At Least Patrick Williams Continues to Grow …?
Even if the Chicago Bulls do heroically (and I use that word loosely) jolt themselves into the Play-In Tournament, it’s more likely than not that this season ends in grave disappointment.
The fact of the matter is the Bulls were supposed to improve on last year’s 6th-place finish and 46-win record. The front office set those expectations from the moment everyone assembled for Media Day. All that’s happened since, however, is the opposite.
Chicago has struggled to even stay within the Play-In Tournament mix, currently sitting a half-game back of the 10 seed with a 30-36 record. With that being the case, it’s been hard to muster much excitement about the current trajectory of this franchise. But one player has given us at least some hope for the future.
Patrick Williams is growing in real time. I understand the 21-year-old hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations that come with the No. 4 overall selection. But development takes time, and it’s not always linear. Not to mention, go ahead and read his age again. Williams is still a remarkably young and gifted player who is essentially playing only his second full season in the NBA (do I need to remind you of what happened last year?).
We’ve still seen enough from him this year to be optimistic about the player he can become. And this is particularly true as of late. Not only has Williams scored in double figures in six of his last nine performances, but he’s shot 60.9 percent from the field and an eye-popping 69 percent at the rim. His confidence has clearly skyrocketed when it comes to attacking the rim off the dribble and embracing cutting lanes. Remove that confidence, and there is no world where his performance from earlier this week is possible.
Williams came off the bench and dropped 18 points on 8-9 shooting to help lead the Bulls over the first-place Nuggets. His first bucket of the night was on a smart and simple play where he slid to the dunker spot to set himself up for the easy slam. Later in that first quarter, he came around a DeMar DeRozan downscreen to take the ball from Coby White and rise for the easy mid-range jumper.
The start of the second quarter provided what might have been Williams’ best basket of the night. Running in transition, he received another feed from Coby White only to notice point guard Reggie Jackson stood between him and the basket. Without even thinking, Williams lowered his shoulder and attacked the mismatch, eventually rising for the easy and-one play.
He added an easy catch-and-shoot 3, an easy cutting dunk, and an easy cutting layup. And, yes, my overuse of “easy” is purposeful.
The fact Williams made everything look that simple is precisely why this game stood out among the rest. One of his primary issues since entering the league has been a lack of decisiveness and aggressiveness. But that was non-existent against one of the best teams in the NBA. If anything, the main reason he scored his 18 points was because of assertive off-ball movements and showing zero hesitation to let it fly.
Again, I know it’s hard to feel amped about anything Bulls-related this season. I’m also not trying to say you should sell the house and buy all the Patrick Williams stock you can. However, we have seen legitimate gradual improvement from Williams all season long. Just go back at look at his efforts against Boston and Jayson Tatum in November and his season-best performance against the Nets in January.
The progress is genuine, and it should be considered a small win in a season that has otherwise been full of losing.