The Patrick Williams Conversation Doesn’t Get Any Easier
This Patrick Williams conversation isn’t as fun as I’d like it to be.
As polarizing as he’s become, all sides have to agree he’s failed thus far to meet the lofty expectations that come tied to the No. 4-overall pick. Where the difference in opinion rests, however, centers around his ability to meet those expectations in the future.
I’ll plant my pole in the sand from the jump: I’m not out on Williams. While I can’t deny that I’m more skeptical than I’ve ever been of his ability to become a truly elite player, I still think it’s too soon to put any kind of strict ceiling on his development. I mean, Bulls fans just watched Lauri Markkanen put together an All-Star-caliber season and win the Most Improved Player award at 25 years old. It was a close-to-home reminder that development isn’t always linear, and almost always takes time. And this feels even more accurate for a player drafted into the situation that Williams was.
Williams’ career began during one of the strangest times in league history. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic removed any sort of traditional offseason preparation for rookies, as well as limited the 2019-20 season to just 72 games (of which Williams played 71). Just as things were getting more normal, the Bulls completely overhauled their roster and Williams suffered a wrist injury that would sideline him for all but 17 games of his sophomore regular season.
Add in the fact that he was playing alongside three All-Star-level players, thus limiting his space to make mistakes/learn on the go, and it’s not hard to see how Williams has been a product of his environment. And, look, I’m not necessarily trying to make excuses. I know that might sound exactly like what I’m doing, but these are undeniable variables that are a part of his story.
Now, none of this is to say that criticism of Williams isn’t fair. It is. While I understand that certain things have stunted his growth, it’s still on him to make the most of his opportunities. And we simply can’t say he did that to its full extent this season.
He left a lot to be desired with just 10.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Fortunately, we did see a noticeable uptick in his offensive aggressiveness – both in attacking off the dribble and confidently shooting the 3-ball. But it still wasn’t on a consistent enough basis. Not to mention, those rebounding numbers were a real disappointment when we consider he has one of the most physically imposing frames on the team.
The good news, however, is that he remains just 21 years old and fully aware of his situation. When speaking with The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry, Williams didn’t sound like someone who was content with the way his career has gone. Instead, it was quite the opposite:
“A lot more,” Patrick Williams told The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry about how much he has left to show. “I wanted to be more consistent. I wanted to play-make a little bit more; show that I can do that. Obviously, every player wants to be able to make plays down the stretch and be able to do that down the stretch. I think I have the skill to do it. I think the opportunity was there. I don’t think I grasped it. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t.”
I highly recommend you read Mayberry’s full interview with Williams here. If it’s accountability you want, it’s accountability you get from one of the Bulls’ youngest players.
Still, (cliche alert) actions speak louder than words. What Williams has to do next season is turn positive flashes into nightly occurrences. He needs to show what health and on-court reps can do for his development. Again, I’m more than willing to give him an opportunity to prove he can still be a building block this franchise needs. But that patience isn’t what it once was, especially knowing he is extension eligible this summer.