Despite some preseason drama, Patrick Williams will maintain his spot in the Chicago Bulls’ starting lineup on opening night.
Head coach Billy Donovan shared the news one day before the Bulls’ will tip off their season against the Miami Heat on the road. The decision comes after a surprise benching during the preseason, where Williams ended up playing the middle two contests in a second-unit role.
Meanwhile, versatile forward Javonte Green thrived no matter where he was in the rotation. Not only did he continue to provide the kind of ball pressure this team needs on the defensive end, but he looked more comfortable than ever before contributing on offense. He ran well in transition, scored repeatedly on cuts to the rim, and even hit the occasional open 3.
With that said, when Williams found himself back in the starting lineup against the Milwaukee Bucks, he looked like a completely different player. While some of his aggressiveness may have been due to the absence of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, he still played the kind of basketball that should easily translate to the starting lineup. He hunted high-percentage looks at the rim off screen and rolls and positioned himself for open shot opportunities off the ball. One can only hope this 22-point, 5-assist performance is all he needed to understand what this team needs from him ASAP.
If one thing is for sure, I wouldn’t assume Williams’ job is safe. We’ve seen how comfortable Green has looked with the starters, and Donovan already showed he isn’t afraid to swap the two during preseason action. So as important as the idea of Williams’ size, defensive instincts, and offensive potential might be in the starting lineup, I won’t expect him to stay there if he doesn’t produce.
Donovan also stated that he believes how the coaching staff decides to run rotations will be far more important than who is actually inside the starting lineup:
“I think there are parts of Patrick that we can even get staggered into the second unit some,” Donovan told reporters on Tuesday. “For me, I just think he can be a key contributor to our team and that he can help us. He’s had a good offseason, he’s had a really good training camp … We’ve looked at a lot of different combination and started each one of those guys [Williams, Green, and Derrick Jones Jr.] in the preseason.
But, again, I’m not as wrapped up in the starting part as much as who is subbing in next and who is coming off the bench. Those are the things that are going to happen based on experience and information that we have from our group. But it could be a situation where Patrick plays, and we stagger him into the starting unit and have Javonte out there with the first unit.”
In the grand scheme of things, this is how we entered the year expecting things to go, so I’m completely fine with the decision. But, again, if Williams fails to look the part alongside the starters after the first couple of weeks, Donovan might have no choice but to begin each game with the more proven product.