Bulls' Patrick Williams wants to improve consistency in Year 3

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Patrick Williams wants to improve consistency in Year 3 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Midway through his final session with reporters of the 2021-22 NBA season, Patrick Williams was asked which areas of his game he hopes to improve ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

The second-year forward's answer was simple.

"Consistency," Williams said. "Being consistently aggressive. Whether it's making shots or missing shots, you can't really control that. But just having my presence felt on the game consistently I think could be a next step."

Words are words. Actions mean more.

Still, that sentiment should be music to all in the Chicago Bulls' nebula, from coaches to executives to teammates to fans.

For Williams, the problem has never been a lack of talent or physical tools. It was the total package of his 6-foot-7 frame, defensive versatility and shot-creation potential that compelled Artūras Karnišovas and company to select him fourth overall in the 2020 draft.

But inconsistency has plagued Williams since draft night — and in more ways than one. First, there was the turbulent nature of his rookie season, which featured 71 starts and a second-team All-Rookie nod, but also an abridged offseason and rigorous COVID-19 protocols that threw askew the daily rhythms of NBA life. Then, there was Williams' inconsistent availability in Year 2 due to a sprained ankle in training camp and wrist surgery in October, the latter of which robbed him of 65 regular-season games.

Accountability for those inconsistencies hardly falls at Williams' feet. In fact, he made lemonade out of his time on the sideline in his second season by diving into opponent scouting reports and game film to try and attain a better handle on the mental side of the game.

But his play on the court is another story. Williams followed up a rookie season that raised questions about his offensive aggressiveness by averaging 9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6 field-goal attempts per game in 17 appearances — 10 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.6 field-goal attempts in 12 games after returning from wrist surgery. In five of the latter 12 games, he scored in double figures, including a 35-point explosion in a reserve-laden final game of the regular season; in seven, he scored 7 points or less.

The postseason was more of the same. In Games 1 and 3 of the Bulls' first-round series with the Bucks, Williams was invisible offensively, amassing 6 combined points on 1-for-12 shooting. In Game 2, he positively impacted both ends of the court, notching 10 points, 9 rebounds and a steal and block apiece. In Games 4 and 5, he posted 20 and 23 points, respectively, although both efforts came in blowout losses and the latter featured just one rebound.

"I think the last two games were big for me in terms of seeing that I could do it. Defensively, offensively, feeling myself more present in the game, whether it was scoring or not," Williams said. "For sure the last two games I kind of felt more confident."

Finding that confidence in an intense, playoff environment may wind up being a wonderful developmental experience.

But two questions arise. One: is it reasonable to expect the naturally-deferential Williams to blossom offensively on a consistent basis as part of a team with so many offensive options?

"Definitely. I think that's on me," Williams said in response. "DeMar (DeRozan), Zach (LaVine) and [Nikola Vučević] are at the top of every team's scouting report. So when I catch the ball, I think it's more of me being aggressive, me knowing my spots... knowing when I catch the ball, this is what I can get to, this is a move that I can make, and just being aggressive whenever I catch it."

And, two: Can Williams carry his progress over into a pivotal offseason?

DeRozan revealed in his session with reporters that he's already booked Williams for workout sessions with him in Los Angeles, an offer Williams is no doubt champing at the bit to redeem.

"I've studied him a lot this season. Just in terms of what he does, what it takes for him to get ready, because he's always ready," Williams said of DeRozan. "What I've gotten from him is that he's really resilient, mentally... I'm not sure what it is that got him to that point. But I think that is something I can pick up from him."

Williams added that, as the season endured, he noticed DeRozan in the Bulls' facility every day and night. Shooting. Icing off in the cold tub. Eventually, he began mirroring the All-Star forward's routine.

"When you see great players, you see what they do, you kind of start to pick up on it as well," Williams said. "I'm a big observing guy."

It's that routine, DeRozan later said, that developed his consistency and resilience.

"The preparation and understanding of how hard an NBA season comes, you gotta make your summer feel even twice as hard. And that was one thing I understood going into my third year," DeRozan said. "We (he and Williams) had a conversation the other day on how important going into your third year, that summer, how important that summer is. Not the season, the summer of having two years under your belt.

"You kind of have a landscape of what needs to be done going into your third year. You understand the physicality, the traveling, the expectations from you. What you can give, what you can work on, all your weaknesses. You've got so many things you could address. So going into that third year, your summer, you should understand more than ever how to address those things and start to create a check list, and go down that list, go down that list."

So when DeRozan calls Williams the "main victim" of his arduous, 4 a.m. Los Angeles workouts, it's a sign of affection and belief.

"Sky's the limit for him," DeRozan said of Williams' potential. "Besides him being my teammate, I'm a hell of a fan of him. You know, just the whole complete anatomy of him. His abilities of what he can do on that court is amazing."

While Williams' career to this point invites more questions than answers, one thing is certain: Him making good on that potential is imperative to this Bulls core building on progress made this season. Now, the floor is his.

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