Patrick Williams is pleased with the strides he’s making for the Chicago Bulls — whether he makes the All-Rookie team or not

Jamal Collier, Chicago Tribune
·4 min read

Compared with other rookies from his draft class, Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams does not have the flashiest game.

He doesn’t dish out dimes like Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball, produce spectacular highlights as often as Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Hailburton or go viral for his violent dunks and hilarious interviews like Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards.

Williams’ production in his rookie season — 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game with 48% shooting and an encouraging 38.7% from 3-point range while usually guarding the other team’s best player — might not leap off the page to outsiders. He was not included in a recent ESPN ranking of the top 25 players under 25.

But his play has more than justified the potential the Bulls saw in him to select him with the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft.

“Coming in when I was drafted, I just wanted to get better every day,” Williams said at the shootaround before Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves. “I think I have done that. Just being able to grow, get experience and learn from guys like Zach (LaVine) and the rest of the guys on the team ... as long as I’m learning, as long as I’m getting better every day, I feel like that’s a good season from me.”

Williams downplayed Sunday’s matchup as a battle of any significance between him and Edwards, the No. 1 pick in the draft, even though the two have known each other since high school. Williams attempted to recruit Edwards to Florida State with him and has taken note of some of Edwards’ highlight-reel dunks, which Williams said haven’t surprised him.

Although it’s possible Williams’ lack of eye-popping stats could make it difficult for him to make the All-Rookie team, he made it clear he does not care much about individual accomplishments.

“I don’t really play basketball for the accolades and things like that,” he said. “I just play because I love to play it. I’ve always been that way. It wouldn’t even really matter to me.

“I’m just trying to help my team win in any way I can. However that looks to the eye, I’m not really sure. I’m just focused on our locker room and making sure the guys in our locker room are happy with me. That’s the input I’m looking for — our coaches, teammates instead of the media.”

Williams is in the midst of one of the most unusual NBA seasons ever, let alone for a rookie adjusting to life in the pros.

He did not have the benefit of summer league to ease him in. Training camp was shortened and the schedule condensed by the pandemic. He has yet to play in front of fans at the United Center. After not starting any of his 29 games at Florida State, Williams has started all 50 games he has played for the Bulls entering Sunday.

And he got to see firsthand the business end of the NBA when the Bulls overhauled their roster on the fly at the trade deadline to bring in All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and four others.

At 19 years, 8 months, Williams is the second-youngest player in the NBA behind Oklahoma City Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski, and he doesn’t easily compliment himself or show much emotion during his news conferences. But he acknowledged, after a pause, that he believes he’s having a good rookie season and is happy with the strides his game has taken.

“I think from day one my teammates and coaches have been telling me to stay confident and be aggressive,” he said. “I’ve made strides in that area. I still have a long way to go, but I kind of look at it as building a foundation for the player and person I want to be five, 10, hopefully 15 years from now if I’m still playing in the NBA.

“The trials and tribulations and ups and downs of your first season, I kind of look at it like growing pains and just make sure my foundation is strong.”