Bulls executive Arturas Karnisovas defends drafting Patrick Williams
Williams didn’t even start on his college team, so of course the outside world was going to throw questionable grades at the Bulls. Karnisovas said that’s a mistake.
The grades for the NBA Draft weren’t kind to the Bulls and first-round pick Patrick Williams.
One thing that has become very clear about executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, however, is that he really doesn’t care much about such opinions.
‘‘I didn’t agree with the perception people have of him,’’ Karnisovas told reporters in a Zoom call Thursday after selecting Williams, a forward from Florida State, with the fourth overall pick the night before. ‘‘They thought he was a raw athlete and he wasn’t skilled. And when I saw his skill level and ballhandling and shooting and ability to pass, I would disagree that he’s just a raw athlete. He just knows how to play.
‘‘He’s a versatile defender, so he can guard from one through five, so I don’t even know what position he is. He’s going to identify that when he gets here to Chicago, and coach [Billy] Donovan, he’s going to be able to use him. If you watch Florida State games, after baskets, he would be full-court pressing on top of guards. And that’s a very unique skill for such an athletic and big player.’’
It’s a skill Karnisovas and the Bulls welcome with open arms.
Yes, former coach Jim Boylen turned the Bulls’ defensive-efficiency numbers around last season, but it didn’t matter on many nights, considering what they gave up in the paint and at the rim.
Then Karnisovas and Co. allowed defensive specialists Kris Dunn and Shaquille Harrison to walk into free agency last week.
With Coby White and Zach LaVine sometimes seeming reluctant to play defense and Otto Porter Jr. expected to be elsewhere by next offseason, Karnisovas not only saw Williams, 19, as the best available player at No. 4, he also saw him as a need for the roster.
It might not be a good look to draft a player who didn’t even start on his college team, but being one of the youngest players in this draft class also meant Williams was one of the youngest players last season at Florida State.
What Karnisovas is banking on is for Williams to understand that, at 6-8 and 225 pounds, his potential is basically untapped.
‘‘I just think that the more study you do on Patrick, the more you realize that this is what the NBA is today,’’ Karnisovas said. ‘‘We need players in our league that can play multiple positions. He’s an elite athlete. He showed that in college. He wasn’t as consistent, but . . . he was at such a young age and started to pick up at the end of the season.
‘‘For us, he was the guy to get.’’
And the position to get.
Many teams covet long-range shooting and a lethal backcourt, but the NBA these days is all about whom your top forward is. If he’s elite — especially on both ends of the floor — your can print those playoff tickets. Just look at LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant.
If a team doesn’t have a forward of that caliber on the roster, it had better have a forward who can slow that kind of player down.
So while the criticism of Karnisovas’ first draft with the Bulls was predictable, he hopes it proves to be unwarranted.
‘‘I’m just looking forward to [Williams] getting here,’’ Karnisovas said. ‘‘It’s a very short time between now and training camp Dec. 1. The learning curve is going to be very steep. We’re going to try to do our best to integrate him into our practice.
‘‘We wanted to get [this draft] right. And Patrick was our guy.’’