It is not a matter of talent for Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams.
“He’s coming along,” teammate and mentor DeMar DeRozan said, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Staying on him, pushing him, giving him advice, but making it fun at the same time. Sometimes it takes a lot of that to unlock what’s inside of you, and then you can start having games like he did [in Denver, when he scored 18]. It’s about following it up consistently.”
Indeed consistency has been the biggest bugaboo for Williams, a problem that dates back to last season. But that was supposed to be at least remedied by his “summer from hell” spent training alongside DeRozan.
Williams noted that he gained a newfound appreciation for having a routine off the court so that one can be consistent while on it.
Those lessons have been more difficult to put into practice than words.
The former fourth-overall pick is averaging a career-high 10.1 points on 57.5% true shooting; fine numbers for a role player off the bench. But they are a bit of a letdown for a player taken fourth overall and propped up as the key to this team taking the “next step”, whatever that may have been all things considered.
He is averaging just 9.8 points since the All-Star break, albeit on 60.4% true shooting.
“You already know what his ceiling is…superstar,” Coby White told NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson on the ‘Bulls Talk Podcast’ on March 16. “The proof is in the pudding. It’s going to come. He’s just going to come because he’s too talented, too big, too strong not to be…He’s going to be an All-Star because he got all the attributes to be one and he loves basketball.”
And Zach LaVine knows the pressure that can come with being a young player in the NBA and the impact it can have.
“Nobody’s going to be perfect for the NBA at 19 years old, 18 years old. It’s just impossible,” LaVine said. “Even with three years of experience, he’s only 21. And one of those years he was hurt the whole time. So a lot of people put pressure on where you expect somebody to be when they’re too young, and I think it’s an unfair judgment.”
Patrick Williams’ Battle Has Been Mental
There has been a lot of variance in just how high Williams’ ceiling is. The Bulls have been accused of overvaluing him since he was the first draft pick by the current front office.
And league circles seem to be down on him currently.
Fortunately for a player who has acknowledged the mental hurdles that he has faced trying to realize his full potential, having the support system that he does is key. It is even more important that Williams’ confidence remains unwavering.
“I just think it comes with me growing as a person and as a player,” Williams said, per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “Being more comfortable in who I am and being more comfortable in what I can be, that’s a huge part of it. Just feeling like I know what I can be and realizing my potential.”
Drawing comparisons from Kawhi Leonard to Paul Millsap, there is a wide range of outcomes for the uber-talented forward.
Patrick Williams Still Gaining Experience
Never mind that Williams, after missing all but 17 games last season due to injury, is on pace to appear in all 82 this year. Or that he has had to deal with a fluctuating role on a team struggling to find its identity separate from what he likely needed.
Williams has continued to make strides in situations that could have crushed him.
He is 23rd in games played among his draft class despite being a top-five pick, though LaMelo Ball (third overall) and James Wiseman (second overall) are both in the same predicament.
If the Bulls are looking for any immediate signs of hope for the future, they need to see it in Williams. Even if the outside world is not fully sold on him at this juncture, this franchise has seen too many of these situations end prematurely to do so again and bail on a player who has been compared to some of the best in the game today so soon.