Patrick Williams has been officially ruled out for the remainder of the season with a dislocated wrist injury. The Chicago Bulls' second-year forward was already making a significant impact on a team that hopes to be a playoffs team and more after that.
So far this season, Williams has only averaged 6.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 25 minutes as a starter. His impact on the Bulls is beyond his every stat line. Williams is one of the best perimeter defenders on the team and an improving three-point shooter.
The Bulls already lack depth due to being a guard-heavy team, so losing your starting power forward for the season so early is a massive blow to the team. The only bright side of this injury is that it did take place early in the season so that the Bulls front office can look for a replacement through trade.
However, Patrick Williams will be a part of the Bulls' future, and losing a year of him growing will hurt, and the Bulls could still struggle without him. Here are three reasons why.
#3 The development of Patrick Williams
The fourth overall pick has only played five games going into his second year in the NBA. Patrick Williams had already looked to be making strides as a shooter, bumping up his field goal percentage from 48% to 56%- and three-point percentage from 39% to 50%. Williams took nearly two fewer shots, but it is always good to see young players improve their shooting percentages.
Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan will be locked down with the Bulls for at least the next three years. With the Bulls hoping to sign Zach LaVine to an extension, getting game time with the stars would have been crucial for Williams.
Williams may never be a star, but his defense could make him one of the better role players in the league, and hopefully, he can add a more constant jump shot to his game. Even though playing alongside ball-dominant stars would not provide him many shooting opportunities, building chemistry for future seasons would have been significant.
#2 Patrick Williams' defense
Patrick Williams is one of the best defenders on the Bulls roster. Having him miss the rest of the season will have a massive impact on their defensive numbers. Williams is someone who could man upon the opposing team's best wing and make their night difficult, and with so many good wings in the Eastern Conference, Williams’ skill set is handy.
Through the first five games of the season, the Bulls have been surprisingly one of the best defenses in the NBA, allowing just 98.8 points per game, the third-fewest in the league. William was a massive part of that, holding Jerami Grant to 38.5% from the field on 13 attempts for 13:08 minutes while being matched up against him. He did allow Brandon Ingram to score 15 points on 10 shots in just 5:37 minutes of guarding him, but Ingram is one of the better scorers in the league.
The Bulls have a top-heavy team, and it is always good to have a player who can be tough on defense so the stars on the roster down have to. Williams’ net points per 100 possessions with the starting lineup up was +9.2 in 63:23 minutes, which will be missed heavily throughout the season.
#1 Who will replace Patrick Williams?
Shifting DeRozan to power forward and putting Alex Caruso in seems the smartest way to make up for Patrick Williams' injury. Ball and Caruso are both solid perimeter defenders who are big enough to switch on to a guard from time to time.
The issue would be that the Bulls' starting lineup would be very small, with the only player over 6-foot 6-inches being Nikola Vucevic. Williams is only 6-foot 7-inches, but his 7-foot wingspan makes him seem taller than he is. The Bulls are already one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA, grabbing 40.2 total rebounds for the fewest in the league.
The Bulls could try to find a replacement in free agency, but it might not be easy with not many notable names left. They could try to make a trade, but that could end up sacrificing future assets that the Bulls may want to keep. The best option is to hope that someone is eventually bought-out who can replicate Williams’ production.
Finding Williams’ replacement is so urgent because the Bulls need to win now. They hope that showing LaVine that they can be a winning franchise will once again get him to sign a long-term contract.