Bulls: Can Patrick Williams take the next step in year 3?

Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

When the Chicago Bulls selected Patrick Williams fourth overall in the 2020 draft, everyone knew that patience would be key. Unlike other lottery picks who dominated in college or overseas, Williams spent his one year in college as a key reserve on an uber-talented Florida State team. The reasoning for taking a player who averaged a pedestrian 9.2 points per game in college was simple: the long-term upside outweighed any of Williams’ short-term limitations.

Williams had a solid rookie season averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds on 48.3% from the field, 39.1% from deep, and 72.8% at the free throw line shooting splits. It seemed like everything was lining up for him to make a jump in 2021.

Unfortunately, Williams suffered a wrist injury early in the season and only appeared in 17 games. While Williams impressed in Chicago’s first-round loss to the Bucks, the Bulls’ front office is left with far more questions than answers regarding Williams’ future.

It’s hard to hold last season against Williams since he was injured for the majority of it, but time is ticking, and as Williams gets closer to the end of his rookie contract, the Bulls are still waiting to see the player they thought he could be when he was drafted. The pressure is mounting on the soon-to-be 21-year-old. Single-digit scoring averages will no longer suffice.

Patrick Williams is under significant pressure from the Chicago Bulls to step up and perform in year three.

The biggest question with Williams’ game is whether he can be more assertive on the offensive end. When he takes shots, he makes them at a pretty efficient clip, but he hasn’t shown the initiative to do so regularly. When Williams was an effective scorer last season, it was almost always by virtue of defenses giving him looks.

With Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan leading the Chicago Bulls to their first playoff birth in five years, many teams would prioritize taking the all-stars out of the equation and forcing others to step up. Although Williams proved he could capitalize on his opportunities in the playoffs, this likely isn’t sustainable. Making open shots is a basic expectation of NBA players, and Williams will have to find other ways to score if he wants to put up 20+ points more consistently.

Another area for growth is in the rebounding department. It’s hard to win the rebound battle if your starting power forward can’t eclipse five rebounds per game.  At 6’7 with a 7-foot wing span, Williams has the capacity to be a much better rebounder. There are times when it seems like he struggles with the physicality in the paint. Williams could benefit from putting on some weight and filling out his frame.

No one likes uncertainty, but it seems like the questions surrounding Patrick Williams entering year three are the same ones he had on draft night. While the combination of length and athletic ability is quite intriguing, fans are losing patience, and it’s hard to imagine Chicago’s front office won’t start to either. This makes this season crucial for Williams’ development. Either he exhibits major growth in multiple areas, or many will start to view the pick as a miss.

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