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What we learned about Patrick Williams as the Chicago Bulls' go-to scorer

Will Gottlieb Avatar
October 16, 2023

Three down, two to go.

In the Bulls 116-102 loss to the Denver Nuggets in their third preseason game on Sunday night, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic were in street clothes, unleashing Patrick Williams as the go-to guy.

His stans can finally breathe easy: Williams was the featured player and he did not disappoint. Finishing with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting, he did a lot of good things, but still left me wanting more.

Let’s start with the good. Williams came out firing. Scoring 10 points in the first frame, Williams benefitted from some hot shooting. He was relatively aggressive getting shots up, had an incredible Kobe Bryant-esque post move and looked the part as a go-to scorer.

Williams was decisive. He didn’t turn down open threes. He showed off some nice mid-range scoring and had a great game overall.

But what happens if the ball isn’t going in?

Williams had only two rebounds (seven rebounds in three preseason games). He threw some nice passes out of pick-and-roll so I don’t want to discredit him too much there, but he had only one assist. He had only one trip to the free-throw line. For a guy who took 14 field goal attempts on 28.4 usage, that’s simply not enough.

Five of Williams’ 14 shots came in the mid-range compared to only four at the rim. I don’t have a problem with him taking the shots he feels most comfortable taking, but if he is going to become a more efficient scorer, he can’t just rely on shooting 57 percent from the field every night.

He needs to get to the rim more to get higher efficiency looks and give himself a chance to draw fouls. At the very least, those drives will draw another defender and open up the extra pass.

Yes, it was awesome to see Williams in a scoring role, and yes, he was good at it. I also want to see him round out his offensive skillset — that’s what will really elevate him into the kind of player that can be a primary scoring threat.

Bulls Key Indicators

I’m going to start tracking the stats that I believe are key to how the Bulls want to play this year. They’ve spoken ad nauseum about paint touches, getting to the rim, getting to the free throw line, taking more threes and getting on the offensive glass. I figure the following stats can give us an idea of whether they are accomplishing those goals.

  • Free throw attempt rate: 13.8 (16th percentile)
  • Offensive rebound rate: 30.2% (76th percentile)
  • Rim frequency: 42% (96th percentile)
  • Three-point attempt frequency: 31% (4th percentile)
  • Transition frequency: 7.5% (0 percentile)

Other notes

Coby White: 20 points (6-of-11 shooting, 3-of-7 threes, 5-of-7 free throws), three assists, one rebound

White continues to be just awesome. No deep dive on him today, but his ability to get into the paint and set up the offense alongside Vucevic, DeRozan and LaVine translated even without those three. He continues to shoot the ball well, get out in transition and get to the free throw line.

In my eyes, he’s clearly won the starting point guard role.

Ayo Dosunmu: 12 points (6-of-9 shooting), 4 rebounds, 7 assists

Thrust into more of an off-guard role in Sunday’s starting lineup, Dosunmu provided a bit of everything. He again got after it on the offensive glass, and led the team in assists with 7. But the thing that stood out to me the most from his game was what seemed to be a much tighter handle.

I strongly believe that ball handling is the most important skill for young players to develop in order to elevate their game. Catch-and-shoot threes are important, but the ability to attack closeouts, snake pick-and-rolls and navigate traffic is the key to leveling up. Nice to see Dosunmu working on this element of his game.

Jevon Carter: 9 points (3-of-10 shooting, 3-of-5 threes), 2 rebounds, 1 assist

With the big three out, Jevon Carter was tasked with more of a high-usage role than he might be otherwise. It’s clear why he is seen more as a 3-and-D small rather than a point guard: while he is a hound defensively and has the ability to launch threes on the move, he doesn’t set the table in the ways the Bulls need.

Carter had several opportunities to run pick-and-roll and couldn’t really put much pressure on the paint, which bogged down the offense. Carter is going to play a giant role on this team and will be a crucial contributor, but it’s becoming more clear why White is the current favorite for the starting point guard job.

Adama Sanogo: 7 points (3-of-8 shooting), 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

With Vucevic out, Sanogo came in as the back up center to relieve starter Andre Drummond. It was somewhat of a surprise to see Sanogo in that role in the first half as Terry Taylor got those third string minutes in the previous game. Sanogo had a few nice plays facing off against the best player on the planet, Nikola Jokic, but struggled to put the ball in the basket despite what looks like a soft touch.

Dalen Terry: 2 points (1-of-6 shooting, 0-of-2 threes) 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal

Terry’s tough preseason continues. He clearly has good passing instincts and defensive tools and aggression to be able to contribute in those areas, but his lack of shooting and ball handling make him a non-factor, if not a detriment to the Bulls offense.

I’ll never be one to say he can’t become a player. He’s young and works hard enough. But he’s not there yet.

Andre Drummond: 9 points (4-of-9 shooting), 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal

Drummond doesn’t get a lot of headlines because he is a known commodity. He gives good effort, dominates the glass and has a few moments each stint that really pop. He’s one of the best back up centers in the league and deserves a shout out every now and again.

Up Next: Preseason game 4 of 5 back at home against the Raptors on Tuesday night

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