Bulls draft fast-rising forward Williams with fourth pick
A month ago, this pick would have seemed absurd.
But as the predraft process played out, there was plenty of buzz about Florida State forward Patrick Williams moving up the board. The Bulls finished off his rapid rise by choosing Williams with the No. 4 pick of Wednesday's NBA Draft.
"Hard work works," Williams said in a Zoom interview after being selected. "You could talk about everything else, but it's all about who's going to get in that gym and who's going to grind. I think that's got me to this point, never giving up, always being in the gym."
The Bulls had been projected to take Israeli forward Deni Avdija since the draft lottery in August. But with the chatter growing, it became clear by draft night the Bulls were headed in this direction. Williams talked about his conversations with new Bulls boss Arturas Karnisovas and first-year coach Billy Donovan.
"It was just basketball talk, schemes and the ways I play the game and what I see when I'm out there," Williams said. "Then I talked to Billy Donovan on the phone a couple weeks ago. That was just more basketball talk about what I expect from the league, what I see when I'm watching games, that type of thing. So a lot of basketball talk.
"I can tell the front office is basketball smart. They know what they're talking about. Not every front office is like that, so I'm blessed to be in Chicago."
Williams said he was told the Bulls will let him try to guard all five positions on the floor.
Williams has an ally already in town. Fellow North Carolina native Coby White is a longtime acquaintance and Williams leaned on him to learn about the draft process.
"We've talked, I would say, every other day since the day I declared for the draft," Williams said of White. "He's been a big help. We just talked about the things he went through, the things he learned. All (through) high school, I've been playing against him or with him. He played for CP3, I played for Team United, which are both EYBL teams.
"We played each other often, pretty much every summer. Coming into this predraft process, I was already close with him, so I kind of leaned on him for questions or advice or anything I needed. It's actually kind of crazy that I got drafted by the Bulls."
Williams is an athletic, 6-8 forward with a 6-11 wingspan who has a chance to be an elite defender. He carries a nice shooting touch, although his scoring skills are a work in progress. He seems to fit the mold of Boston's Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown.
Williams is one of the youngest players in this draft, having turned 19 on Aug. 26. The Charlotte, N.C., native was No. 28 in the final ESPN recruit rankings for the Class of 2019. Both of his parents played basketball at Division II Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.
During his freshman year at Florida State, Williams averaged 9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks, so obviously this is a pick based on potential. He shot 32 percent from 3-point range, but an impressive 84 percent at the free-throw, which is often a good indicator of shooting touch.
"Physical specimen, one of the youngest prospects in the draft class," head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said. "Defensive versatility is what we liked. Long arms, big hands; such an upside and potential.
"This is what the NBA is today. He can play from 1-5; played point guard in high school. Humble kid that is mature beyond his years."
Williams never started a game at Florida State. But the Bulls sorely lacked athleticism and toughness last season and Williams could provide a boost in those categories from Day 1.
Typically, NBA rookies have summer league and several months to get acclimated. Williams and his class will have roughly two weeks before training camp begins. The 2020-21 regular season will start on Dec. 22.
"Chicago definitely has something special being built there with the new front office and the guys they have coming back," Williams said. "There's definitely something special being built there and I'm just excited to learn from all of them -- Coby White, Zach LaVine, Denzel Valentine. All the guys I'm just excited to learn from."
The top three picks went as expected, with Minnesota taking Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards, Golden State taking Memphis center James Wiseman second and Charlotte going with 6-7 point guard LaMelo Ball.
Avdija ended up going No. 9 to Washington. Picks 5-8 were Isaac Okoro to Cleveland, Onyeka Okongwu to Atlanta, Killian Hayes to Detroit and Obi Toppin to New York.
With their second-round pick, the Bulls chose 6-11 center Marko Simonovic at No. 44 overall. He's a 21-year-old native of Montenegro, who played for teams in Slovenia and Serbia last season, and is likely to stay in Europe for a few years, at least.