Billy Donovan made a pivotal change to the starting lineup Friday, subbing out Patrick Williams for Torrey Craig at the forward spot.
This move doesn't come without flags raised. Williams was the No. 4 overall pick from the 2020 NBA draft. Rarely do No. 4 picks come off the bench, and if they do, it's not considered a positive sign.
But, it was the correct move to make. Williams proved just as much against the Nets on Friday, putting up 10 points on six shots with five rebounds and one assist. He finished with the second-highest plus/minus on the floor (+10) for the Bulls.
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"I thought Patrick, for the minutes he got in there, did a good job," Billy Donovan said after the game. "It was good to see him aggressive. He knocked down a couple of 3's. He had a great drive along the baseline. I still think he can get to the glass and rebound more. But coming off the bench and the way he handled himself today, he was very professional, he was great. Like I said before the game, he's always about the team."
Williams' benching came with strong reasoning. Heading into Friday's game, Williams went scoreless in two of the last three games. He was shooting a paltry 26.7% from the field and below 20% from 3-point range before Friday night.
He came in with a stronger tenacity, shooting the ball with purpose and, at one point, knocking down an impressive off-balance, one-legged shot in the lane.
That success amidst adversity comes from his mentality. Williams asserted he didn't let his absence from the starting lineup get to his head. Sulking about it isn't the right answer and Williams echoed that postgame.
He's a team player, through and through, and to him it's "just basketball" at the end of the day.
"I've always said, whenever my name's called, whatever I can do for the team, I always will and just play my game," Williams said.
I've always been a strong proponent of shifting Williams to the bench.
With a star-power first line of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, it'll never be easy to score. Williams is a defensive-minded player, too. You either plug him in the first line to focus on defense or let him do both on the second unit.
On Friday night, he did just that. His first substitution saw LaVine, Vucevic, Alex Caruso and Jevon Carter on the floor with him. In lineups like these, he becomes a higher priority on the offensive side of the ball. He was able to knock down two 3-point shots early in the contest.
Williams doesn't see the first line as a challenge, however. He admits his poor shooting stretch was the impetus for his benching while taking notice that the second unit has more opportunities to offer.
"I was just going through a stretch there where I really couldn't make a shot," Williams said. "I wouldn't say it's difficult though (playing with the first group). That's a unit that has so much talent and can do so many different things on the court. It's just more opportunity for whoever is playing in that second unit."
Williams took the stoic, mature approach to being sent down the bench.
That's the type of player the Bulls have generated. Coby White went through the same process, moving to the bench for Ayo Dosunmu last season. He made the most of it offensively, just as Williams did on Friday.
It'll be interesting to monitor if Williams remains in the second unit. Torrey Craig didn't impress in the front line (3 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists). But Williams definitely played better on the second line.
Either way, it seems fair to say his demotion put a chip on his shoulder.
"I always carry a chip on my shoulder. Any chance I get I attack it. It kinda gets you going in a sense," Williams said.