Billy Donovan and Zach LaVine Aren’t Worrying About Patrick Williams (And You Shouldn’t Either)

After Monday’s night’s game, I might as well copy and paste this:

Patrick Williams followed up a career-low in shot attempts against Minnesota by … tying his career-low in shot attempts against Memphis. The rookie continued to look just as uninvolved as ever, scoring his first and only basket of the night on a cutting dunk in the 4th quarter (it was his first bucket in nearly eight quarters of play).

With players like Coby White and Lauri Markkanen recently placed on the bench and starter Tomas Satoransky struggling to score the basketball, the Bulls need someone to step up on the offensive end. I know it might be a bit unfair to call on Patrick Williams to pick up the slack, but it’s also a bit hard not to when he’s provided the types of flashes we’ve seen throughout this season.

Bulls fans have watched him shoot a solid 47.5 percent from the field and 38.0 percent from downtown. His mid-range game has been nothing but smooth (nails 48 percent of his long-mid shots, which ranks in the 82nd percentile, per Cleaning the Glass) and his success at the rim has been serviceable (66 percent). When Williams has the ball in his hands, we’ve seen that he has the ability to get to his spots and dish the occasional live-dribble assist. Not to mention, we all know he has a physically imposing and athletic frame that can give plenty of opponents trouble. So … what’s the deal?

Donovan said in Monday’s postgame press conference that Williams has “all the freedom in the world to be as aggressive as he possibly wants to be,” which is certainly encouraging to hear. At the same, however, that means Williams is the one deciding to take a backseat, and I don’t think it’s crazy to want to see him have a bit more urgency/confidence in his own abilities to help out on that end of the floor. 

Still, I struggle with this. I don’t want to sit here and ask too much of the No. 4-overall pick. We’ve seen enough from him this season to feel pretty damn excited about his future potential, and I also know completely switching a style of play midway through the season can’t be easy. This seems to be what Donovan wanted to make very clear last night. He came to his rookie’s defense in a big way, reminding people of his situation and praising him for playing the right way.

I’m not worried about Patrick. He’s 19 years old, he’s played an enormous amount of games, it’s our fourth game in five nights. I’m sure, I’m not going to speak for him, but I’m sure there is a lot on his plate right now that he’s dealing with. But I think for anybody to expect him at 19-years-old to be taking over an NBA game I think is probably a little bit of a stretch right now. He’s going to have some good moments and some bad moments, but I don’t think he has evolved into that kind of player. I hope someday he’ll evolve into that. He is not that right now. 

The coach is right. Williams is the second-youngest player in the league who – *shocker* – isn’t ready to be the go-to option to claw a team out of a hard time. By no means does that insinuate that he can’t be that guy (the Bulls wouldn’t have drafted him nor made their more immediate win-now moves if they didn’t expect him to get there), it just reminds everyone to practice some patience.

Zach LaVine shared a similar sentiment when asked about Williams’ lack of contribution. He said the rookie has been absolutely no different behind the scenes and that his teammates will always have his back.

“I mean, he’s going to go through some ups and downs. It’s tough because we got all these new pieces and everybody is trying to find their way. I talked to him, I haven’t really looked at it and gotten into it too much, but – his spirit – he looks fine. He’s acting normal still, so he’s not letting it effect the team. Even if he is going through a little bit of a slump, We’ll be there to support him.”

All things considered, this is exactly what we want and, quite frankly, need to hear. I’m as eager as anyone for the Bulls to successfully pull off a playoff push, but I probably should refrain from asking too much of a 19-year-old who entered the league in one of the crazier years in recent memory. P-Dubs is still one of the most promising young prospects we’ve seen inside the organization in quite some time, and a couple of bad games isn’t going to change that.

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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