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Bulls draft grades: Here’s what experts are saying about Patrick Williams

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Mixed reviews

Syracuse v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Be honest, how much did you know about the Chicago Bulls’ No. 4 pick Patrick Williams before last night?

If the answer is “not a lot,” you’re probably in the majority, so don’t feel too bad. The 6-foot-8 Florida State product was a mega-late riser in the draft process. After the Bulls were the subject of a number of rumors, beat man K.C. Johnson reported Wednesday afternoon that if the Bulls stayed at No. 4, Williams would be their guy.

That tweet proved prophetic as Williams earns the designation as the first pick in this new Arturas Karnisovas/Marc Eversley era of Chicago Bulls basketball.

The second-youngest player in the entire draft class had this to say to the media after he heard his name called. Via Bulls.com writer Sam Smith:

“I’ve just been putting my head down and getting in the gym, focusing each and every day,” Williams said. “Eventually everything ended up as it’s supposed to. Just focus on the hard work, make sure I’m in the gym and make sure whatever team takes me I’m ready. I pretty much told them (Bulls management) I’m there to contribute. Pretty much the same mindset I had at Florida State. Coming in to contribute any way I can whether that’s starting and playing big minutes or coming off the bench or handing out Gatorade. I’m just there to contribute and give it my all.”

In case you haven’t heard, Williams and Coby White are buddies, having known each other when they both played high school hoops in North Carolina.

The reaction to the pick on Bulls Twitter was diverse. Some applauded AK/ME for not taking the safe or predictable pick (which was probably Tyrese Haliburton or Deni Avdija), a significant pivot from how the former regime operated on draft night. Others felt like drafting Williams at No. 4 was a reach and the Bulls could have traded down, got an additional asset, and still would have been able to scoop up Williams. Though, there are rumblings that other teams (namely the Pistons) were looking to trade up to get him.

Other people didn’t know who the heck Williams was and took to the Google machine immediately. While a surface-level search at his stats may be underwhelming, there’s still reason for optimism.

Here’s what the experts think. Although the analysis is diverse, the constant is people thought this was one of the biggest shockers of the draft.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie and John Hollinger:

Vecenie’s scouting report: Williams has risen in the minds of teams throughout the draft process. He ticks the boxes of being a potential two-way forward in an NBA that continues to crave them. As long as Williams knocks down 3s at a 35 to 37 percent level off the catch, he’s going to be a really high-level player for a long time. There’s a somewhat low-likelihood outcome of star upside, too. But I think he probably settles in more as a starting caliber 4.

Ranking: No. 9

Hollinger’s team fit: I understand the lure – Williams is the youngest collegian in the draft and had an alluring combo of size and perimeter skill, and he fits the roster. But I see more of a role player than a star here. I had Williams 14th on my board.

I would have picked…

Vecenie: Isaac Okoro| Hollinger: Tyrese Haliburton

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony:

Williams was the big winner of the pre-draft process, rocketing up draft boards thanks to his combination of ideal physical tools, multipositional defensive versatility and budding skill as a shot-maker and passer.

The brand-new front office and coaching staff in Chicago picked a player who has huge upside to grow into at a position of need, signaling their faith in both the existing roster as well as their player development staff.

For the new Bulls regime, it makes sense to take a patient approach in studying the existing pieces in place first and evaluate where changes need to be made before electing to make significant moves.

Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo:

Chicago’s decision to take Williams will stand as one of the most fascinating evaluations in this draft, both in the short and long-term, and this is a major swing on upside, but also a measured one. Williams was viewed by teams as a potential lottery pick dating back to the spring, and as the entire NBA pored over game film and assessed the draft over the course of the year. The youngest college player in the draft, Williams quietly came into play as Chicago’s likely choice over the past couple days. His physical traits, versatility, and budding skill potential would suggest he can evolve into the type of two-way forward every team in the league covets, capable of scoring inside and out, as well as switching onto bigs and wings defensively. This is Arturas Karnisovas’ first selection at the helm in Chicago, and it should stand as a memorable one, one way or another.

SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell:

Grade: B

The first real shock of the draft is Chicago picking Williams at No. 4. The youngest American born player in the draft, Williams didn’t start a game for Florida State but flashed rim protection and spot-up shooting potential at the four. Williams will get most of his offense on catch-and-shoots from the corner, attacking closeouts, and flashing a little dribble pull-up game. Defensively, he isn’t quite quick enough to have elite versatility, but he’s a force walling up at the rim. He likely won’t provide the type of volume scoring teams look for with a top-five pick, but he gives new Chicago VP Arturas Karnisovas a bunch of different avenues to continue building the team going forward.

NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer:

Grade: B

In a draft where even the highest-ranked prospects are highly polarizing, the Bulls took a swing on a guy they evidently believe in. The logic to the selection is that — given his age, physical tools and flashes of skill — he can blossom into a quintessential modern 4 on both ends of the floor. A gap-filling game-wrecker defensively, and a floor-spacer with some creation ability on the offensive side.

Williams may hit. He may not. And though there were arguably more surefire bets on the board, he doesn’t feel like a significantly worse bet than the Bulls’ other options, with Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball being plucked first, second and third, respectively.

So solid marks to the Bulls’ front office for making a selection that can help in areas the Bulls struggle in the present, fill a position of team need and league value, and has markedly high upside in the long-term. No reason to jump for joy (yet), no reason to hammer the move either. Now, we wait and see if it pans out.

CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish and Kyle Boone:

I understand the intrigue, but this is way higher than I would have taken Patrick Williams. He’s 6-8, 225. He is big and strong with wide shoulders. He projects to be a 3-and-D guy, but he’s not a great shooter yet. And he wasn’t even the best 3-and-D player at Florida State this past season — though he probably has more upside than Devin Vassell. Williams helped himself in the pre-draft process more than anyone else, though, and that wowed people. Grade: C-

The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks:

The biggest riser in the NBA draft rose even higher than people in his camp expected. Williams was widely projected as a late first-round pick after coming off the bench in his one season at Florida State. The biggest question surrounding him is whether he projects as more of a combo big man or a wing who can play at the 3 and the 4. He’s a raw player with the size and strength to bang in the paint, but asking him to play full time on the perimeter might be tough at this stage of his career. If he can’t play as a wing, then playing him next to Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. might be difficult.

Grade: B

Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley:

The Chicago Bulls are swinging for the fences with the first pick made by the new front office regime headed by Arturas Karnisovas. Florida State’s Patrick Williams is the pick, completing a surge that rocketed him up mock drafts the past few weeks.

Williams is both the draft’s youngest NCAA prospect and one who earns high marks for feel and instincts. That’s an enticing combination, but his size-strength-ceiling combo is even more appealing.

His already-sturdy 6’8”, 225-pound frame looks like it could handle more muscle, which is huge if he handles some small-ball big-man duties in the future. He’s already connecting the dots offensively with above-the-rim finishing, off-the-dribble shooting and on-the-move diming, and that’s with his skill set lacking several layers of polish.

He needs substantial development—he averaged just 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds in his lone season at Florida State—but if he aces the maturation process, he’ll bring all the versatility teams want from a modern forward.

All due respect to Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr., but not one of them has cemented himself as an organizational centerpiece. There’s no guarantee Williams will scratch that itch, but he gives the Bulls another scratch-off ticket who could yield a big prize while also addressing a need for depth at forward.

Grade: B+

USA TODAY Sports’ Scott Gleeson:

The biggest surprise of the draft by far. New coach Billy Donovan will get a late bloomer in Williams, who didn’t start one game and didn’t average double figures for the Seminoles as a freshman. Yet the potential and key attributes are there as a 6-8 forward. Williams is quick, explosive, strong, and athletic. Developing a 3-point shot to complement his mid-range game would be a big boost. He’ll make an immediate impact in Chicago.

The Bulls are certainly taking a swing with this pick, and the hope is this new regime can develop a budding prospect and make him into a legit impact guy. It should be fun to watch them work with him.