Bobby Portis returning to Bulls might be what Patrick Williams needs

Bobby Portis wasn’t naming names.

Then again, the one-time Bull turned Bucks cult hero didn’t really need to.

After a huge Game 3 statement win for the defending NBA champions on Friday, Portis was talking about the role he tried to play in the one-sided laugher for visiting Milwaukee, as he finished the game with 18 points and 16 rebounds in just 25 minutes of work.

Work that by the way came as the starter for an injured Khris Middleton.

“Play with confidence,” Portis said of his mindset. “That’s the biggest thing. Playing with confidence is a big thing out there on the basketball court, and you know who’s confident and you know who’s not.”

Exhibit A in who looked confident? Portis.

Who did not?

The player Portis was assigned to guard at the start of the game, and really didn’t end up needing to guard. Instead, the Bucks used Portis to help double-team and push Bulls scorers DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine to their left hands all night, making them relatively ineffective.

A defensive game plan made possible by yet another passive/ineffective performance by Bulls second-year forward Patrick Williams.

First, it’s important to note that Williams did finish the game with nine shot attempts, which was the same amount in his solid Game 2 performance where he scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Bulls win.

This is also where stats like to deceive.

In the Friday first quarter where the Bucks outscored the Bulls 33-17 and established their defensive game plan, Williams took just two shots, being left relatively open in the eight minutes that he was out there by Portis.

Williams took two more shots in the second quarter, as Milwaukee stretched the halftime lead to 60-41, all but ending any hopes the Bulls had in taking control of the series.

In mop-up time in the fourth was when the No. 4 overall pick from the 2020 draft put up four more shots, again missing all of them to finish the night 0-for-9 from the field with one point and four rebounds.


Not just from a top five pick, but from any player in the starting lineup.

“The playoffs, it’s all in,” Portis said. “Every guy that steps out there needs to know his role and what he needs to do on the floor to impact winning.”

At just 20 years old and going through his first visit to the postseason, of course Williams doesn’t know that. But what has to start to concern the Bulls is when will something start clicking for him? “Passive Pat” is not a nickname any player wants.

And the excuses about his age and experience are starting to run thin, especially in a postseason where other 20 year olds are not only making winning plays, but in some cases dominating – see Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards.

If Williams isn’t ready, putting him on a playoff stage as a starter might not be the best decision.

Which brings everything back to Portis.

Since Williams was selected out of Florida State, a starting job has basically been handed to him. It might be time for him to really compete for it next year. And not just beating out an undersized Javonte Green or the lame duck forward that was Lauri Markkanen last season.

Portis owns the $4.5 million player option next season. If Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas can free up salary, bringing Portis back to the organization that drafted him would be a good play.

He’d be an emotional spark plug for a team that too often looks like it would rather be in church singing, but more importantly he would be real competition for Williams. Williams just might need to be pushed, especially in that confidence department.

Who was confident on Friday, who was not? Portis wasn’t saying. He didn’t need to.

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