Insider Lays Out Bulls Rookie’s Path to Stardom

Patrick Williams

Getty Patrick Williams shoots a layup while being defended by Anthony Davis in a January 23 game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Amidst the Chicago Bulls five-game losing streak, 19-year old Patrick Williams continues to turn heads, and gain support as one of the NBA’s more underrated rookies.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor put together a video breakdown on Thursday, claiming that the forward was indeed “the most underrated rookie:”

Williams has impressed. He’s showing early signs of what Chicago drafted him to do: plug and play into different offensive roles, and defend multiple positions.

Williams is averaging 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

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Williams is Already a Scoring Threat

Patrick Williams and the Chicago Bulls aren’t seeing collective success in the inaugural season of their partnership, but what the rookie is flashing as an individual, suggests they will win together, inevitably.

Offensively, Williams has been up and down, which is why his points per game average sits below double digits ahead of Friday night’s matchup with the Utah Jazz.

But when he’s gotten off to strong starts and hit his first few jumpers, typically from the mid-range, he’s shown can score on above-average defenders with ease. O’Connor touched on Williams’ offense in his video breakdown:

Williams potential is most apparent from mid-range. He has a pillowy-soft touch and looks comfortable shooting, even with a hand in his face. He rises and fires like a throwback scorer, and though he doesn’t have the tightest handle to break down defenders, he’s worked hard to add moves to his game. Occasionally he’ll unleash a move that makes you think he could someday be a 20-point per game scorer.

Chicago’s rookie lives in within the confines of the three-point line.

Per Basketball Reference, 72 percent of his shots are two-pointers, and he’s shooting a scorching hot 67 percent within three feet of the basket.

But, as O’Connor notes in his breakdown, Williams will have to find his three-point shot if he’s going to grow into a double-digit scoring option for the Bulls:

He’ll often dribble out of catch-and-shoot opportunities into pull-up twos, and these shots are fine, but he needs to shoot more than an occasional dribble jumper three to ever be a go-to option.

But the 19-year old forward isn’t a bad three-point shooter, it’s more of a confidence issue. He’s made 38 of his 100 attempts, which, for a rookie who made just 16 of those in college, is a strong start by all means.

What’s Next for Chicago’s Rookie?

Patrick Williams shooting mid-range jumpers is fine, for now.

Being able to get shots up and score on most defenders should serve as a good launching pad into his first offseason, which most would argue is most critical in young players’ development.

But he’s doing it at a near-unprecedented rate. 92 percent of his dribble jumpers are coming from the mid-range, which as O’Connor notes and illustrates with a graphic, leads the field including the NBA’s top-15 scorers:

The top scorers this season are attempting an average of 52 percent of their dribble jumpers from mid-range. Even Jokic and Zion shoot a smaller share of mid-range jumpers than Williams.

O’Connor doesn’t think the Bulls’ rookie needs to start putting up seven or eight attempts from deep nightly, but he needs to adjust his shot selection to include more three-pointers assuredly:

For him to ever become an elite scorer, he doesn’t need to go to the extremes of Harden, or his teammate Zach LaVine, but he should step behind the arc at a rate more comparable to Kawhi, or Beal. Right now, Williams is too reliant on the mid-range to be a premier scorer in the modern game.

A path forward could look something like that of Celtics’ wing Jaylen Brown, says O’Connor, who went from attempting just 1.7 threes per game his rookie season, to hitting on 39 percent of his 6.8 attempts this year:

But much like rising scorers Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram, there are signs of great potential. Williams is hitting nearly 40 percent of his spot-up threes, which is encouraging despite how rigid his catch-and-shoot mechanics look.

Again comparing Williams to Brown, O’Connor insists that an improved handle is the key to three-point growth:

Improving his handle will unlock the entire floor, like it did for a player such as Jaylen Brown of the Celtics. Brown entered the NBA as a clunky ball handler, but over the years, he’s increasingly tightened his handle, which has made him a more potent dribble-jumper shooter.

Another player that saw similar success?

Two-time champion and five-time All-Star Kawhi Leonard, who went from attempting less than two threes per game in his rookie season to now connecting on 38 percent of his five attempts nightly.

O’Connor added that incorporating some of Leonard’s moves could help Williams growth offensively:

Williams has to watch Kawhi Leonard film too, since they have similar strong frames. Leonard thrives from the mid-range and added a three-pointer to his game by mastering his handle. Williams can add Kawhi’s shoulder bump to add separation in close mid-range, so he’s shooting more uncontested.

As O’Connor notes, and as Chicago Bulls fans are undoubtedly aware, Patrick Williams has repeatedly said he models his game after Leonard.

So rest assured, he’s familiar with the tape.

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