Can Bulls Patrick Williams still become the next Kawhi Leonard?

Patrick Williams, Kawhi Leonard, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)
Patrick Williams, Kawhi Leonard, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports) /

It’s still too early to say what Patrick Williams will become in the NBA, but it’s impossible to deny, he has the tools necessary to succeed. They just may take some time to develop. Chicago is counting on him to do it soon, as this team doesn’t have a lot of young talent and the majority of their core are getting up in age. This might not be such a bad thing, since you know what this team is capable of, but it also draws a clear ceiling on their potential. That’s why I believe Patrick Williams is the key to the Chicago Bulls 2023-24 season.

It’s been rehashed a million times at this point, but Pat’s similarities with NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard are difficult to ignore. They both have similar size, can shoot from deep, and operate in the mid-range area. Kawhi has bigger hands and is better at ball-handling, but Patrick is improving in that area. That’s the next step for Patrick Williams. If he could make two or three dribbles and then pull up from mid-range, it could open a whole new world for him. Kawhi has proven himself to be a master of that particular art.

Even now, Patrick has a pretty nice mid-range game, where he can create separation with his shoulder or shoot a little fadeaway. He can shoot off the dribble a little bit, but he’s not consistent. I hope that the Bulls coaches will give him more chances to operate in the mid-range area this upcoming season.

He’s pretty good at driving to the rim and changing directions. Williams is not the same athlete as Kawhi, but he’s still above average. What’s also in common, is their high release and stable base when shooting. Neither one of those guys likes to shoot one-legged jumpers.

Defensively, Kawhi was the best defensive player in the league for a few years. He could and still in spurts can guard anyone from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-10. Patrick is not the same defender and not sure if he ever will be, but he’s still a net-positive defender who doesn’t need a lot of help on that end. In other words, he’s good, but not elite.

Bulls prized prospect Patrick Williams has received comparisons to Kawhi Leonard since he was drafted, but are they warranted?

In Kawhi’s age 21 season, he averaged 11.9 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. Meanwhile, Williams averaged a roughly comparable 10.2 points, 4 rebounds, and just shy of one steal per game, while also shooting 41.5% from deep. Kawhi shot 37.4% during that year.

Kawhi’s stats might have been a bit better, but he played in a much greater system. That season the Spurs were first in assists per game. Chicago ranked 20th last year, since their main offensive guys like to operate in iso situations. Kawhi had more chances to operate since the ball movement was much better in that system. Before the season, Billy Donovan talked about moving the ball quite a lot, so we’ll see how it goes.

Leonard’s breakout season was in 2015-16, where he averaged 21.5 points per game and made his first All-Star game. He was 24 years old at the time. But he was in a much better situation. Is it reasonable to expect a similar explosion from Patrick Williams?

In the preseason, there were reports about the increasing leadership of Coby White. Patrick Williams has also shown improvement from last season. Maybe it’s time to clean up the house DeMar DeRozan is in his contract year and will want to get his big last deal, since he will be 35 coming into the next season. Zach LaVine’s best skill is scoring. You also have Nikola Vucevic down low, who will want to have his share of offensive touches, so what’s left for Williams?

Should you wait, until this current core goes? Will they pass the keys to Williams? Those are all questions, that need to be answered if we want to see Patrick Williams fully unleashed — much like former prized Bulls prospect Lauri Markkanen.

He holds the keys to this Bulls season. If he can make that next step and get to something like 17 points per game and 7 rebounds per game with consistently stout defense, then Chicago has a real chance to secure at least the 6th seed in the East. If not, they might be stuck in the play-in zone like last season. If we want to see if Patrick Williams truly has Kawhi’s potential, then maybe it’s time to give him the opportunity to show it.

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