Twelve games in and the Chicago Bulls are 6-6 and sitting in the same sixth place as they were at the end of last season. As mediocre as that may seem, it flies in the face of many projections for this group from the summer.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, they aren’t just bucking prognostications in a good way.
Third-year forward Patrick Williams has been a hot topic since the offseason in part because many NBA players make “the leap” in their third year.
“You know how he reminds me of,” Tim Bontemps asked rhetorically on a recent episode of the “Lowe Post” podcast, “Marvin Williams…I think he’s Marvin Williams who, for a long time, was a very solid rotation forward. Could play the 3 and the 4, decent defender, became a pretty good shooter…He looked the part. Was another very high pick – very young, raw, toolsy forward.”
Bulls on Williams Watch
If Bontemps had stopped his description there, it might not sound so bad for fans unaware of the way Marvin Williams was perceived. Drafted second-overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2005 NBA Draft, Williams went on to play 16 seasons but never made a single All-Star team.
Also primarily a sixth-man in college, he averaged 14.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game for a three-year span in the NBA from 2007 to 2009.
Not only was Willaims’ peak short, but it happened early in his career.
“Became a very solid, long-term pro” said Bontemps. “But wasn’t a star, wasn’t close to a star. Was just fine.”
Though he was taken after Marvin, Patrick Williams was still a top-five selection in 2020. If his ceiling is just “fine” the Bulls could be in serious trouble.
They banked their offseason plans on Williams’ presumed progression, something both sides were robbed of last season as he dealt with injury. This past offseason with teammate DeMar DeRozan in hopes of jumpstarting that progression.
“There’s time,” Bontemps said. “Doesn’t mean…his career isn’t over. If you’re the Bulls coming into this year…he’s the kind of guy that had the chance to really be a swing piece.”
An Ascending Player
Williams has bounced back from a slow start to the season to average 10.9 points on 59.6% true shooting with 4.4 boards and 1.1 assists over the last seven games. He’s also connected on 40% of his looks from beyond the arc – a much-needed element for this group.
He has failed to reach double-digit points twice in that span after doing so in each of the Bulls’ first four games this season.
Perhaps expectations need to be adjusted just as Williams has.
“Based off where you get picked in the NBA Draft, “began NBC Sports Chicago’s Adam Amin, “the assumption is the trajectory is…a very steep, very quick ascent towards what your ceiling might be. It’s flattened out a little bit for Patrick…It’s basically been curbed, that development…But he’s still progressing.”
Williams has gone from speaking on the mental challenges of fitting in with this Bulls group to confidently speaking on “figuring it out”.
The Bulls surely hope this is the case rather than his peak being so disappointing.