Leading up to the 2020 NBA Draft, there was chatter around the league that nobody was really sure what Arturas Karnisovas’ Chicago Bulls were going to do with the No. 4 pick. A lot of people assumed Deni Avdija would be the pick based on Karnisovas’ international ties. However, seemingly out of nowhere, Florida State’s Patrick Williams started to get a lot of buzz as the pick for Chicago.
Sure enough, the Bulls selected the 19-year-old Williams with the fourth pick after Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball got the call before him. Williams boasts an impressive 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame with a near-7-foot wingspan and is the youngest American player in this draft.
At first glance, the pick seems like a reach for Chicago. Williams wasn’t viewed as a potential top-five pick until his meteoric rise in the weeks leading up to this unique draft, which raises eyebrows. He came off the bench as part of a deep rotation in his freshman season, averaging 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 45.9% overall and 32.0% on 3-pointers in 22.5 minutes per game. He also tallied an assist, block and steal per game for the Seminoles.
Clearly, though, Williams impressed the Bulls and other teams during the pre-draft process. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor shut down that “reach” label immediately:
Jonathan Tjarks’ recent Williams profile at The Ringer has this headline: “The 2020 NBA Draft’s Safest Gamble.”
With Karnisovas looking to implement his Bulls vision as he reshapes this roster, he was in position to take a gamble on upside. Chicago badly needs an injection of two-way players and versatility on the roster, and Williams could provide that if his game develops as hoped:
The high marks for work ethic and character are a good sign when it comes to development, as is his commitment to the defensive end of the floor.
Williams safely projects as a 3-and-D wing who’s probably more of a 4 in the NBA. While his 32.0% mark on 1.7 3-pointers per game is pedestrian, his 83.8% success rate from the charity stripe suggests he can be better from deep as he refines his long-range shot and takes more of them. He also knows how to play off the ball and can make an impact as a cutter.
As a defender, Williams is strong and smart with impressive chops as a help defender, especially as a weak-side rim protector. There are some concerns about his ability to guard the perimeter because of struggles moving laterally and changing directions, but the Bulls sure seem to think he can guard almost every position.
Williams developing into a strong 3-and-D player would help the Bulls, but they’re hoping to unlock more of his upside on the offensive end of the floor. While he wasn’t asked to do much on the ball at Florida State, he played some point guard in high school and showed flashes of on-ball creation and playmaking in college. The assist-to-turnover ratio with the Seminoles (29-to-50) isn’t pretty to look at, but there’s potential for him to develop into a complementary creator and perhaps more if he really hits.
With Williams in the fold, one has to wonder what Karnisovas is planning next. The Bulls certainly needed help on the wing with Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison the primary options there, and Williams’ versatility should allow him to play a few different positions. However, his ideal projection as a 4 could mean Chicago will be looking to make a frontcourt trade, whether that’s Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. or Thaddeus Young. Or maybe even more than one of these players is on the move if Karnisovas really wants to turn over this roster.
There was a rumor earlier Wednesday about the Bulls looking at trading up to No. 2 using the No. 4 pick and Wendell Carter Jr., but it’s unclear how much there was to it. Carter has reportedly told people he believes new management values him, which makes sense given his potential two-way impact if his offensive game comes around. Markkanen and Young seem likelier to go in a trade.
Chicago also needs help in the playmaking department. The Zach LaVine-Coby White duo makes for a fun backcourt, but both players specialize in getting buckets. Tomas Satoransky is still a nice bench guard after flailing as the starter last season, but he doesn’t bring enough dynamic creation.
The Bulls may be hoping Denzel Valentine can offer some secondary creation after extending him his $4.7 million qualifying offer, but he’s not a long-term option. Guards Kris Dunn and Shaquille Harrison are on their way out, with Chicago opting not to give them their qualifying offers. Ryan Arcidiacono is a capable depth piece but nothing more. The Bulls did add undrafted Kansas point guard and Chicago native Devon Dotson in the immediate wake of the draft, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
There have been rumblings of LaVine trade talk, but nothing is imminent and the Bulls would need a haul back. Chicago could still seek a trade for a veteran guard. The $9.3 million mid-level exception in free agency is on the table as well.
The Bulls also had the No. 44 pick in this draft, and they used it on 21-year-old big man Marko Simonovic out of Montenegro. With Chicago now sitting at 14 guaranteed contracts (Valentine included), Simonovic is a draft-and-stash prospect, though it would ultimately be surprising if there’s not more roster shuffling.