The first two seasons of Patrick Williams’ career were full of ups and downs. We saw jaw-dropping defensive plays – like this block on DeAndre Ayton – and emphatic attacks at the rim.
However, due to a wrist injury that Williams sustained five games into the 2021-2022 season, he was sidelined for 65 games. It was a huge blow to the Chicago Bulls and to Williams’ development.
Williams eventually returned for the Bulls’ final 12 regular season games and closed out the last game of the season by scoring 35 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the field and went 12-for-14 from the charity stripe. He was the only Bulls starter to play in that game, so he was able to get more offensive opportunities than he was used to.
In the first round of the playoffs, the No. 6 seed Bulls took on the No. 3 seed Milwaukee Bucks, and besides the first two games, the Bulls were clearly overmatched (like most teams that face the Bucks). The Bucks won the final three games by a combined 70 points, and it was clear that the Bulls lacked the perimeter shooting and defensive consistency to make the series more competitive.
Williams scored at least 20 points in each of the final two games, and it was about the only positive takeaway for the Bulls. A lot of that scoring came when the games were out of reach, but Chicago is hoping that Williams can build on those performances going into next season.
The Importance of Williams’ Growth
Over the last year-and-a-half, the Bulls have mortgaged a portion of their future in the hopes that they would be able to build a contending team once again. Well, it worked, kind of. They were the No. 1 seed for a few weeks throughout last season, but after Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso went down with injuries, the Bulls’ defense fell off a cliff.
With the uncertainty around when Lonzo Ball will make his return from his knee injury and how he will be able to perform, Williams will be more important on the defensive end than ever. The NBA is filled with forwards and guards that can score from all three levels and Williams will be tasked with guarding them on a nightly basis.
As long as Williams can force players into expending more energy than normal and limit the number of easy-scoring opportunities, that’s all the Bulls can ask for. Williams is one of the few defenders on the Bulls that’s shown he can be a difference maker and he’ll need to continue that trend if the Bulls want to make a deep postseason run.
However, Williams’ growth on the offensive end may be just as important. In the 88 regular season games that Williams has appeared in, he’s scored 15 or more points on 12 occasions. Also, during that span, he’s shooting 49% from the field and 41% from three on almost two attempts per game.
The percentages are ideal, but the volume is not. Part of this is due to the time that Williams missed last season but is also due to a Bulls offense that revolves around Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vučević.
It’s been hard for Williams to get consistent offensive touches since there are so many mouths to feed, but the Bulls will be better off if Williams’ offensive role expands. I’ve harped on the Bulls’ lack of perimeter shooting already, but Williams has shown he can be an asset in that department, he’s just had a handful of moments where he’s been passive.
Williams doesn’t need to average 20 points a game, but he needs to be consistently aggressive on the offensive end. If he continues to be passive, it’ll make it easier for defenses to disregard him and switch their focus to LaVine or DeRozan.
From the looks of it, Williams has worked on his ball handling this summer and has developed a quicker shooting release. Now there’s no point in overreacting to an open gym video of Williams, but Bulls fans are hoping this is a sign of what’s to come next season.