Patrick Williams’ first NBA season hasn’t been free of rookie moments. In fact, he had a handful in the Bulls’ win over the Charlotte Hornets Friday night.
It went beyond his stat line: 4 points, 6 rebounds, 2-for-7 field goal shooting (0-for-2 from 3). On multiple occasions, Williams notably circumvented or hesitated to immediately take open shot attempts, especially behind the 3-point arc.
“It happened quite a bit the last game. I thought he had a lot of shots and opportunities to shoot the ball and I thought he bypassed them,” said head coach Billy Donovan. “I think from myself and the rest of the team, we’re encouraging him to (shoot more). Certainly from talking to him after the game and playing against Charlotte with the zone and the way they were rotating and the reads that were there, I think it made him a little bit indecisive. But there’s no question that he’s got to be aggressive.”
Donovan called it his responsibility to scheme the ball into Williams’ hands more often. Williams declined to pass the buck.
“As a player, you want to be able to correct yourself,” he said. “But like I said, we’ve got great vets. We’ve got great guys on this team, and they’re always telling me to stay aggressive, to of course shoot the ball when I’m open.”
And why wouldn’t they? Albeit on limited volume (8 shots per game, sixth on the team), Williams is shooting 46.7 percent from the floor and 47.1 percent from deep (34 total attempts) through 15 games. That includes 46.4 percent on catch and shoot 3s and 47.2 percent on pull-up 2s.
Plus, when he does put the ball on the floor — decisively — to attack loose closeouts, he’s shown the potential to produce strong results:
Notice Zach LaVine’s reaction in the bottom right corner of the screen.
“Zach said he believes in me more than I believe in myself, which is at times true,” Williams said. “He just told me just to keep shooting the ball, to stay confident offensively and defensively, to make plays that the team knows that I can make. Like I said, as a player you always want to be able to correct yourself. But it’s always good and it’s always needed to have guys in the locker room that can correct you when you need to be corrected as well.”
Williams has spoken in the past about the length and speed of NBA defenders necessitating urgency as a shooter, and teammates such as Garrett Temple advising him to kick the “rhythm dribble” he often takes before jumpers. Those, along with, as Donovan noted, quickly reading evolving defenses, have been adjustments.
Williams has also been whistled for three travels and four offensive fouls on drives this season. His only turnover of the night in Saturday’s loss to the Lakers came on a step out of bounds as he tried to scurry past a late contest from Marc Gasol.
“The other thing too he’s been working on, as guys start to fly at him, because he’s shot the ball pretty well in this early part of the season… When he does put the ball on the floor, he’s got to eliminate the travel,” Donovan said. “He has a tendency to shuffle his feet a little bit, and that’s something we’ve got to work with him on. But he’s got to be decisive shooting, passing or driving.”
No one is ringing alarm bells here. As a 19-year-old facing an unprecedentedly whirlwind rookie season, Williams has impressed at every turn and fit seamlessly into the Bulls’ construct, starting every game he’s appeared in.
Though the Lakers game began in rough fashion too — he scored 2 points on 1-for-7 shooting in the first half — Williams tallied 11 points (4-for-5 FG, 2-for-3 3P) across the final two quarters. Garbage time or no, such a stretch can be a boost.
And, with encouragement from his teammates and the coaching staff, he’s committed to ironing out the kinks.
“We’ve got a long season to go, so I definitely need to get better at that,” Williams said of his occasional hesitance shooting. “And (I) will continue to get better at that.”