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UPDATE: Patrick Williams returning for Monday’s game

Paw is joining the Windy City Bulls for full-contact practice

NBA: Chicago Bulls-Media Day David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE 3/20:

Williams is now set to return on Monday

Tired: The Bulls have dropped seven of their past nine games and have fallen from the No. 1 seed in the East to the No. 5 seed, with plenty of room to keep slumping amidst an intimidating rest-of-season slate.

Wired: Sure, but the guy Chicago’s front office brain trust of Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley refused to trade at the deadline for Jerami Grant, Harrison Barnes, Kyle Kuzma, or any other similarly solid power forward is going to be back soon!

Inspired: But, uh, will that guy actually be any good this year? Was he even much good before he got hurt for almost all of his sophomore NBA season?

We can’t know the answer to that last question until, well, we see what we’ve got when Patrick Williams suits up for your Chicago Bulls. But it sounds like that will be happening soon enough!

After missing all but five games this season following a wrist fracture that required surgery, Patrick Williams is apparently going to be back on the hardwood before you know it. Last night, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago reported that “Paw” has been cleared for full-contact practice. Today, the Bulls revealed via Twitter that they have assigned Williams to continue his rehab process with their Hoffman Estates-based NBA G League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls. Schaefer added that Williams may even join fellow 2020 draft Bulls pick Marko Simonovic on the court in an actual game for Windy City.

For the final bit of icing on the cake, Shams Charania of The Athletic noted that Williams is planning to join Chicago proper on the court next week! The addition of a four with real size could be a welcome relief, provided Williams is still more or less a decent facsimile of his 2020-21 rookie season self.

The fourth pick in the 2020 NBA Draft out of Florida State (and the first Bulls draft selection of the new AKME regime), Williams flashed plenty of promise during his rookie season. He sure fits the profile of a solid, athletic new-age power forward, capable of guarding either forward position and knocking down the occasional triple.

Clocking in at 6’7” and 215 pounds, with a seven-foot wingspan, Williams often slid over to guard opposing clubs’ most intimidating swingmen. The 20-year-old was praised as one of the players with the highest-upside among his draf class. Williams was rewarded for his efforts with an All-Rookie Second Team selection.

Though he often seemed a bit too reticent to shoot last year, and a lot of his defense felt more theoretical than truly impactful, Williams did post decent rookie averages of 9.2 points, 4.6 boards, 1.4 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks a night in 27.9 minutes as a full-time starter. He connected on 48.3% of his field goals overall, converting 39.1% of his 1.9 three-point attempts a night. Williams also nailed 72.8% of his 1.8 free-throw looks a game.

The Bulls have been in free fall since their schedule toughened up. It’s unfair to expect Patrick Williams, who hasn’t played in a game since October, to save them.

Though Javonte Green has served as a decent starter in Williams’s stead (DeMar DeRozan logs a lot of minutes at power forward, but Green handles most of the power forward assignments on defense), he is somewhat limited at just 6’4”. Williams gives Chicago true size and length in the starting front court alongside center Nikola Vucevic, and can further help clean up defensively around the paint. Here’s hoping the kid can help us steal some wins down the stretch.