Tonight begins the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament’s Group Play stage. The Chicago Bulls are hosting the Brooklyn Nets on the newly-designed United Center floor. Themed courts around the league can be seen during In-Season Tournament play, including Chicago’s red court. Billy Donovan has decided to make his first significant move of the season, removing fourth-year forward Patrick Williams from the starting five. Having started 150 of his 175 career appearances, this is a telling sign of how this contract season has begun for Williams. Has Donovan pulled the plug too soon on the 22-year-old forward, or will this benefit him and the starting unit?
Only A Matter Of Time
Many Bulls fans knew this day was coming for several weeks now. All signs have pointed toward Williams’s decline since the beginning of preseason, and this is the final nail in the coffin. Through five games in the starting lineup, the former Florida State forward averages just four points, three rebounds, and one assist per game. He’s also turned the ball over six times to just seven total assists and has shot an abysmal 26.7% from the field, including 12.5% from three-point territory.
During the preseason, he was yanked earlier than anticipated due to a lack of effort and conforming to the team’s needs. He has been benched several times already this regular season for the entirety of the fourth quarter and the whole overtime period against Toronto, and he was visibly upset by that decision to the point of neglecting his teammates during a buzzer-beating victory.
While Torrey Craig will replace Patrick Williams in the starting five, it does not mean Williams will slip in the ranks of impacting the game. Over his career, he’s averaged nearly 28 minutes per game and started 85.7% of his outings. This will be a way for him to reset mentally, get a change of scenery, and hopefully free up his opportunities offensively, as he’ll be the premiere scoring option in the second flight.
At 22 years old after recently demanding a $200 million contract, Williams has been on the receiving end of some pretty hefty scrutiny just five games into the year. At this rate, he will undoubtedly be headed to free agency and will not see an offer nearly as high as the mark he’s claiming to be worth. A career 9.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game player has a lot to prove before being shown those kinds of digits.
After one quarter in tonight’s experiment, Craig has already snagged one shy of Williams’s season-high rebound count and nailed half as many three-point shots as his predecessor has this entire year. How long will Donovan ride with his decision, and is winning the only metric to judge the success of the switch?