Ask Sam Mailbag: Questions about Patrick Williams' potential and the 2020 NBA Draft

Jake Henry:

I like the pick. A weak draft you go for the home run. Seems like a good kid too.

Sam Smith:

I think that was something of the point beyond Karnisovas' comments regarding Williams' role with the team. I always said if I had No. 1 I'd take Wiseman. With LaVine and White, the Bulls didn't need a shooting guard. I had fears about LaMelo Ball with his awkward shooting and more awkward life and family. We'd been hearing the last few weeks of the Bulls possible interest in Williams. The new management never met with local media for a month before the draft; not that they would have said anything anyway. But they obviously kept quiet even to the rest of the NBA. I guessed they might try to fill a position, namely wing (I'm not sure Williams is that even as they say he is) or point guard. Toppin was a possibility, though a direct threat to Markkanen. I liked Okongwu a lot, but heard late about some health issues. The point was no one after Williams was becoming your best or second best player and making you an instant contender this season. So why not take a chance at big upside, if perhaps a few years down the road? The Bulls indicated Williams represents that. So we'll see.

Alan Smith:

Thanks for introducing me to Patrick Williams. He is a wonderful young player and dare I say has a lot of Michael Jordan in him, quick as a cat, super fast, quick jumper, excellent ball handler for his size and a great shooter.

Sam Smith:

Well, I'm not quite ready to go there. He's obviously got some favorable traits, improving dramatically even as an incoming freshman just barely 18, highly coachable in a demanding program, great size with the bone structure for growth scouts love. Not going for the great shooter or a lot of Jordan part quite yet. Hey, I made a comparison to helping hand Scottie Pippen, which also is a reach for now, and was told even that might be a bit too much hyperbole. Again, it's a lot of we'll see, but worth a look given this draft.

Brian Tucker:

Williams' answers were cool but did not necessarily alleviate concerns. It's not as exciting to see someone who embraces playing a role picked at No. 4. With that high of pick, in theory we want "the guy". Not to say he won't grow into that, but he's not putting the team on his back anytime soon. Hopefully one day, but who knows? And there weren't any clear alternatives that could fill that anyway. What I think is exciting is that AK seemed so certain of this pick. So I am stoked to see this all play out soon! Gotta trust until proven otherwise.

Sam Smith:

Imagine if Paxson and Forman made that pick. I think I'd have had some interesting email observations for Ask Sam. But that's the point. For the last year or two the fan base has been demanding, begging, pleading for change. The Bulls changed more than any organization perhaps in sports. Entire four layer new management structure, entire new coaching staff, new trainer and new scouts. It's their first major personnel decision. Don't they at least deserve until the first practice? As for the starting thing, he obviously could have started in college. After all, he was drafted ahead of their leading scorer. And he was fourth on the team in minutes played. What do the coaches always say: It's not who starts but who finishes. Sixth man is a respected concept in the NBA, so why not in college with a good, balanced team in which no one even averaged double figure field goal attempts per game?

Bobby Grbevski:

Do you believe the Bulls should pursue Bogdanovic or Hayward in free agency? Which one would be a better fit ? They can both create their own shot and can handle the ball, which is precious in today's NBA.

Sam Smith:

Both clearly are going to be out of the Bulls price range, as are just about every big name free agent starting Free Agent Friday. Karnisovas specified a need for shooting when talking about free agency. I suppose they're talking with teams about a sign and trade for a top guy, perhaps offering players like Thad Young and Tomas Satoransky, who have one year guaranteed left. Maybe throw in a draft pick. There are possibilities for higher level players out of their price range, like Bogdanovic, Haywood, Davis Bertans, Danilo Gallinari, Goran Dragic. Of course, that player would have to agree to join a team coming off about 20 games under .500 and his team would have to accept players from a team not only 20 under .500, but which the NBA didn't even invite to finish the season. I told you the league torched the Bulls with that decision. I suspect the Bulls end up using their mid level exception, which should attract a good player. Perhaps someone like these free agents: DJ Augustin, Rodney Hood, Justin Holiday, Austin Rivers, Wes Matthews, Kyle Korver, Marcus or Markieff Morris. Bobby Portis? I still, however, do believe the Bulls will be an East playoff contender this season thanks to the new structure and hopefully with improved health.

Charles King:

One thing I know from my twenty five years as a Bulls season ticket holder is that the passionate fan base is never satisfied. I am more than willing to give Team Karnisovas a couple years to right the ship. I think it's a promising pick and I encourage the base to give the young man a chance for a few years and I welcome him to the team and Chicago.

Sam Smith:

I'm very thankful for the passion because it makes for entertaining mail sessions. It's also important to allow everyone to have a voice. It's not personal, after all (I assume), because everyone seems to want the same thing. That's right, a We're No. 1 foam finger. Hey, do you hear those fan phone calls after the Bears games? Just urging a bit more urgency.

Pete Zievers:

Looks like AK made his statement, huh? It might be revealing that a distributor wasn't taken. There's a lot to learning to be a distributor if you're playing pickup much less the NBA. The Bulls might have done better that way making the deal for Schroder that the Lakers did. Instead, it looks like AK wants to get offense from defense which isn't a bad idea. You get good pressure which leads to late in the clock bad shots which clank and turn into defensive rebounds and wing players cheating out to the running lanes. The key is committing to turning that defense into quick offense. If Donovan can get that working, you're looking at not just a statistical improvement but the team Chicago likes to watch. Predatory on defense, easy unlabored offense with a little bit of smash mouth. If I'm WCJ I can't wait.

Sam Smith:

Oh yeah, Wendell. He's one of the more curious figures in all this. The Bulls could have gone for powerful inside man Okongwu. And though Karnisovas suggested Williams could guard one through five, I sense he was counting too high. Donovan has a credible history with defense, and though Williams was advertised for his defense, Karnisovas did tell media early in his tenure with the Bulls he likes his former team's (Denver) style of open court play, a quicker pace, that it is more entertaining to watch. The truth often overlooked because of Jordan's brilliance as a scorer was that transition producing defense, especially in the first three years with Jordan, Pippen and Grant (at the time the most athletic defenders in the league at their positions at the same time, unprecedented in NBA history), was the foundation of the Bulls title success. What I got from Karniisovas' comments of Williams representing what the NBA is now (because it's also all about three-point shooting) is the first hints of a playing philosophy, aggressive, physical, switching defensive play with athletes and size, which also suggests some roster changes to come.

Tom Plonowski:

How do the Bulls plan to manage Porter, Williams, and Hutchison? We know that Porter it will be his last season with the Bulls. He may even be trade bait at the deadline. I think management has been disappointed with Hutchison and likely do not envision him as the starting small forward of the future given this pick, so he will become expandable.

Sam Smith:

Another player beginning a serious audition, especially since I moved the next Scottie Pippen title to Williams. Actually, I never saw that with Hutchison other than with the long striding similarity while on a transition fast break. Hutchison has to show first his body can physically withstand the NBA season and whether he's developed a shot. He'll be 25 in April, six years older than Williams. For now despite what's been said I see Williams more like an NBA stretch power forward, perhaps Shawn Marion-like in some respects. Karnsiovas said Williams was a high school point guard and they just didn't let him do that in college. So we'll see that, too. We hope.

Mike Freeman:

I see some interesting names on the waiver wire. Elfrid Payton, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis, Quinn Cook, Ersan Ilyasova, etc. and affordable mid level free agents like Jerami Grant, Morris, Austin Rivers, Jae Crowder, Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, Kent Bazemore, etc. Who do you see that might fit the Bulls needs?

Sam Smith:

True, it hasn't worked out for Bobby, who some will recall turned down a lot of Bulls money. Sometimes you bet on yourself and it works and sometimes it doesn't. You take our chances. As for Taj, you know we all love Taj, who despite a lack of star effect, was perhaps missed more than almost any former Bull in the last decade. The personnel problem the Bulls have is with the addition of a first round pick (why the second rounder was left overseas) and the hope of returning restricted free agent Denzel Valentine, the Bulls have just one roster spot remaining, presumably for the free agent. They could release a player or two, but they still remain on the salary cap and still must be paid. It's one thing if you are playing for top four. If you are playing for seven/eight and/or the play-in tournament, there's perhaps not as much urgency.

David Stanko:

This pick of Williams reminds me of the Bears picking Trubisky. You pick a guy who hasn't played much and was a backup in college to start their college career. I thought this was a bad pick. We will never know, but if you wanted Williams I am sure you could have traded down and got some assets and still would have been able to pick Williams. I thought there were several players who would have been a better pick than Williams. Remember that Williams was playing against the other teams backups. It's hard to evaluate his ability when he wasn't even playing against college starters. I know it doesn't mean he won't be good, but every publication I saw had winners and losers from the draft and all had the Bulls as losers. Not impressed with the draft!

Sam Smith:

But there was no Mahomes or Watson after Williams. Not that much of the rest of the NFL knew, either. C'mon, the Trubisky pick? You can't be that upset. While Karnisovas was firm about not having substantial talks about trading up, he did seem to indicate the possibility about trading down. But you saw basically no one in the top 10 was able to do that. I suspect there wasn't much being offered, and less certainty you'd then get the guy you wanted. I believe Karnsiovas saying that's who he wanted because the Bulls basically had the No. 1 pick after the presumably locked in top three. It's also best to evaluate a draft after a few years rather than a few hours. It wasn't many, but one scout told me he believes in five years Williams will be the best player from this draft. But we won't be saying that for two or three years. It's about patience for now. Get back to me in five years.

Matthew Chilewich:

There was only one guy that the Bulls could have selected to just irritate the hell out of fans and they went and did it. We either all are about to learn how great AK is or we have just found another executive who had a little success, gets a bigger seat, and shows us all how easy it is to fall in love with getting too cute. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for about two months.

Sam Smith:

Well, two months is about 10 games into the season, which does make you somewhat more charitable. I guess the better question would have been who would have excited you at four? I guessed Avdija, but I did have some hesitation with athletic explosiveness. I didn't like Okoro for his lack of shooting, and he went five. I'd heard there were some physical issues with Okongwu. I liked Kira Lewis a lot, the speedy little point guard.

Ryan Roberts:

Count me in the "I don't get it" camp. This pick reminds me of Marvin Williams in ‘05. Not that their games are terribly similar, but it feels more like taking a look at the players measurables and athleticism and projecting on him what you want him to be, rather than what he is (which you so frequently caution against). Marvin Williams had a fine career, but for the number 2 pick? I'm not saying there was a Chris Paul or Deron Williams in this draft, but regardless I would say it's fair that Marvin Williams never reached that lofty potential. I keep seeing Kawhi or Giannis comparisons. Obviously everyone got them wrong on the pre-draft process but it seems kind of obvious to me that the reason those two were both mid first round picks was because their games had obvious limitations and it was difficult to project a lot of success given those limitations. Credit to them for having maniacal work ethic and drive to make themselves into what they are, but does Patrick Williams have that? How do you think the players feel about this pick? If you're Zach and it's clear the front office is taking a very long term view, are you trying to move yourself to a winner now?

Sam Smith:

Players really don't get very analytical with this stuff. They mostly are concerned with their games. Though I believe Williams as a wing player is a few years away at that position. With someone like James Wiseman, he can help immediately on defense. But Williams, too. Which I assume Zach would appreciate. Maybe cover for him on defense. Williams already shows good defensive help instincts, and I think the point Karnisovas was making about Williams being what the NBA is about today is that you have to have someone to defend these amazing, long, athletic players like LeBron, Giannis, Durant in his return. The Bulls brought in Thad Young with that idea as he'd done well before. Not so much anymore. Sure, a rookie is going to get fouls called on him because he's a rookie. But Williams sounds like someone who'll play through that. Marvin Williams, by the way, played 15 years in the NBA and in almost 60 playoff games. Patrick Williams should be so fortunate. Maybe the surnames confused you.

John Petersen:

Several comments from the VP sounded familiar. Multiple ball handlers and players able to play multiple positions. Is Boylen really gone? Just asking.

Sam Smith:

I did smile when I heard the multi-ballhandler mention. They are doing some renovation at the Advocate Center lately. Maybe taking the time clock out. There are many changes coming, nevertheless.

Longiang Le:

I wonder if the Bulls have missed Rondo's playmaking and leadership. I don't think LaVine is the passer/ guard / floor general Rondo is. And I think the bulls may have missed that in recent years. Williams adds important size and defense. Maybe he can add shooting. Not sure if the Pippen comparison is is even close to true - I thought you might compare him to Horace Grant. Pippen had some elite lateral quickness. That was a concern for Williams. We ll see - the playmaking is why Avdija interesting to me - we ll see what he brings to the NBA. I suppose you can argue that if Markkanen and LaVine and Coby score up to their potential, then Williams brings the internal defense in the paint the bulls may need when Lauri and Zach and Coby are in the lineup.

Sam Smith:

Rondo also is a free agent, but we assume now that his reputation has been restored compared to when he came to the Bulls the last time that he'll go to a contender. Also, he doesn't shoot well enough, though he did make a lot of those clutch spot up threes in the Finals. The point I made about Pippen/Williams after Karnisovas' comments was because of the similarities of playing point guard before the growth spurt so he can handle the ball. Pippen was much better, but he did go to college for four years. Also coming from nowhere on the draft board late and without a great shot. Horace weighed 30 pounds fewer when he came to the Bulls and was three years older. To Horace's credit he worked and gained enough weight to play the power forwards in an era when they were physical post players. His twin, Harvey, could not and became lost as a wing player without enough ball handling skills. But unlike Luis Robert, Williams can't cover the entire field for everyone. Decisions are to be made. Call it The Process.

Doug Wege:

So they give Denzel 5M but won't give Dunn 7.

Sam Smith:

Alas, it apparently comes down to the shot. It's sounded like from the way Karnisovas was talking there wouldn't be qualifying offers for Dunn and Harrison. Dunn probably needs a chance at new scenery, anyway, after the injuries and being on the cusp of owning the starting job and then injured and demoted. You'd say it's counterintuitive to discuss being more defensively oriented by selecting Williams and then let go your best perimeter defenders and steal leaders. Which also suggests training wheels for now. The big bet for Karnisovas is that Williams with his versatility is a wing player who can defend and with size instead of another stretch four, of which the Bulls have several applicants.

Ateeq Ahmed:

Simonovic staying in Europe for a year or two reminds me of drafting Nikola Mirotic. He stayed in Europe too but in 2011 we had Rose and the team was a legit contender. Maybe they didn't need him right away and he was under contract. But why is Simonovic not playing for the Bulls now? Is it because he's under contract? If that's the case, why don't players just enter the draft after their contracts end? Why start the process so early? A lot can happen in 2 years.

Sam Smith:

I believe it's more the lack of a roster spot. Second round picks rarely crack the lineup, anyway, and for now the Bulls have too many players they need to evaluate during this season with the big summer of change coming in 2021. It's always good to have someone like that being developed (and paid) by someone else.

Stefanos Panayiotides:

As you have mentioned the starting lineup is basically set. Based on the contracts currently in place, the second unit just misses a role player or two as said by Karnisovas therefore we have a clear view of the roster. What we don't have is an indication on the team's potential. What is your view on that? And also every team in competitive sports needs to have a target. What is this team's target?

Sam Smith:

I assume it's set with Coby as the point guard. Since he started just one game—and I know that was with a different management and staff—and not yet with LaVine, we all believe the Bulls will want to see if that can work in a Lillard/McCollum type of scorers backcourt. Otto figures to reclaim his spot now healthy, Lauri is on his shakedown cruise with his extension coming on the table and by passing on a center in the draft, it suggests the new staff has plans and hopes for Carter. Of course, we've heard nothing from Billy Donovan, and maybe he'll persuade the Thunder to take a few veterans and perhaps a pick since Oklahoma City collects them for his favorite Kiwi. Nothing actually is set. We're brainstorming.

Yuriy Formin:

I saw the media session with Karnisovas and he didn't go into many specifics. Let me help you out Karnisovas, he's a power forward. I have the perfect comparison as a matter in fact: Jerami Grant.

Sam Smith:

Well, Jerami was a good one, so good he opted out and looks like he'll get a big free agent contract. I think Arturas would tell you that Williams is about to be much bigger and stronger with Grant compared to Thad Young in Grant's draft. But you have a point in that Jerami was projected as a wing and never developed the ball handling and passing necessary. It's the challenge for Williams and perhaps what all those developmental guys are about. After all, look at what Miami did with undrafted guys. People can change.

Guy Danilowitz:

Odds are Deni Avidja won't be as good as Luka Doncic or at least let's hope not!

Sam Smith:

I don't think he's going to be the Bulls Mahomes, but because there was so much league wide speculation the Bulls would select Avdija, he'll be the comparison even if he doesn't play much like Williams.

Thomas Golden:

Thank you Michael for taking LaMelo.

Sam Smith:

Whatever happens there, the Hornets finally will be on TNT and we'll be rubber necking toward their side of the road for the NBA's version of the gapers block.

Alejandro Yegros:

I've read the following draft people: John Hollinger, Zach Lowe, the two from ESPN, Nate Duncan... and all of them say that they're really impressed by Lamelo's combination of height, handle, and incredible vision. They feel he could be a star. At the same time, all of them admit that he's not explosive, terrible at defense, and a bad shooter. When was the last time somebody became a star who wasn't good at one of those three traits (explosiveness, shooting, defense) when he came in?

Sam Smith:

Well, Magic wasn't considered a great athlete, shooter or defender. But he was a brilliant player and understood how to win. It's not something the developmental guys can bring to you. You either or or not. I also don't see stardom for LaMelo for some of those reasons, especially now in the high scoring NBA. Jason Kidd could get away with it without an offensive game, though he was a great defender. I think LaMelo will be a good player, and I think Lonzo is a good, if not great, player, a nice facilitator to have on your team. LaMelo seems to have more panache and the desire to put on a show. Look, the Hornets need that, and especially once fans can eventually start returning. It's been a bad decade in Charlotte. Consider since 2012 with top 10 picks, the Hornets have taken Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky, and Malik Monk at 11. Hey, Kaminsky is a free agent, by the way, and he can shoot. A return home?

Daniel George:

Ok, hear me out. I'm not a massive Harden fan. I don't think his iso-style can win a championship, because the other team just puts LeBron, Kawhi, etc. on him when it counts. But with that said, I think it's better for the Bulls to make the playoffs, be a contender, maybe attract more free agents, and have something for the fans to cheer for, for the next two seasons, than gambling through the draft - which is exactly what rebuilding is these days, a complete gamble. Two years with a MVP candidate, and who knows what happens. I hear the Rockets want assets, otherwise they aren't in a rush. What about LaVine and Lauri (or WCJ), and a couple of picks? I think our new coach still has nightmares about losing Harden as well.

Sam Smith:

I'm pretty sure he has more nightmares about not losing Westbrook quickly enough, so thanks for not bringing him up. Harden comes with his own dirty laundry of difficulties to deal with given his stubborn, individual play. Focusing on defense in the draft certainly suggests even if the Bulls were interested in Harden's $44 million average contract for the next three years and could come up with enough salaries to match and not cost the new Houston GM his job for taking back those players, I doubt Karnisovas wants the league's most disinterested defender.

Mike Sutera:

Rumor of Wall for Westbrook? Could Russ and Beal work together?

Sam Smith:

Perhaps on Beal's trade demand.

Jonathan Washington:

Do you think there is any chance we see Arturas pull off a trade for a proven superstar in the league like Ben Simmons? I hear they may wanna keep the Simmons-Embiid duo together but for the right price it may be a deal worth making

Sam Smith:

Everyone knows Daryl Morey, now busy blowing up all Elton Brand's moves, is always up to something. He says for now he wants to see Embiid and Simmons together. I'd say check back the second week of the season.

Brian Rucker:

At least you had him going 7 in your final mock, so not too big of a reach. Let's hope the Kawhi comp you slipped in there comes to fruition. Even if it may be for naught, AK & Co. should be making a full-court press effort to recruit Anthony Davis to come home. Obviously it would not only take getting AD's attention and affection, but also getting the Lakers to do a sign-and-trade. At the very least it could set up good vibes for AD maybe coming home later in his career. But definitely now is a good time to make him feel just how wanted and needed he is.

Sam Smith:

Well, at least I didn't get any Rose trade scenarios this week.

Ryan Carpel:

Spencer Dinwiddie laid out a 10-step plan on Twitter for how he could turn the Bulls franchise into a winner. Dinwiddie's plan includes a trade that would send him to the Bulls in exchange for Tomas Satoransky and future draft considerations. Having consummated the move which would also make him the new GM, Dinwiddie said he would then look to orchestrate a sign-and-trade to land Anthony Davis in free agency this summer. This would give the Windy City team a core of Dinwiddie, AD, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. Dinwiddie laid out a 10-step plan for how he could turn the franchise into a winner: Get traded to Bulls - Sign max w/ Rich Paul if he can get Anthony Davis to CHI - AD / SD / LaVine / Markkanen core - Keep all fan faves as the bench - Sign a tough vet like Robert Covington or Terrence Ross.

Sam Smith:

I really miss that guy. Obviously the Bulls made an error giving up on him as they did, but they did sign him when no one was giving him a chance after coming into the NBA injured. He lost out as the Bulls were experimenting with point guards post-Rose injury, and it still was a few months with Dinwiddie in the G-league before only the Nets desperate with injuries took a chance. He's remarkably turned himself into an All-Star. I received numerous proposed trade scenarios for Dinwiddie before the draft, and you know he's not lasting long there with Kyrie's return. I like the plan, but I doubt Karnisovas would give up his job so soon after being hired. Though if Dinwiddie could get AD.