By all accounts — public and behind the scenes — Patrick Williams had an impressive week of practice and workouts with the Bulls’ Summer League team.
He should have, considering he’s entering his third season and was a No. 4 overall pick.
And he had better because he’s arguably the most important Bull in the starting lineup.
All-Stars Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan are hit-the-ceiling type of players at this point in their careers. Zach LaVine is now a max player, but pretty much is what he is, with the hope that his defense can become more consistent. Then there’s Lonzo Ball, who undoubtedly will miss at least 20 games for some injury or assortment of injuries but remains a point guard who can run the team at a high pace as well as give the Bulls a three-point threat from the corner.
Williams, however, is the enigma.
Will he be the power forward who scored 35 points in the season finale against the Timberwolves or the passive 19-year-old who played 26 minutes against the Celtics two games before that and scored only five points? Will he be the player who was basically a no-show for the first three games in the playoff series against the Bucks or the threat he was in Games 4 and 5 in which he scored 20 and 23 points, respectively?
His growth this summer and into fall camp in the mental-assertiveness department will be key.
If Williams remains at that nine-point, four-rebound level, the Bulls can pencil in reservations for the No. 5 or 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and surely will be headed for a one-and-done against the big four.
But if he can put up 15 points and grab 7.5 rebounds per game a la Raptors Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes and develop into an elite wing defender, the Bulls have a chance to host a first-round playoff series rather than pack lightly for one.
That’s where rookie Dalen Terry just might come in.
Terry, who was selected 18th overall in the draft last month, made his Summer League debut Friday, scoring nine points, shooting 3-for-7 from the field and grabbing five rebounds in a 100-99 overtime victory against the Mavericks. He also had six assists.
But his real mark was felt in those practices leading up to Summer League in which Ayo Dosunmu and Williams participated.
Terry opened Williams’ eyes, earning “most competitive” votes from the Bulls starter, and made his presence felt in other ways. The two guarded each other at times throughout the week, with Terry pushing Williams into the art of trash-talking as they bantered frequently.
“I’m gonna compete, just like [Williams] said, so I’m not backing down,” Terry said when asked about the showdown.
It’s just what Williams might need.
Since being selected out of Florida State in the 2020 draft, Williams has been handed more than he has earned.
Terry is in no danger of stealing Williams’ starting spot just yet, but he is a threat to grab minutes. They are built differently, but the Bulls insisted on draft night that the Arizona product would be groomed to be a wing defender with the hope that he can become an irritant who can guard a Jaylen Brown or a Jimmy Butler, the types of players Williams has been assigned to when healthy.
So while watching Terry in Summer League the next week or so generates a bit of intrigue, his real impact might not be felt until the Bulls start voluntary scrimmages later this summer.
Let the trash-talking commence.