On the surface it feels like Patrick Williams has bad timing.
The fourth overall pick by the Bulls in last week’s NBA Draft, Williams won’t have the benefit of a Summer League in Las Vegas to work on his game. And even with camp scheduled to start Dec. 1, he will be learning on the fly in a far from normal environment thanks to the coronavirus restrictions and concerns.
Bad timing to be a rook?
Far from it for the combo forward.
The expectations will be tempered for most of this rookie class. There’s little pressure to win with the Bulls immediately with the new front office in evaluation mode, and with Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison still on the roster, Williams could initially see limited playing time once the games actually start.
If Williams had waited one more year to leave Florida State he likely would have been selected outside the lottery (top 14 picks) with the draft class that is about to be unleashed in the summer of 2021.
The 2021 draft class is headlined by two superstars that could rival the 2019 Zion Williamson-Ja Morant one-two punch.
Point guard Cade Cunningham has almost Ben Simmons specs — 6-foot-8, 220 pounds — but with a much better outside shot and higher IQ in the play-making department. He’ll be taking his talents to Oklahoma State this season.
And if Cunningham is 1A in this class, Jalen Green is 1B and closing. The guard opted to skip college and get some work in the G-League, and has already drawn Kobe Bryant comparisons with his bounce around the rim and competitiveness.
Unlike 2019, however, ’21 goes much deeper than just two elite players at the top.
Big man Evan Mobley, Kentucky-bound BJ Boston, guard Ziaire Williams, forward Jonathan Kuminga, and two-sport standout Jalen Suggs, who had Alabama and Ohio State pursuing him as a quarterback … the list goes on and on.
A list the Bulls stand to truly benefit from.
Real talk? The Bulls need all the home-grown assets they could collect heading into free agency 2021. If Williams is what the new regime thinks he is, and then there’s one more young piece added next summer? Yes, making this a season of evaluation to figure out how Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and even veteran Zach LaVine fit into what new coach Billy Donovan wants moving forward is more beneficial than wins in 2020-21.
Then the hope is executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas & Co. will be ready to strike.
Whether that’s in the free-agent market or in having real trade assets, this Bulls rebuild won’t have traction without multiple superstars on the roster, and the summer of ’21 is the best opportunity to get them.
Until then, it’s exercising patience, especially in Williams.
“I think it’ll take him some time,’’ Karnisovas said of Williams being able to jump into the minutes mix with all that’s been working against the rookie class this past year. “But again, you had only one year of college basketball before coming into the NBA. So it’s going to be an adjustment. But he’s the type of kid who’s ready to learn. He’s very inquisitive. He asks questions about what he can do better. And I saw huge growth over a very short period of time. So I’m not worried about that.’’
Neither was Williams.
“This year, for me and the rest of the rookies, is just gonna be about who asks questions, who learns the best,’’ Williams said.