NASHVILLE — Patrick Williams is all about winning. Winning will solve everything. But also he knows that for the Bulls to get to that point, he has to be more involved scoring the ball.
“For me, it’s been trying to get the ball in my hands more, which obviously I love,” Williams told CHGO.
“For us to win, I have to carry some load offensively,” he continued. “I have to score the ball. That’s just the player I want to be in this league. I want to be one of the best two-way players in the game. I have the talent and skills to do that.”
Ever since he was taken fourth in the 2020 NBA Draft, Bulls fans have been clamoring over the big wing’s physical tools and natural skill sets, impatiently waiting for those to translate to offensive domination.
“I’ve always been this size, this strong, this athletic,” Williams said. “I’ve got this bounce. It’s just knowing how to use it. When to use it. How to get downhill instead of settling for a pull-up. Or hesi maybe, then a big shoulder to get to the rim all the way.”
After struggling to score at a high level last season, despite being built around three offense-first stars, the Bulls know they have to do things differently next season. Their emphasis is going to be threatening the rim with drives for rim and foul drawing opportunities, kick out passes for three, or keeping the advantage alive by attacking closeouts.
Williams has the ability to thrive in that kind of system, he just needs to have the right involvement.
To be sure, that’s on him just as much or more than anyone else. There have been opportunities within the flow of offensive sets to come off screens and drive, to attack closeouts, crash the offensive glass, cut to the basket, get out in transition and even operate as a screener in pick-and-roll, which the Bulls played around with in the back half of last season.
But it’s also on the coaching staff to help facilitate those opportunities — finding some way to balance player development and winning games. His teammates also need to trust him enough to deliver him the ball in those spots.
It’s on everyone. And that trust is starting to come around.
“Every player [wants the ball in his hands],” Williams said. “It’s been good to see the coaching staff trusting me with the ball in my hands. My teammates trust me as well. When those guys have your back, mistakes will be made, but it’s easier to shrug them off when you know you’ve got their trust.”
That trust should be crucial for Williams, who at times seemed to lose confidence in his role in the offense if not his own ability.
In games, that doesn’t necessarily result in Williams running heavy spread pick-and-roll and having everyone else stand on the perimeter. It’s more about empowering him to be more of a play maker out of the actions that should play a bigger part in the Bulls half court offense. Coming off of dribble-handoffs with a man on his hip. Step-up pick-and-rolls with the chance to play out of an advantage.
And there appears to be a new focus on making that happen.
“Whether it’s a step up pick-and-roll or working on a lot of slips instead of rolling,” Williams said of what that could look like. “Slipping out and being to catch and shoot. Or play off the drive. Transition has been a big one. Making sure I’m rebounding, and if I don’t get it, I’m out, trying to get downhill that way.”
Many fixate on points per game, but it’s important to remember Williams has developed. He has become a high-level defender against big wings, a steady rim protector as the low man, and a solid shooter — over 40 percent on threes last season, shooting more than double the volume per game over his previous season.
He’s proud of how far he has come and the work he’s put in to get here. But he has more in his bag, and it’s time to stretch that out.
In order to get to that next level, he needs to find some space to explore the elements of his game that we’ve only seen in flashes: one dribble pull-up jumpers at the elbow, back-to-the-basket and face up games from the post.
The key to unlocking all of his is ball handling, which Williams said he spent the summer prioritizing.
“Ball handling for sure,” he said. “You can know the spots. You can work on the shots when you’re at the shots. But you have to get there.”
From there, we may finally see those flashes become a consistent part of Williams’ game.
This is a big year for Williams. It’s the final season of his rookie deal and though no extension is imminent, adding a level of scoring and creation could be life changing for both him and the team.
Williams appears to have a strong sense of confidence in his abilities. Even saying he loves to have the ball in his hands may come as a surprise. But more than that, he seems to have confidence in the ways he will get those touches and the space and encouragement he says he has from his teammates and coaching staff to be able to stretch out those skills and get more comfortable doing so.
With more opportunity ahead, Williams has to take advantage. And it sounds like he’s more than ready to.