Bulls' Patrick Williams has aggression at top of improvement areas


Williams has aggression at top of improvement areas originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Patrick Williams readily admits it: He did not play as well as he hoped to in the Chicago Bulls' preseason-opening 129-125 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

The all-important third-year forward played 17 minutes, tallied 5 points (2-for-7 shooting) and 5 rebounds, and was at times over-matched at the defensive end by Zion Williamson, who scored 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting.

"There's a lot of areas," Williams said after the team's Wednesday's practice when asked where he wants to improve. "Being more aggressive, more assertive. I think I rebounded the ball well, but I think I could do a better job doing that. Running the floor, I think I could have done a better job doing that. Screening... Defensively I could have done a lot better just being more physical with Zion. Obviously he's a presence, he's a huge body, and now that he's healthy, just could have been more physical with him from the jump."

Indeed, Williams' versatility, which is still largely theoretical as he enters his third professional season, means he has the potential to impact games in myriad ways. His age and position - power forward, a thin spot on the depth chart - make him integral to the Bulls' present and future.

One preseason game means little in those grand schemes. Especially given that he was far from the biggest problem on a Bulls team that allowed New Orleans 70 points on better than 60 percent shooting in the first half, when both teams' starters played most.

But there are bigger-picture questions that hover about Williams and his quest to fulfill his potential.

"I think for Patrick, his focus and concentration has to be totally from the shoulders up. That's where it is," head coach Billy Donovan said. "Sometimes you see a guy like Dalen last night, he's just innately (gestures wildly, as if to say all over the place), and sometimes I think Patrick can maybe overthink, he can over-analyze. And I think when he does get to that place, sometimes he can get to a place where maybe he's thinking too much and he's not being instinctive. And then he gets to that point where he looks passive. I think that's something that he'll have to continue to grow and get better at.

"There's some guys who it comes very naturally to. His athleticism and size and strength doesn't come naturally to a lot of other people. So that's what he's gotta focus on. That's where the challenge is."

This is a familiar refrain to those who have followed Williams' career trajectory since the Bulls took him fourth overall in the 2020 draft. As a 21-year-old with 93 games of NBA experience, his story is nowhere close to written.

But Donovan's messaging has clearly resonated.

"It's definitely different," Williams said when asked how this season feels, given the expectations on him. "Whether it's you guys (the media), or my teammates, or my coaching staff, they're all just telling me to be aggressive. Not really because I was a certain pick or anything like that, just because I have the talent to.

"I think whether I was the fourth pick or the 40th pick, if you have the talent, you have the skill, you have the size to do something, guys are gonna want you to do it. I think when I do it we're a better team, I'm a better player when I do it.

"Me just trying to do anything I can to help the team, guys are like 'OK to help us win you have to be more aggressive, you have to use everything that you have.' So I don't really see it as pressure, because it's something I know I can do, it's something I've done in the past. I just have to do it more consistently and I know that. I think that's part of the growth for sure."

That is where Williams' focus is entering his third NBA season. The eventual results will be critical to his career and team's success.

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