On the surface, it feels like bad timing for Patrick Williams.
The Bulls’ fourth overall pick in last week’s NBA Draft won’t have the benefit of playing in the Summer League to work on his game, and even with camp scheduled to start Dec. 1, he’ll be learning on the fly in a far from normal environment because of concerns over the coronavirus.
Bad timing to be a rookie?
Far from it for the combo forward.
The expectations will be tempered for most of this rookie class. There’s little pressure to win this year with the new front office in evaluation mode, and with Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison still on the roster, Williams could see limited playing time when the season starts.
If Williams waited another year to leave Florida State, he likely would have been selected outside the lottery with the draft class that is about to be unleashed in the summer of 2021.
Unlike the 2019 draft class, ’21 is headlined by two superstars that could rival the Zion Williamson-Ja Morant one-two punch.
Point guard Cade Cunningham is talented like Ben Simmons — 6-8, 220 pounds — but with a much better outside shot and higher IQ as a playmaker. He’ll be playing with Oklahoma State this season.
And if Cunningham is 1A in this class, Jalen Green is 1B and closing. The guard opted to skip college and get some work in the G-League, and has already drawn comparisons to Kobe Bryant with his bounce around the rim and competitiveness.
Unlike 2019, though, ’21 has more than just two elite players at the top.
The class is highlighted by big man Evan Mobley, Kentucky-bound forward BJ Boston, guard Ziaire Williams, forward Jonathan Kuminga and two-sport standout Jalen Suggs, who had powerhouse schools such as Alabama and Ohio State pursuing him as a quarterback.
It’s a list the Bulls can benefit from.
They need all the home-grown assets they can get heading into free agency in 2021. This is a season of evaluation to figure out how Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and even veteran Zach LaVine fit into what new coach Billy Donovan wants moving forward.
Then the hope is that executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and the front office will be ready to make big moves, either through the free-agent market or in having real trade assets.
This Bulls’ rebuild won’t have traction without multiple superstars on the roster, and the summer of ’21 is the best opportunity to get them.
Until then, it’s trying to exercise patience, especially in Williams.
“I think it’ll take him some time,’’ Karnisovas said of Williams being able to get more playing time with all that’s been working against the rookie class this past year. “But again, you had only one year of college basketball before coming into the NBA. So it’s going to be an adjustment. But he’s the type of kid who’s ready to learn. He’s very inquisitive. He asks questions about what he can do better. And I saw huge growth over a very short period of time. So I’m not worried about that.’’
Neither was Williams.
“This year, for me and the rest of the rookies, is just gonna be about who asks questions, who learns the best,’’ Williams said.