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Chicago Sun Times
Chicago Sun-Times
29 Apr 2023
https://chicago.suntimes.com/authors/joe-cowley


NextImg:Bulls Position Analysis: Patrick Williams needs to buy into the hype

On most nights during the season, the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan still fills the role of NBA All-Star to perfection.

By day, however, he just might be the best hype man teammate Patrick Williams could have asked for.

No one in the Bulls’ organization believes in Williams’ skills more than DeRozan. The issue is, that includes Williams.

‘‘He got extremely comfortable as the season went on,’’ DeRozan said of Williams at the end of the Bulls’ season. ‘‘He’s such a raw talent in so many ways, and he don’t even know it. The more he was in certain situations, taking on certain challenges, he never wavered or backed down. And that shows a lot of character within him.

‘‘It’s about just his mentality and his approach to the game and taking that next step and trying to understand how he can just blossom. I think he’s still a caterpillar right now, and he’s got to be a beautiful butterfly. As soon as he understands that, he’s definitely going to take that next step.’’

Earlier in the season, DeRozan compared Williams to a young Superman who still hadn’t figured out his powers.

So why is DeRozan all in on Williams’ development? Because he knows that if the Bulls’ core stays intact — a real possibility — it also will stay stuck in the mud unless Williams can take that next leap.

DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic have hit their ceilings. Sure, there are tweaks and subtle improvements they can make, but Williams’ ceiling remains unknown. It still could be sky-high, or he already might have cracked his skull on it.

DeRozan is focusing on the first possibility.

The good news is that Williams played in all 82 of the Bulls’ regular-season games — plus two in the play-in tournament — this season, shot an impressive 41.5% from three-point range and emerged as an improving rim protector at 6-7. The bad news is that he’s a poor rebounder for his size, still has too many passive moments and is an overthinker.

Next season will be Williams’ fourth in the NBA after being drafted No. 4 overall in 2020. The training wheels need to come off. If Williams can move closer to scoring 17 to 20 points a game, improve his rebounding to closer to 10 and continue to develop into a lockdown wing defender, the Bulls might have something special and be able to move out of mediocrity.

That’s a big ask, but that’s what DeRozan foresees.

‘‘I hate comparing guys to other guys,’’ he said. ‘‘I seldom do it. But he reminds me of [Clippers star] Kawhi [Leonard] — his build, the way he moves, everything. Kawhi’s one of the greatest players to play this game, and that’s high praise right there. That’s what I see Pat becoming.’’

POSITION BREAKDOWN: FORWARDS

WHOM THE BULLS HAVE

DeRozan, Williams, Derrick Jones Jr., Javonte Green, Dalen Terry.

WHO COULD BE ON THE MOVE

Green will be a free agent. The Bulls want to give his minutes to Terry next season, so don’t expect him back. Jones has a $3.3 million option and will opt in. Might the Bulls trade DeRozan in the final year of his deal? Never say never.

THE DRAFT

The Bulls likely will lose their first-round pick to the Magic. But if they get lucky and land in the top four — an 8.5% chance — small forward Brandon Miller might be a game-changer.

FREE AGENCY

Unless the salary cap won’t be an issue with ownership — a very unlikely scenario — the Bulls will have to go the sign-and-trade route to try to add outside shooting. Kicking the tires on Georges Niang or Kevin Love as an outside threat off the bench might be a solid option for what they can spend.

WILD CARD

DeRozan might be the finishing piece for a handful of teams this offseason. If the Bulls can add a point guard or some outside shooting and get draft picks back in return, they might have to put that chip on the table.