus.
Williams has posted six double-digit scoring outings in that span.
DeRozan, a mentor to Williams who took the former fourth-overall pick under his wing for a “summer from hell” in the offseason, is always good for a quality analogy. This time, he compared his young ward’s development to the growth of a plant.
“You just can’t water it one day and the next expect it to grow,” DeRozan said. “You have to keep putting sunshine on it, tending to it, caring about it. Other plants grow faster than others, but you gotta stick with it. That’s all it is with him.”
Williams, 21, began the season in the starting lineup but has found his footing coming off of the bench and away from the specter of playing alongside DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. Williams had acknowledged that staring the court with them can be daunting but it pushed him to be more aggressive.
“It’s hard not to be confident when you have teammates always on your a** about staying aggressive and shooting the ball,” Williams said, according to Cowley. “I think it just comes down to me, quite honestly. Just my mindset coming into the game, staying aggressive. It’s not going to happen if I don’t make it happen.”
DeMar DeRozan ‘Envious’ of Patrick Williams
“I tell Pat all the time: I’m envious of his hands,’’ DeRozan said. “I wish I had his hands, athletic ability. … He has so many traits, and it may take one at a time for it to come together. But when it comes together, I tell him all the time, he won’t lose it.”
The six-time All-Star – who has taken a similar role with rookie Dalen Terry – also fell back on a more common comparison from Williams’ rookie season: Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I hate comparing guys to other guys — I seldom do it — but he reminds me of Kawhi,” DeRozan said, per Cowley. “I know that’s been thrown out there, but his build, the way he moves, everything. Kawhi’s one of the greatest players to play this game, and that’s high praise right there. That’s what I see Pat becoming.’’
Leonard is a two-time champion, five-time All-Star (and All-NBA selection), as well as a seven-time All-Defensive pick. Lofty goals, indeed, for the uneven Williams. However, their stats from comparable points in their careers are close enough to justify it.
Williams is a better 3-point shooter at this point in his career, while Leonard’s impact was greater as a member of a team, the San Antonio Spurs, that went to the NBA Finals twice in his first three seasons in the league and won a title in 2014.
Other Comparisons for Patrick Williams
During the pre-draft process, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer called Williams the “safest gamble” of the class, given his NBA-ready frame and adaptability. Tjarks cited Williams’ ability to provide value in a limited role in college much as he would need to early on in his NBA career to earn playing time:
“Two-way ability separates Williams from a lot of players in this uncertain draft,” Tjarks wrote. “It’s hard for young players to crack an NBA rotation if they can’t succeed in the 3-and-D role that he thrived in at Florida State. That’s why Williams is a relatively safe pick despite his pedestrian production. He has an immediate path to playing time at the next level because he doesn’t need to hide on defense and he can be a threat on offense without having the ball.”
Williams’ production has fallen in line with his lone season at Florida State – 9.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 blocks, and 1.0 steals – early in his NBA career. The 21-year-old is averaging 9.6 points 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in two-plus NBA seasons.
He has flashed greater things when left to his own devices away from the Bulls’ big three.
But other, perhaps less flattering, comparisons have also followed Williams just as long even if they are ill-fitting upon further inspection.
Adam Wells of Bleacher Report compared him to former journeyman Paul Millsap, an undersize 4 with similar measurements to Williams.
“Williams is a long-term project who won’t make an immediate impact,” Wells wrote in November 2020, “but the reward at this point in the draft makes him well worth the investment made by the Bulls.”
Tjarks noted that people around Williams compared him to a “poor man’s Kawhi Leonard.”
But he also added that some saw him much in the vein of fellow North Carolina native Marvin Williams, a former second-overall pick who also measured similarly.
The issue is that Millsap was a second-round pick who more than made good on his draft position but never reached the star status that comes with being a top-five pick. Marvin Williams is widely regarded as one of the biggest misses in recent draft history, as Tjarks points out, due to his being drafted over Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul.
Circumstances aside, both players carved out niches for 15-plus years in the NBA.
They both retired averaging double-digits with four All-Star appearances and one All-Defensive selection – both courtesy of Millsap – between them. It’s not a bad outcome for Williams by any stretch but will hardly shake the expectations placed upon him on draft night.