The Chicago Bulls need to put the ball in Patrick Williams’ hands more because “they’re probably going to see some more funky weird stuff”. That was CHGO_Bulls’ Will Gottlieb’s general assessment during the August 5 episode of the “CHGO Bulls Podcast” after breaking down the forward’s unique floater.
But the sentiment is not uncommon as the former fourth-overall pick out of Florida State could be primed for a “huge third-year leap”, says Dime’s Jackson Frank.
That will take some development from Williams in key areas, sure.
There is also added pressure on the Bulls to unlock him, though, after they refused to include him in a trade for Rudy Gobert. They have also left some gaping holes with their offseason moves that make Williams arguably their most important starter.
Banking on Williams
The Bulls’ offseason has not gone how some thought with the team following through on their mission of continuity. Whether it was the right decision or not may be up for debate. But it undoubtedly put Williams in the spotlight.
Without major additions from the outside, the Bulls have to rely on being healthier and internal development to improve upon their one-and-done status in the postseason.
As it stands, writes Frank, they won’t be getting that from many places outside of Williams.
“This is a good team, albeit one lacking many future assets to enhance a roster founded on players in their prime and/or ones saddled with injury concerns. Williams, along with 22-year-old Ayo Dosunmu, are currently the lone rotation players where substantial steps are presumably baked into their imminent development.”
Frank goes on to explain that Dosunmu showed plenty of promise in his own right. But Williams’ standing as a starter pairs well with the talent he has teased.
“He’s drilled 41.3 percent of his 167 regular-season triples and is particularly proficient on spot-up reps, having buried 41.9 percent of his 148 catch-and-shoot looks. The issue, though, is…Through two seasons, according to NBA.com, he’s logged 167 pull-up twos and 148 catch-and-shoot threes.”
There is a Catch
Interestingly, the floater that Gottlieb broke down is one of those looks the Bulls need to be a catch-and-shoot three more often than not. Such a small sample size – just 17 games this past season and 88 games in his career – is a big part of why patience has been in order with regards to Williams.
But Gottlieb thinks the Bulls can do more to help him.
“You’ve seen moments during summer league last year where the Bulls just gave him the ball and let him go to work. Obviously, the Timberwolves game in Game 82 this past year, he had 35 [points]. Even in the playoffs…he played pretty well after having some stinkers, to be fair. It’s just very difficult for him to develop the way that I think he needs to if he’s supposed to stand in the corner and shoot threes.”
Gottlieb admits that is the role the Bulls are developing him for playing next to DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic.
“He’s got awesome physical tools. He’s a prototypical 4. What he excelled at is creation and has shown some flashes of that. But…the Bulls aren’t developing him for that. They’re developing him to be a 3-and-D 4. I think, in order for them to take the next step…he really needs to develop as a shot creator.”
There needs to be a happy medium which is a tough ask for a player that turns 21 years old on August 26.
A shift in Williams’ mindset would go a long way.
“Optimally blending his dribble-drive game with shooting off the catch will elevate his offensive impact to enticing levels as a connective ancillary option,” says Frank, “With his intersection of size, strength, midrange touch, cutting savvy, and live dribble passing chops, he’s quite the threatening player reading tilted defenses, especially if he grows more assertive.”
Frank sums up his stance on Williams with a conditional prediction.
“The carryover from last year’s rotation should be considerable. Cohesion and structure are accomplices in every young player’s development. Williams has rarely enjoyed that luxury in the NBA. A season to test out, discern, and study the role asked of him is welcomed experience he could parlay into a third-year leap.”
In His Defense
Williams’ offensive development is critical for the Bulls to take another step. But his defense is not necessarily lock-down despite all of his tools.
Bulls legend Scottie Pippen recently told NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer that this team is not built for the postseason, in part, because they did not have anyone who could match up with players like Jayson Tatum and former Bulls star Jimmy Butler, now of the Miami Heat.
That player should be Williams who has drawn praise from LeBron James who compared his hands to Kawhi Leonard.
“His offense is fascinating, yet inconsistent,” writes Frank who continues “His defense is promising, yet not fully formed. The gulf between each of those terms is not impossible to bridge.”
Gottlieb says the Bulls’ future “depends on it”.