Bulls’ Patrick Williams out of starting lineup, and out of free passes

It was a very easy conversation for Billy Donovan to have.

The Bulls coach recalled that he simply pulled Patrick Williams aside, informed him that Javonte Green would be starting in his place on Friday night, and went about his day.

No resistance from the former No. 4 overall draft pick over the decision, no fight.

“Passive Pat” on the court, and now off of it.

“I didn’t really think too much into it,” Williams said of the discussion with his coach. “When [Donovan] told me, I was all for it. I really think Javonte is a really good player, plays with a lot of energy. And I kind of saw where he was coming from in terms of him bringing energy to that first group. And I think it worked. We won.”

That the Bulls did, man-handling a short-handed Denver Nuggets team, and doing so in impressive fashion in the 131-113 victory.

But in the game of player development for Williams?

Call it yet another loss.

Since being selected in the 2020 draft, a lot has gone against the Florida State product, starting with the fact that his NBA life began in the midst of a pandemic.

No doubt Williams gets a pass for that.

Then last season, he had an unbelievably productive summer, only to be slowed in camp with a bum ankle and then watch his luck go from very little to bad when he suffered a severe wrist injury just five games into the regular season.

Again, another pass of understanding.

After Friday, however, the pass cup is empty.

It’s way too early to label Williams a bust, but it’s not too early to be concerned that he’s heading down that path. Or at least turning into a player that has All-Star potential, but more content with sitting in the backseat and being a passenger.

“My job is to be productive and use my talents to try to help the team win,” Williams said, discussing the move to the bench.

For many NBA players, that’s correct.

But for No. 4 draft picks there is a different expectation. At least an expectation the organization hopes to see. The Bulls want – and need to see – dominant moments.

There haven’t been enough with Williams. At least enough when he’s starting alongside the likes of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

He’s seemingly intimidated to flash his ability when they are on the floor with him, and the power forward all but admitted that.

“A lot of times with the first unit, Zach and DeMar are All-Stars,” Williams said. “I feel like and the team feels like the best shot is for the ball to be in their hands. And we’re trying to set screens for them and try to get them open.”

And that’s how a starting spot is lost. That kind of mentality.

Did guard Anthony Edwards worry about stepping on toes when he arrived in Minnesota? Has LaMelo Ball backed away from being the face of the Charlotte franchise? Is Tyrese Haliburton flinching from doing his job? Does Tyrese Maxey play like he’s intimidated from taking shots away from Joel Embiid in Philadelphia?

All were 2020 draft picks, and all are making the Williams’ selection shrink.

The good news is it’s not too late for Williams, still only 21. Maybe playing with the second unit is the push he needs to be more aggressive, void of All-Star intimidation alongside of him.

Maybe it will spark something, anything.

It doesn’t speak well of Williams’ make-up in Year 3, but it’s worthy of yet another free pass.

If only he had any left.

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