Bulls’ Billy Donovan Reveals New Role for Former Top-5 Pick

Patrick Williams

Getty Patrick Williams dunks the basketball during a May 16 game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

No contending team has been hindered more by injuries this year than the Chicago Bulls, who’ve been without multiple players for stretches, including Patrick Williams.

After a stellar rookie season, the 20-year old forward suffered a dislocated left wrist just five games into the season.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski originally reported he’d miss the remainder of the 2021-2022 campaign.

But when speaking with media on Monday, head coach Billy Donovan dropped (via NBC Sports) a bombshell–Williams could be back by the end of March:

I’m pretty confident about that…Unless there’s some kind of setback or he doesn’t feel like he’s got the strength necessary.

And he didn’t stop there, suggesting that upon Patrick Williams’s return, both he and the Chicago Bulls could look different.

Donovan: ‘He Can Play An Important Role’

Patrick Williams started 71 out of 72 games last season, posting averages of 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

He was often the team’s best defender, and consistently took on the task of guarding the opposing team’s best player.

But now, given how long he’s been away and how the Chicago Bulls have had to adapt, there’s no set role (via NBC Sports) for the former fourth overall pick:

If we were whole (when Williams returns), I think the best thing to do with him would be to ease him in and bring him off the bench. That’s just my opinion right now…I don’t think it would be fair to him, just to throw him — with the number of games he’s missed and the amount of months he’s missed — to say, his first game back: ‘Hey, he’s starting.

Whether or not that will be a long-term installment in head coach Billy Donovan’s rotation will likely depend on the kind of shape Williams returns in.

Because as he noted on Monday, until the 20-year old takes the floor, no one knows what he’s going to look like:

I just don’t know what we’re gonna get. He’s (Williams) really worked hard…I think adding Patrick helps our team. But for a guy that’s missed five months, and the first day he comes back, just to unload him into the starting lineup, I don’t know if that would be the best thing for our team and I don’t know if that would necessarily be fair to Patrick.

A return by the end of March, say for a home matchup against the LA Clippers on the 31st, would leave only six games for Patrick Williams to find his legs before the playoffs.

That should only continue to fuel the caution and uncertainty surrounding a deep Chicago Bulls playoff run.

Bulls Aren’t Stacking Up Against NBA’s Best

Despite the Chicago Bulls’ impressive 41-27 record, there’s a significant reason to doubt their playoff capabilities.

Against the currently seeded playoff teams, they’ve gone 7-17 this season, and have just two wins against teams with a .600 or better winning percentage.

In the last week, they’ve lost to four teams they could end up facing in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket; the Atlanta Hawks, the Miami Heat, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Philadelphia 76ers.

They’ll now set out on a two-game road trip where they’ll face the NBA’s best Phoenix Suns, and the 42-26 Utah Jazz.

Some wins against these top teams down the season’s final leg would do a lot for the team’s (and the fanbase’s) confidence headed into a crowded Eastern Conference playoff bracket.

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