Is the Bulls' best prospect ever going to reach his full potential?

Patrick Willams, Chicago Bulls
Patrick Willams, Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Since being drafted fourth overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, Patrick Williams has been a very controversial figure for the Chicago Bulls. From getting comparisons to Kawhi Leonard to being labeled as a bust by fans earlier this season, Williams has not met the expectations many have given him.

Over the course of the Bulls' four-game winning streak, however, many have seen a change in Williams — as seen by his on-court performances and ability to manage his emotions. With Williams set to become a free agent this offseason, are fans finally seeing him take the next step the Bulls need from him?

In his four seasons in the NBA so far, The Paw has averaged 9.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game while shooting 47% from the floor and 40% from three. He has had a few standout games over the years, most notably his 35-point performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves in April of last year. Including the Minnesota game, Williams scored 20 or more points in just 8 of his 193 regular season games

This season, Williams has had one of his worst starts, scoring less than 10 points in 11 of his first 20 games. In three of those games, Williams finished with zero points, with many saying he looked like he did not want to play.

The future of this current Bulls core likely hinges on Patrick Williams' ability to take the next step.

With Zach LaVine out, Williams has been one of the young players able to flourish in his absence. In the last four games without LaVine, Williams has averaged 13.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. He has looked more confident on the court, both moving with and without the ball. He's looked more aggressive as well, attacking the basket and throwing down several highlight dunks during the win streak. While no Bulls player would admit LaVine's absence has influenced their play, it's clear the Bulls play differently when LaVine is out.

For Williams, his play could not come at a better time. Not being able to come to terms on a rookie extension with the Bulls, he is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason. Numerous reports from league insiders suggested Williams was looking for a contract in the range of $200 million, Williams has shown he is more focused on helping the team overcome their early season struggles.

With another Bulls rebuild being inevitable, there is always a possibility that Willams is not a part of the Bulls' future. Sam Amico of Hoops Wire has reported that The Paw could be a trade target for the struggling Washington Wizards.

Even now, fans are split on what the Bulls should do with Patrick Williams. While many are open to moving on from Williams, whether it's in a trade or letting him walk in free agency, others worry he could develop and thrive away from the Bulls like Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen. Williams' lack of development with the Bulls has been blamed on the fact the ball is mainly in the hands of the Bulls' big three when he's on the court.

Williams has had flashes of a superstar, but that's all they have been as of right now. But with recent reports suggesting DeMar DeRozan could be on the move this season as well, Pat may have a better chance to take that next step. If Pat can continue his current play for an extended period, he may be able to prove doubters wrong and be a key figure in the Bulls' inevitable rebuild.

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