Bulls hope forward Patrick Williams is ready to play like a No. 4 overall pick
The organization has been here before with Williams, with the 20-year-old saying all the right things about being aggressive on the offensive end.
A redo of the 2020 NBA Draft wouldn’t be particularly kind to Bulls forward Patrick Williams these days.
The class has proved to have more depth than originally expected and already has flashed some star power on playoff-bound teams.
Anthony Edwards has proved himself to be a legit No. 1 overall pick for the Timberwolves, the jury is still out on the Warriors’ James Wiseman at No. 2 because of injuries and LaMelo Ball has helped turn the Hornets around after going No. 3. Williams then went No. 4 to the Bulls and has been more tease than franchise-changer — for now.
Especially when players such as the Cavaliers’ Isaac Okoro (No. 5 overall), the Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton (No. 12), the Pistons’ Saddiq Bey (No. 19), the Raptors’ Precious Achiuwa (No. 20), the 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey (No. 21) and the Grizzlies’ Desmond Bane (No. 30) have been doing what they’ve been doing this season.
There’s no knowing whether Bane would be the player he is with the Bulls, and he never was considered to be a top-five pick. But imagine having that kind of shooter and willing defender. There’s a reason the Grizzlies are in second place in the Western Conference and are 19-2 when MVP candidate Ja Morant doesn’t play.
The Bulls, however, don’t have the luxury of playing the what-if game. They have to do everything they can to turn Williams’ elite raw talent into something that translates on the court. And that might have started to happen Thursday.
It’s easy to lose sight of what Williams’ did in the Bulls’ overtime victory against the Clippers, especially when DeMar DeRozan scored 50 points, but DeRozan didn’t.
While Williams was talking with the media after the game, waiting in the wings was DeRozan, who kept yelling: ‘‘Big three-pointer. . . . We don’t win the game without it!’’
DeRozan wasn’t wrong. With the Bulls leading by only a point and 58 seconds left in overtime, Williams let his rainbow-type shot go from deep in the corner, and the three-pointer felt like a dagger to the Clippers. DeRozan scored 10 points in overtime, but Williams scored five and, more important, was in the game at the end.
Not bad for a guy who admitted to being late for the morning shootaround and getting fined for it.
‘‘I’m not sure if you guys know, but I was late to shootaround this morning,’’ Williams told the media. ‘‘I had missed some of the film session. I felt like I let the guys down.’’
‘‘Just being 20 [years old],’’ Williams said.
Obviously, it wasn’t his only 20-year-old moment of the day. DeRozan was shocked that Williams revealed his tardiness to the public.
‘‘Damn, who said that? He said that?’’ a surprised DeRozan said after he was asked about Williams showing up late. ‘‘I gotta tell him not to say that to the media. He’s tripping.’’
In only his seventh game back from surgery on his left wrist, Williams will earn a pass as long as he continues playing with the aggressiveness he did against the Clippers. The problem is, he has been here before, saying all the right things about looking for his shot and trying to make an impact on the game. It’s time for action, not words.
‘‘The guys challenged me,’’ Williams said of the adjustment he made at halftime. ‘‘From the top, coach Billy [Donovan] challenged me to be aggressive when I get the ball because they were trapping DeMar and Zach [LaVine]. They showed trust in me, so I had to show trust in those situations. I wanted to pretty much answer the challenge and step up to the plate.’’
That sounded like a No. 4 overall pick — finally.