Listening to Bulls basketball chief Arturas Karnisovas speak about No. 4 pick Patrick Williams reminded Sam Smith of another Bulls draft pick from 1987.
The Bulls Wednesday didn't say they drafted Scottie Pippen, though they were describing him.
"Athleticism, versatility, multiple positions," Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas was rhapsodizing about Patrick Williams on a post draft Zoom media conference. "His ballhandling is something that's very underrated. People didn't see it in college, but for three years in high school he played point guard.
"He got to Florida State's campus when he was 17 years old. Watched his improvement through the year from game to game; he became more aggressive, took more charge, attacked the basket more, shot the ball better," said Karnisovas. "To get a player (who) just turned 19 in August to be that level of maturity at this point and a willingness to learn, it's hard to find. The more we studied Patrick, the more we liked him.
"I didn't agree with perception people have of him," Karnisovas continued. "They thought he is a raw athlete and he wasn't skilled. When I saw his skill level and ball handling and shooting and ability to pass, I would disagree he's that raw athlete. He knows how to play. He's a versatile defender who can guard one to five. I don't even know what position he is. If you watched Florida State games even after baskets he would be full court pressing on guards. That's a very unique skill for such an athletic and big player.
Arturas Karnisovas in the Bulls war room from the Advocate Center in Chicago.
"Scottie, he was a very good player in the NBA," Karnisovas said when asked about the comparison. "I just think that when (Williams) played point guard in high school he was very small. I think he grew, like eight inches in high school. But he kept his skill set and that is valuable. So when he got to Florida State, he was obviously ready."
It's too much to suggest a 19-year-old who didn't even start in college is the next Pippen, a Hall of Famer, six-time champion and NBA top 50 all time player.
But the way Karnisovas was describing Williams was not unlike what Jerry Krause was saying about Pippen in 1987, a late rising draft prospect who moved all the way up to No. 5 from barely being talked about his last year in college, a small kid who played point guard in high school and then had a growth spurt but retained his point guard abilities in a languid 6-7 frame.
Pippen, who went on to become one of the great defenders in NBA history, was like Williams who averaged just 9.2 points in college an offensively challenged player coming into the NBA, a player like Williams known for his octopus-like defense that enabled him to defend point guards and most everyone but the great low post centers of the era. And there basically aren't any more of them.
Karnisovas said Williams reflects the way the NBA game is being played now, "Long arms, big hands. Such an upside and potential. He can play from one through five. Played point guard in high school. Humble kid that is mature beyond his years. This is what the NBA is today."
College Highlights of Patrick Williams from Florida State University.
The Bulls should be so fortunate. Again.
And remember Pippen was a reserve his rookie season with the Bulls.
Williams is coming to a Bulls team not exactly a contender, but with a reasonably set starting lineup of Coby White, a close friend of Williams from back in North Carolina, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. Williams certainly will be a reserve player to start, and Karnisovas suggested the Bulls were likely to add at least one likely role player in free agency beginning later this week.
The Bulls also had a second round selection at No. 44 which they used for Marko Simonovic, a seven foot Serbian player whom Karnisovas said would remain playing overseas for at least another season. Karnsiovas said despite the rumors and speculation, the Bulls never entertained moving up in the draft and didn't seriously consider moving down. Karnisovas said the team had long targeted Williams and was confident and pleased to get him at No. 4 after the top tier players, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball.
Karnisovas called Draft Night their Super Bowl for the anticipation and months of work, though he said he plans and hopes for the Bulls not to be in that position to draft that high ever again, the highest pick he's ever been involved with in the draft.
"It was a great night," Karnisonas said about his first draft as lead executive and first for the Bulls. "The more we were digging in his background and we were able to see him, that's how we came to our decision that that's our guy. We need players in our league that can play multiple positions. He's an elite athlete. At four we were really happy in that position because we knew we had a chance to pick Patrick and we just stayed there and we got our player.
"I think it'll take him some time," Karnisovas acknowledged. "But he already knows a lot of players on the team. One of them is Coby. They're both from North Carolina. So I think the transition is going to be a little bit easier. But 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.
"I think overall tonight we drafted players that we were targeting," said Karnisovas. "And it doesn't happen very often. I received a ton of texts from executives around the league and they were all telling me, ‘Enjoy your night.' And that's what I did. It's special to me. It's my first night as a lead exec of the Chicago Bulls. I thought it was a very successful night."
Like Jerry Krause was saying late that June night in 1987.