Bulls forward Patrick Williams could come off bench when he returns

As Williams continues basketball activity, the Bulls have to decide if they want him back as a starter or a reserve. Discussions are ongoing, including a staff talk Thursday.

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Discussions about Bulls forward Patrick Williams and the role he’ll play when he returns from wrist surgery continued Thursday morning and are expected to be ongoing, coach Billy Donovan said.

The debate isn’t whether Williams will have a spot — that’s a no-brainer for the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft. What’s not decided is whether Williams will return to his former starting spot or if Javonte Green will keep it, requiring Williams to come off the bench.

“Staff-wise, as players get closer and closer to coming back, I think Javonte has done a really good job with that group in terms of how he’s fit in, what he’s been able to bring to the table in Patrick’s absence,” Donovan said. “I’m not opposed to bringing Patrick off the bench, and I’m not opposed to starting him. I think a lot of it is going to be, once he can get back to practice, is there a minutes restriction on him, how many minutes can he play at a time, and what’s the best role for him to help our team?”

Minutes might have the biggest influence on Williams’ role, especially when he first returns. It would be easier for Donovan to control his playing time if he’s coming off the bench. Then, as Williams gets his wind back, the Bulls could always adjust.

“I know Patrick’s an important piece for our team,” Donovan said. “He’s a young player, and I think he’s had to deal with a lot his first two years here in the NBA, whether it’s a shortened season last year, COVID, limited practice, no Summer League, no training camp. But the decisions we have to make are going to be what’s best for the team.”

It’s a small sample size, but Williams wasn’t exactly lights-out in the five games he started in October before his injury, averaging 25 minutes, 6.6 points and 2.2 rebounds. He looked passive on offense and often seemed to disappear in key moments.

On the other hand, Green has steadily found his place with the starting group, averaging 12.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in February while being an irritant on defense.

Green is undersized against most forwards he’s guarding — an argument for starting Williams — but Williams might be better served playing with the reserves, knowing he would be relied on more on offense.

Donovan and his staff have time on their side: Williams has started basketball activity but is not yet practicing.

All is right with the rook

If Ayo Dosunmu is hitting the rookie wall, it’s news to Donovan. He sees a player who’s still looking to compete every night despite a heavy workload over the last month — 38.6 minutes per game entering Thursday.

“I don’t think a lot of times guys are physically exhausted as much as they are mentally exhausted, and what takes a lot out of a young player is the uncertainty of playing teams they haven’t played against before or matchups they haven’t played against,” Donovan said. “That could be draining. Ayo has handled that very well. I don’t get anything from him that he’s at that place.”

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