Bulls coach Billy Donovan wants expectations tempered on young players

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The outside perception of Patrick Williams makes the young Bulls forward laugh.

“I’m not a robot,” Williams said. “I feel like my teammates and coaches know what I’m about, but I can’t just be what people outside the building think I should be. I know my skillset, my body, and I’m figuring things out. I know what I’m capable of doing, and what I still need to work on.”

So does his coach.

That’s why Billy Donovan went out of his way on Monday to not only speak about how he feels Williams should be perceived by others, but really all young players.

Leading up to the Jazz game, there was obviously a lot of talk about former Bull Lauri Markkanen and the way he was handled. Selected No. 7 overall by the Bulls in the 2017 draft, Markkanen’s game seemed to diminish by Year 4.

Now with Utah, he’s flourishing.

A cautionary tale about how the organization is now dealing with Williams, who was selected No. 4 overall in the 2020 draft? Somewhat. But more about Donovan wanting there to be a more realistic view of expectations on young players.

“I mean you look at [former Bull] Wendell [Carter Jr.] when I got here, look at Coby [White], even Lauri, when I was in Oklahoma City and you see those young players come in, it’s really hard when you just all of a sudden make a statement on draft night, ‘This is our future, this is what we’re building around,’ ” Donovan said. “We’ve tried to be really careful with that with Patrick. Because I think it’s a responsibility, and a heck of a responsibility to live up to.

“There was a time that when a guy was a top five or a top 10 player, those guys generally … you were pretty confident that this guy was going to be a long-standing starter, maybe an All-Star. But that was when guys stayed three or four years in college and there was a maturity coming in. For a lot of these guys, these top picks, when they come in there’s an expectation that they’re going to evolve into this. I think it’s really unfair, because there’s more of a history of guys that have been top 10 picks that ‘haven’t’ developed into All-Stars.”

Williams had a nice 10-game showcase under his belt entering the Utah meeting, averaging 10.8 points and five rebounds per game over that span. More importantly, he was using his physicality in Donovan’s estimation.

“The biggest thing you do is try and have a level of accountability on the things he can control,” Donovan said. “For a guy with that kind of body and strength, you should be feeling him through the course of a game. Here of late you’re starting to feel him a little bit more. That’s what he’s got to do because he does have a lot of skillsets.”


Alex Caruso was dealing with a right ankle sprain, and was unable to put in any practice time the last few days.

He was a go against the Jazz, but the mindset of the organization with Caruso and his injuries remained less minutes is more.

“Just trying to be conscientious of his minutes and those long stretches for him because he does play hard,” Donovan said. “From my perspective, there are going to be some nights where he’s going to get over 30 minutes. For the most part, we’re just trying to manage how hard he does play and compete in relationship to the number of minutes he’s getting.”

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