It is still to be determined whether Patrick Williams can evolve into the alpha wing the Bulls have hoped for.
But one thing is clear: There is no way he was as bad as he played the first few games of this season.
“Just me personally, I don’t think I was playing to the level of intensity that I wanted to play to,” Patrick Williams told CHGO. “You can make excuses or you can try to fix it. I just tried to fix it.”
After looking completely lost in his first few games, Williams has found himself. He has seen steady growth over the last four games, culminating in a season-high 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting as the Bulls beat the Charlotte Hornets 106-88 on Wednesday night.
As he gets more and more reps in the new offense, Williams clearly looks more comfortable and has a better sense of where to be and when. And better yet, after some ups and downs, we’ve now seen four consecutive games of positive growth.
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A clear point of emphasis within that flow has been screen setting. Williams is acting as the screener in pick-and-roll situations in 7.7 (small sample size alert) percent of his offensive possessions, but it’s up from his 5.5 percent last year. It’s something he has taken pride in since training camp, and it’s a facet of his game he can always fall back on when things aren’t necessarily going his way scoring-wise.
“Definitely, just knowing when to pick your spots,” Williams said. “Knowing when and where to pick your spots and then getting in a flow that way. I knew I was going to figure it out eventually, it was just a matter of time.”
Wednesday night against the Hornets, Williams scored on his first possession as the screener in this pick-and-roll situation, where he made himself available for a pass by inserting his physicality into the game.
Most teams baseline coverage is 1-4 red, or switching 1-4. In this case, the Hornets switch the screening action which the Bulls are able to exploit. Switching the screen allows the Hornets to stay in front of DeMar DeRozan, but Williams is able to compromise the defense by sealing his defender on his back side.
This play from Tuesday night’s game against the Nets is another great example of his comfortability in this roll, but also his progress in pattern recognition, understanding what the defense is giving him and how to take advantage.
“The best wings in the league are really good at coming off ball screens but also setting ball screens and being able to create a switch or mismatch, so that’s definitely something I’m trying to add to my game,” Williams said.
It has clicked for Williams that if dives and gets his man on his hip, there is no stopping him. Whether he rolls all the way to the cup for a dunk, or pulls up, it’s an opportunity for him to establish himself in the offense without necessarily taking shots away from anyone else, something he has said weighs on him earlier in the season.
“It’s a steady climb,” Williams said. “And I wouldn’t want it to come easy. That’s why I wasn’t too worried and why I didn’t feel too bad after the first couple bad games. I knew it wasn’t going to come easy and I wouldn’t want it to. Whenever you have to work for something and really dig in and grind mentally, you get a different level of appreciation for it.”
Through these roll-man possessions, Williams has been able to build his confidence and it’s bleeding into the rest of his game. His scoring is up, his rebounding is up, he’s running in transition and defending at a higher level. But most importantly, he looks like he belongs. And that’s saying something given where he started the year.
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