Billy Donovan Sends Message on Patrick Williams Amid Bulls’ Playoff Push

Chicago Bulls

Getty Patrick Williams #44 and head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls need Patrick Williams to rebound more consistently.

“It’s gotten better but we need it to be more consistent,” head coach Billy Donovan said, per Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune.“When he does go, he’s an elite rebounder and he’s got great strength. He’s a guy in very, very tight spaces that gets off the floor and can really rebound.”

Williams is averaging a career-high 10.1 points this season. But both his rebounds and assists have gone down, the former to a career-low 4.0 per game. The latter is admittedly less surprising with the Bulls adding more ball-handlers this season, first in Goran Dragic and now Patrick Beverley.

It also needs to be noted that Williams was averaging 4.4 rebounds per game before being sent to the bench in favor of Donovan’s preferred lineup featuring four guards and one big.

That would have been the second-highest mark of his career.

But Williams has grabbed just one rebound in the last two games and has not snagged even four boards in a single outing in the last five games. Perhaps even more concerning, he has surpassed four rebounds in just one game since the All-Star break despite drawing five starts in that span.

“There’s definitely another level I can get to,” Williams said. “Really it’s just a mindset thing. …Do it. Then do it again. That’s about it”

Donovan said that they aren’t monitoring Williams’ rebounds but noted that he needs more.

“There’s no question that he could be better at that,” Donovan said, according to Poe. “We’re not necessarily charting how many rebounds he gets but how consistently he is going…Because there’s times where he can go really, really hard from the left corner, but if the ball comes off to the right wing, he’s not getting that. There’s been times he has been really, really good. There’s times that he can be better.”

For his part, Williams is still saying the right things, recognizing the impact that he can have on a game when he asserts himself.

“Seeing what happens when I do, that creates the biggest motivation for me,” Williams told Poe. “I get more involved in the game when I do it, I have better flow when I do it. It’s not easy — but nothing is.”

The problem is the Bulls and Williams are still seeking consistency from the youngster.

Lowering Expectations for Patrick Williams

“I’m not worried with the expectations I have,” said NBC Sports Chicago Bulls pregame host Jason Goff on the ‘Bulls Talk Podcast’ on March 31. “He’s a role player. He is a role player, he is a borderline starter. He is at best, right now, a 3-and-D guy, give you a moment here and there. But I’m not expecting outsized contributions from Pat Williams anymore. If it happens, cool. But why would I expect that?”

While this Bulls roster needs “3-and-D” players, there were higher expectations, fairly or unfairly.

He was the fourth-overall pick in 2020, a draft slot that has historically been a mixed bag of NBA success stories and follies but does include recent successes like Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies and De’Andre Hunter of the Atlanta Hawks both of whom have gone on to sign second contracts worth over $90 million with the teams that drafted them.

Williams will be rookie extension eligible this coming offseason and is set to hit restricted free agency after the 2024 season.

Others taken in that slot include Denver Nuggets defense ace Aaron Gordon and Washington Wizards big man Kristaps Porzingis who both moved on from their original teams but have still turned out to be positive assets (and earned large paydays). Then there’s Williams’ fellow North Carolina native and future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, Chris Paul, whose decorated resume belies what could be considered a journeyman’s career. The 37-year-old playing for his fifth team, albeit in 18 seasons.

Patrick Williams’ Story Still Being Written

What the Bulls cannot afford to do is move on without exhausting all possible avenues of bringing out whatever lies in waiting. They have already been burned by that scenario too many times under executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas who draft Williams.

His teammates certainly remain high on him

“You already know what his ceiling is…superstar,” White said 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.”

Where Williams falls on the spectrum – which also includes recent picks Scottie Barnes of the Toronto Raptors and Keegan Murray of the Sacramento Kings – will largely be determined by him finding that consistency, not in any one area. But rather in his willingness to be whatever the team needs on any given night.