What Should We Expect in a Patrick Williams Return? (and Other Bulls Bullets)

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What Should We Expect in a Patrick Williams Return? (and Other Bulls Bullets)

Chicago Bulls

Who is ready for Patrick Williams to make his heroic return, poster dunk Giannis 11 times in the Eastern Conference Finals, and single-handedly drag the franchise to its seventh ring?

Are those expectations too high? 

•   I couldn’t be more excited to finally get Williams back on the floor. One of the most naturally athletic young players in the NBA, he will give the Bulls the kind of physically imposing presence they have desperately needed in the frontcourt since he dislocated his wrist back in October. With that said, we must temper our expectations when it comes to exactly how big of an impact Williams can make right off the bat. Let’s remember we’re talking about a 20-year-old. While he was one of the most coveted prospects in the 2020 draft, he was also easily one of the rawest, and he’s now missed 65 games in his second year in the league. There is just no question time on the bench has had a somewhat negative effect on his overall development. Not to mention, we already saw over his first five games of the season that learning to play with this upgraded roster will come with a significant learning curve.

•   Williams showed during Summer League that he understood what strides had to be made. We saw a much more offensively aggressive and decisive player than the one we watched throughout his first season as a pro. However, once the season officially started, we still saw how challenging it was for him to pick and choose his spots to tap into this new mindset. Likewise, his influence on the rebounding department left something to be desired. The good news is that figuring out his role and reading the floor should come with time. The bad news is he has lost a lot of that time this season, which means there is a lot of learning that will have to happen over just 12 regular-season games. And the fact of the matter is he isn’t going to learn everything he needs to leave the kind of mark I’m sure many are expecting. But, again, that doesn’t mean his mere presence will not make a difference!

•   Like I said, his size and natural athleticism should have a noticeable influence on the defensive end. He is a multi-positional defender with great help instincts, a good reaction time, and a strong frame. We saw him embrace some of the tougher matchups in the league last season with relative ease, drawing real praise from players like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. Is he going to solve every problem for the Bulls’ recently abysmal defense? Not at all, but he does provide them a skillset they simply do not have anywhere else on the roster.

•   We also can’t forget Williams genuinely has such a high two-way ceiling. We all remember his mean midrange game, and I can only imagine he’s picked up a thing or two watching DeMar “Midrange King” DeRozan go about his business. More importantly, though, he immediately exceeded expectations as a viable downtown threat. He shot 40 percent from long-range last season, and he shot 43 percent on his attempts from the corner, per Cleaning the Glass. In an offense with down-low options like Vucevic and multiple off-the-dribble shot creators like DeRozan and LaVine, there are plenty of catch-and-shoot opportunities to go around. I’m excited that Williams will now get some of those looks as opposed to a career 29.7 percent shooter in Derrick Jones Jr. or a career 34.7 percent shooter in Javonte (though, to his credit, Javonte has been more efficient recently).

•   Speaking of his ability to shoot from downtown, Ricky O’Donnell made a great point. I always wanted to see Williams have a greater emphasis on attacking closeouts, and it absolutely sucks that one of the first few times he does that, Robinson shatters his wrist. I hope this doesn’t come with any sort of mental block, but we have to accept that it might.

•   Donovan has already said he expects Williams to come off the bench upon his return. I do think the goal could be to slip him back in with the starters come playoff time, but letting him gain some confidence against the opposing second unit doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Plus, if we want him to display more of that aggressive offensive mindset, getting to check-in off the bench provides the perfect opportunity. We all know the Bulls could use the bench scoring.

•   All this Williams talk … what about Lonzo!? We learned the other day that Ball’s rehab isn’t progressing in the way we all hoped. While there hasn’t been a specific “setback,” Ball just isn’t responding to treatment at a very fast rate. How that impacts when we could see him back on the floor is unclear, but it certainly isn’t the news we want to hear with only a couple of weeks of the regular season left.

•   With Cleveland winning back-to-back games, tomorrow’s matchup with the Raptors only becomes that much more important. The Bulls sit only a half-game back from Cleveland for the No. 6 seed.

•   Well, this is awesome.

•   I don’t think anyone is safe at this point.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.