In his first training camp interview earlier this year, Patrick Williams explained to reporters what he looked forward to most about his first season in the league.
“Just learning. Every day I’ve come in here and I’m learning new things, terminology, or places on the court, things like that, and reads to make. Just coming everyday learning has been the best part for me. That’s a dream come true.”
Fortunately for him, he has continued to do plenty of that over his first 11 games in the NBA.
With matchups against Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard already off the bucket list, Patrick Williams has looked like a basketball junkie in the Spalding factory. He has not only been able to share the court and learn by playing against some of the league’s most elite talent, but he has been able to legitimately pass the eye test while doing so.
Williams most recently held Leonard to 13 points (5-9 FG, 3-5 3PT) and 3 assists while guarding him on Sunday. Two nights before that, he kept James to 19 points (8-12 FG, 0-2 3PT) and 3 assists, he also forced him into 3 turnovers. Sure, both players still shot at a solid clip, but that’s what superstars do. The 19-year-old Williams guarded both players like a seasoned pro, and his impressive efforts didn’t go unnoticed by either player.
“I think he’s going to be an exceptional talent,” James said. “Long arms, he has Kawhi-type hands that I noticed on the floor, so I knew I couldn’t play with the ball much. And you can tell he is just laser-sharp on trying to get better … I think Chicago has a good one.”
Leonard is a man of few words, but he gave Billy Donovan and the Bulls credit after their matchup, and he also gave a specific shout to Williams. The 2x NBA Champion went up to the rookie when the final buzzer sounded, and Williams told reporters after the game that he simply told him to keep “working and to keep going.”
When your idols become your rivals. pic.twitter.com/k5YIxwmG52
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 12, 2021
If Williams keeps putting in the work he has thus far, he might as well be on a track toward stardom. I know we must be careful about jumping to conclusions after just 11 games, but there is no rule about being playfully optimistic, right? I mean, just look at the praise he’s getting from analysts and players alike. And they are not simply saying these things as a formality, they are saying them after witnessing Williams’ on-court execution.
The youngest NCAA prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft has easily been one of the best-looking rookies this season, and it hasn’t all been thanks to his efforts on the defensive side of the ball either.
Williams also holds the 4th-best effective field goal percent among rookies (53.4), and I think it’s worth noting that the four in front of him do not start for their respective teams and play fewer minutes overall. Williams is also shooting a surprising 45.8% from downtown despite pre-draft concerns about his slow, methodical shooting stroke from behind the arc. To add to the list, he is 4th in rookie points (113), 2nd in free-throws made (85.7%), and 1st in minutes played (291). That’s all good stuff, especially when we consider that his offensive potential was surrounded by question marks prior to the draft.
All of this is just a long-winded way of writing that Williams has done the most with his surprisingly large role to start the season. He is slowly but surely finding his way onto the national radar after only a couple of weeks of NBA action. So, as James said, Chicago has found itself a good one, but it might only be a matter of time before he’s a great one.
We got a special kid in Patrick Williams.
17 points | 6-9 FG | 3-5 3FG | 2 steals pic.twitter.com/sxIoFPjrSg
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 11, 2021