Patrick Williams hasn’t exactly spent the summer in the shadows.
If there was a Pro-Am or even a pick-up game with star talent, the Bulls forward was usually calling out, “I got next!”
Which is exactly what he should be doing.
While Year 3 for an NBA player is always crucial, for the 21-year-old former No. 4 overall pick, it’s defining.
That was evident with the moves the team made this offseason after exiting the first round of the playoffs in just five games, and it has been loud and clear with every interview his team and front office have had when asked about the expectations surrounding Williams.
Guard Coby White on Williams: “When he went down [with a wrist injury] it hurt me, it hurt the team, but also playing is probably the best development you can have, being on the court and going through those mistakes. He’ll figure it out. Like I always say, since Day 1 he got here, I believe he can be a star. He’s got every quality you can ask for on and off the basketball court, as a human being and as a basketball player.”
All-Star Zach LaVine on Williams: “Pat’s great, Pat’s going to continue to work on his game and get better and better. He’s been to California, he’s been in Chicago. Pat’s working on his game, but everybody on the team needs to take a step, from the best guy on the team to the 12th man, you need to take a step and upgrade your game. I think that’s how teams get better.”
And vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas: “With him, when somebody’s asking what he needs to improve, I think his skill set is pretty complete; what he can do athletically not a lot of players can do in our league. I just think the biggest thing for him is experience and confidence. . . . He’s committed. So we’ll see what happens.”
And they will very soon.
Williams, like many of his Bulls teammates, will start migrating back to Chicago after Labor Day for voluntary scrimmages and runs, according to a source.
The team will have its first mandatory workout on Sept. 27, when camp is expected to open up.
What they hope — and need — to see from Williams is a jump.
Not a hop, a full-fledge jump.
The way this roster is currently constructed, it has its veteran starters in DeMar DeRozan, LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. It has All-Star scoring with that same Big Three. It has experience off the bench with new additions in Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic. It has its defensive presence in the backcourt with Lonzo Ball — when healthy — Alex Caruso, and possibly even rookie Dalen Terry.
What it needs, however, to make sure that this Bulls team has playoff staying power beyond one round is Williams. Not “Passive Pat,” who seemed more interested in scoring his nine points and grabbing his five rebounds while letting the adults sit in the front seat and drive the last two seasons.
No, they need the wing stopper, who can put up 18 and nine, while unleashing hell on the opposing team’s best forward on the defensive end.
They need Williams to play like a No. 4 pick, and sooner rather than later.
Vucevic is a free agent after this season, and DeRozan after next season. “Continuity” was the buzzword for this front office going into the offseason, and that was predicated on not only bringing everyone back, but Williams taking a huge leap.
All indications are he played this summer like a guy who has. The problem is we’ve heard this before with Williams. Starting next month, everyone gets to start seeing it.