Chicago Bulls: Can Patrick Williams defend Kawhi in key game vs. Clips

Rookie forward Patrick Williams and the Chicago Bulls have a tough cap to this west coast road trip when they face Kawhi Leonard and the Clips on Jan. 10.

Another very difficult defensive assignments looms for the likes of the Chicago Bulls 2020 lottery pick and rookie former Florida State forward Patrick Williams. On the afternoon of Jan. 10, Williams and the Bulls will round out their west coast road trip against the superstar duo of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and the talented Los Angeles Clippers.

The Bulls nearly pulled off a big upset on the road entering the weekend. Their third game in this four-game west coast road stretch resulted in a tough 117-115 loss at the hands of the defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers on the night of Jan. 9.

There was a chance that standout shooting guard Zach LaVine had to beat the Lakers on a late Bulls offensive possession in the final minute of the fourth quarter. But that ultimately went all for naught as LaVine’s 38 points were two shy of the Bulls getting a tie, or a win, over the Lakers heading into this weekend.

Now the Bulls will get a chance to escape from this west coast road trip at least by splitting the four games. It would take a big upset over the Clippers on Jan. 10, but the Bulls came very close to doing so against the Lakers two days earlier.

First-year head coach Billy Donovan will need a really solid effort out of his frontcourt and wing rotation in this game. Especially if the Bulls are without the likes of veteran small forward Otto Porter Jr., who is doubtful with an upper-body injury for this Clippers outing, a lot of the onus will fall on the likes of Williams.

With fellow small forward Chandler Hutchison also still out in mandatory quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 test, the Bulls are left really thin on the wing. The likes of shooting guards Denzel Valentine and Garrett Temple will get more of a responsibility defending on the wing in this game in all likelihood.

Moreover, the specific matchups that Donovan wants to piece together for this game will be interesting. It feels like Williams defending either Kawhi or PG will be a given. But the most similar matchup he could find would be pitting Williams against Kawhi. Veteran forward Thaddeus Young could also take one of these key defensive matchups against the Clippers superstars.

Williams produced mixed results for the Bulls so far this season, but his play on the defensive end looks pretty good. He’s started in all 10 games he’s played in for the Bulls thus far, averaging around 25.5 minutes per game. And he’s averaging 9.6 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks. Williams shot an efficient 45.0 percent from the field, 42.1 percent from beyond the arc, and 84.2 percent from the free-throw line.

And on the season so far, Williams has registered a solid 3.0 block percentage and 1.6 steal percentage. He’s also got a defensive rebounding percentage just south of 13.0, which isn’t bad for a rookie at his position.

We’ll see how Williams fares with a defensive matchup that is likely going to be very challenging to round out this weekend. Facing either Kawhi or PG following a game where he often found himself defending superstar point forward LeBron James against the Lakers is nothing easy to deal with.

The Bulls are just shy of 12 point underdogs in the betting line for this game against the 6-4 Clippers. The last game the Clippers played in resulted in a 115-105 loss at the hands of the Golden State Warriors back on Jan. 8. Tip off between the Bulls and Clippers is set for 3 p.m. CT at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 10.