What happens next following the Patrick Williams injury?

The Bulls sophomore will miss 4-6 months after suffering a left wrist injury that will require surgery. Sam Smith looks at the possibilities for how the Bulls can fill the void of losing their starting power forward.
by Sam Smith
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How about Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor? Boogie Cousins? Please, no.

Bismack Biyombo, who I previously suggested may be a poor man's Cristiano Felicio. Former second round markdown Jordan Bell? Harry Giles, Ed Davis, Ersan Ilyasova or Patrick Patterson? Perhaps trade for Marvin Bagley, whom the Sacramento Kings appear to have not given a parking spot this season? Though the Bulls have just begun to trot out backup center Tony Bradley.

Time to go bigger or go smaller?

My guess is DeMar DeRozan plays more power forward, which he did with the San Antonio Spurs last season. Though Javonte Green started at power forward to open the preseason. Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso Thursday harassed Julius Randle into one of his poorest shooting games in two years. And 6-8 Tyler Cook has been hanging around on his two-way contract since the G-league season has yet to begin.

Those are just some of the possibilities, speculation and angst now that Bulls starting power forward Patrick Williams likely will miss the rest of the regular season with torn ligaments in his left wrist. Williams sustained the injury on a dunk attempt when Mitchell Robinson slid over from the left side to block the driving attempt just as Williams made a pair of baskets. No one suggested it was intentional, though Robinson was assessed a flagrant foul.

"It would be really difficult for me to say there was ill intent," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said after practice Friday. "I think if he knew that Patrick had a significant injury to his wrist he would feel bad. Sometimes flagrant fouls get called where a guy isn't trying to get a flagrant. I don't think Robinson was trying to hurt Patrick. It was unfortunate. He landed kind of funny. If Patrick landed on both feet and not his wrist, nobody would be talking about it."

Williams shot the two free throws and left for the rest of the game to eventually get the bad news.

Patrick Williams shot two free throws following a flagrant foul that led to his injury.

Patrick Williams shot two free throws following a flagrant foul that led to his injury.

The Bulls Friday released this statement: "Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams will undergo surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left wrist from an injury sustained in last night's game vs. the New York Knicks. Williams is expected to miss approximately 4-6 months."

It's unlikely the Bulls can gain an injured player exception to replace Williams since he apparently could return before the end of the season. Plus, the Bulls would need to clear a roster spot. Ironically, Williams and Coby White, the latter also now out injured after shoulder surgery and due back probably in December, had been the most reliable Bulls with health the last two seasons.

Williams after a productive Summer League when he led the team in scoring and seemed to be escaping his offensive insecurities suffered an ankle sprain in workouts and missed the first three preseason games. He was off to a slow start this season averaging 6.6 and 2.2 rebounds in about 25 minutes per game.

Still, it's a major setback for the Bulls, and especially Williams, the 20-year-old second year forward who was being relied upon to become a rebounding and interior presence to support center Nikola Vucevic.

"I feel bad for him," Donovan agreed. "He missed a month with the ankle. I thought he had a great summer considering the fact he got drafted and came right to camp with no summer league (last year). He ended up a really durable player for us last year. He pretty much was guarding all the best players on the other team throughout the entire league and not really having ever played against those guys. It's unfortunate that he can't see a lot of that work out at this point in time."

But the NBA schedule waits for no one. Fortunately, Zach LaVine seems to be able to play at a high level despite his sprained thumb. The Bulls also will be watching that carefully as LaVine said he'd experiment with various protective devices for the thumb.

And now Saturday comes the 4-0 Utah Jazz, the only undefeated team left in the NBA. And featuring a pair of seven footers in Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside.

It seems most likely the Bulls will refrain from adding another player since the 6-10 Bradley hasn't played much.

Donovan has demonstrated a preference for so called small ball to galvanize a faster paced game with steals, deflections, blocks and activity. Donovan pointed to that inclination after the loss to the Knicks Thursday when he acknowledged being a scion of the Rick Pitino school of pressure basketball.

Which probably means more of Ayo Dosunmu, whom Donovan has been platooning with Troy Brown. There also could be some opportunities for athletic, high jumping Derrick Jones Jr., who has played just two minutes this season. C'mon down Marko Simonovic?

Derrick Jones Jr.

Derrick Jones Jr. could see more playing time but has played limited minutes so far this season.

Though everyone talks about it, there's really no next man up. Because if the next man was as talented he wouldn't be the next man. The Bulls's 4-1 start has been their best in years and had a chance, even though they were mostly outplayed, to keep it perfect with a last shot attempt against the Knicks. After Utah Saturday on Toni Kukoc night to celebrate his enshrinement in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the Bulls go to Boston and then have consecutive games against the Philadelphia 76ers before a home game with Brooklyn in the increasingly difficult schedule. Though the hottest team in the East has been the Heat, who play mostly guards with 6-9 center Bam Adebayo.

There are many ways to succeed in the NBA. Which way will the Bulls choose now without Williams?

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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