An immense amount of pressure plummeted onto Patrick Williams’ shoulders when Adam Silver read his name on November 18, 2020.
Not only was he the No. 4 pick in the draft, but he was the first hand-picked talent of a new front office regime in Chicago. Williams was the highest-drafted player by the Bulls’ organization since they shockingly found themselves in a position to snatch Derrick Rose No. 1-overall back in 2008. And, like Rose at the time, he helped signal the start of a new era in Chicago.
The Bulls had become an afterthought in the NBA landscape during the previous half-decade. A failed rebuild became so dysfunctional that the league’s most stubborn and loyal owner had no choice but to finally call for change. Williams represented that change as much as anyone. Sure, the front office would go on to trade for some big names and overhaul the rest of the roster, but they did all of that with Williams in mind.
Indeed, even when the roster began to overachieve, and folks began to question whether or not the Bulls should trade for another instant-impact piece, Arturas Karnisovas stood pat (pun intended). Williams was a clear part of the future, putting much more pressure on a quick ascension.
Through 107 games, I don’t think anyone can say that Williams has met the lofty expectations that come with that immense pressure. He has yet to average over double-digit points in a season, has been average at best on the glass, and has disappeared in big games time and again. In fact, Williams has yet to even carry a consistent closing role for the Bulls, which isn’t what anyone would have predicted three years in.
But Williams doesn’t seem to care about any of that. The fact is that these things take time, especially for the youngest NCAA prospect in his draft class and a player who missed almost the entirety of his second season in the league. All that really matters is that Williams continues to believe he can reach the high bar set when being selected with a top-5 pick. And it sounds like he believes that more than ever before.
I always felt like I had what it took to be a really good player in this league,” Patrick Williams told Darnell Mayberry of the The Athletic. “But now I’m starting to feel like I have what it takes to be a star and a superstar in this league. So I’m kind of just trying to take that role on and build on it day by day.
We all know that actions speak louder than words, but this feels like a truly significant step in the right direction for Williams. As someone who played far too submissive over his first couple of seasons, this is the mentality we’ve been waiting for him to have. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that these words have come tied to some legitimate progress on the floor.
Williams has played some of his best two-way basketball in recent weeks. He’s shot 45.6 percent from behind the arc on a career-high 3.3 attempts this season, has carried a +2.1 defensive box plus-minus (which ranks in the 96th percentile, per Dunks & Threes), and has shown more success scoring off the dribble than we’ve ever seen.
For more on all that, however, I’ll direct your attention to this post from last week:
The main point of this post is basically to say that an upward trajectory for Williams seems to continue up here *points to brain* and out there *points to court.* I know it may not feel like it when we factor in just how poorly this team has played as a whole, but this should be considered a win for the Bulls right now.