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Benching Pat Williams is a great idea

Will Gottlieb Avatar
October 8, 2022

Billy Donovan threw a late-inning curve ball moving Javonte Green into the starting lineup over Patrick Williams on Friday night. But the Bulls come away with their first win in the preseason, beating the Denver Nuggets 131-113 (take that DNVR!).

I actually think benching Williams could be a positive decision for both he and the Bulls as it helped the team finally start to implement a lot of what Donovan has been preaching during this training camp.

More on that, plus a few clips that told the story of the game:

Second unit P


The media grilled Donovan about his decision to move the fourth overall pick to the bench, but he claimed it was “not at all” a demotion, just a tactic to try out different lineups.

Williams said he, “was all for it.”

“A lot of times in the first unit, with Zach [LaVine] and DeMar [DeRozan], they’re All-Stars. So I feel like, the team feels like for the best shot, the ball should be in their hands,” Williams said.

“They’re All-Stars. To play with them is to kind of help them get a groove. When they play better, we play better. With that second group, it’s just whoever has it.”

Williams said he liked playing with Goran Dragic in the second unit, having the ability to have the ball in his hands and be more involved in actions, which tracks with what he said about it helping him get out of his head after a mistake.

“He’s a super experienced player, super experienced point guard,” Williams said…”He comes to the bench and says, “We need to work on me and you pick-and-roll. Open side pick-and-roll. I can get you open pocket pass, I can get you a lot of lobs that way.” and I’m like, yeah, let’s work on it. That’s just things I can add to my toolbox.”

To me, it sounds like Williams wants to play on the second unit, and I think it would be a good idea for him. It’s very difficult to get Williams the ball playing alongside LaVine and DeRozan and he clearly needs to be involved to play his best. Playing alongside Dragic might help him learn positioning and build some confidence while being set up rather than having to cater to other players.

Being involved in screening actions is a perfect example. I recently asked Donovan whether he would entertain letting Williams run X amount of pick-and-rolls per game and promptly got shut down. But this is just as good, to me. Just finding ways to involve him in the possession.

It’s much more difficult to justify putting the ball in his hands in close games while he shares the court with DeRozan and LaVine. This is not “a message”, in Donovan’s words, to Williams, but I do think it could help unlock some confidence and growth.

Running transition lanes

In the name of creating non-DeRozan offense, the Bulls have stressed maximizing their fastbreak play and doing a better job opening lanes to do so.

This is a great example of the Bulls doing just that.

Because Ayo Dosunmu is at the wing and Javonte Green is in the deep corner, DeRozan has the full left side of the court to attack the rim. Great find and precision pass from LaVine.

Pace and space helping maximize Coby

Coming out of the draft, transition speed was supposed to be Coby White’s calling card.

“Billy just been on us about filling those lanes, getting that spacing and seeing how open the floor is to get [us] downhill,” White said. “Tonight, we swing the ball, push the ball and got in our lanes and good things happened.”

Because of the iso-heavy offense and reliance on DeRozan and LaVine over the last season, White never had a chance to play to his own strengths. But I like the way White was able to maximize his abilities attacking space and getting to the rim on the run.

Bonus clip:

White’s shooting ability in this five-out small lineup is great to see.

“I think it makes reads easier for everyone,” White said. “When the ball is moving, the defense is not at a standstill. They’re shifting, they’re playing off closeouts, so for me especially, playing off my shot is a big key for me so I have to work on that. And then making the reads when I get downhill.”

Ideal off ball Zach action (Zach-tion?)

The Bulls won’t always be able to get out on the break, but when they’re in their half court sets, I’m pretty sure this is exactly what Donovan wants the offense to look like.

I love the way the Bulls introduce LaVine in the initial action before sending him across the baseline to get the ball off a screen from Nikola Vucevic. From there, it’s a side pick-and-roll two-man game that forces the Nuggets to pick their poison.

The result itself is not different from something we might have seen last year — a LaVine – Vucevic side pick-and-roll — but the actions prior to that make this much more difficult to defend.

Great ATO to get a lob

Most of the game is played off made and missed shots, but this is a beautifully drawn and executed after timeout play from Donovan.

Notice the speed with which Dragic plays, even in these half court sets. He’s racing into the dribble-handoff and the pick-and-roll and that ability to organize the offense quickly helps open these passing lanes while mitigating spacing issues.

The Bulls didn’t have a lob threat like Andre Drummond last year, nor a table server like Dragic. They’re a flawed duo, but could have some cool moments like this throughout the season.

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