(670 The Score) In detailing why the Bulls selected Florida State forward Patrick Williams at No. 4 overall in the NBA Draft on Wednesday night, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas made a particular point that stood out.
“This is what the NBA is today,” Karnisovas said.
In that, Karnisovas was referencing his vision for how the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Williams might seamlessly blend in at both ends of the floor. In Williams, the Bulls see a player who’s capable of defending all five positions, and it’s that end of the floor that’s so often the concern for teams in assessing fit.
As for the offensive end, neither Karnisovas nor Williams could answer with clarity what position Williams will play. And perhaps that’s the point after Williams earned ACC Sixth Man of the Year honors after averaging 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds in 22.5 minutes while coming off the bench in all 29 games he played.
“A physical specimen, one of the youngest prospects in the draft class, his defensive versatility is what we liked – long arms, big hands,” said Karnisovas, who oversaw his first draft for the Bulls and his first one as the lead executive. “Such an upside and potential.
“We need players in our league that can play multiple positions. He’s able to do that. He’s an elite athlete. He showed that in college. He wasn’t as consistent, but on campus at Florida State, he was such a young age and started to pick (it) up at the end of the season.”
Having turned 19 in late August, Williams was the second-youngest player in this draft class, and he certainly has much to work on. That includes his outside shooting, which Williams acknowledged needs to improve after he shot 32% on 3-pointers last season. The Bulls are hopeful he will, in part because he shot 83.8% on free throws, which can often be a good indicator that youngsters’ perimeter shooting will tick up in time.
Williams also didn’t make many plays for others in his lone collegiate season, compiling 29 assists to 50 turnovers. Nonetheless, Karnisovas didn’t view that as a red flag. To the contrary, he believes he saw underlying traits that others didn't.
“His ball-handling is something that’s very underrated, and people didn’t see it in college,” Karnisovas said. “Where for three years in high school, he played point guard. I was very impressed.
“I didn’t agree with the perception that people had of him. Because they thought he’s a raw athlete and he wasn’t skilled. When I saw his skill level and ball-handling and shooting and ability to pass, I would disagree that he’s just a raw athlete. He knows how to play. He just knows how to play.”
While there was plenty of external speculation about the Bulls inquiring about trading up to No. 1 or No. 2, Karnisovas pushed back at that notion. The more the Bulls studied Williams, the more they liked him. They also worked him out and held an in-depth interview, which helped cement their comfort at No. 4 as shooting guard Anthony Edwards (No. 1 to Wolves), center James Wiseman (No. 2 to Warriors) and point guard LaMelo Ball (No. 3 to Hornets) crystallized as the top three picks.
“We did not,” Karnisovas responded when asked if the Bulls seriously considered trading up. “We always were waiting for any opportunities, but we were actually really happy to be at four.”
So that’s where the Bulls stayed, adding a player who on draft night extolled the virtue of knowing his role after coming off the bench at Florida State and then rocketing up draft boards.
“I kind of just embraced that role,” Williams said. “In the NBA, it’s all about roles.
Everybody can’t be a LeBron James from Day 1 or a Michael Jordan from a Day 1.
You got to embrace your role and do your role well, then you’re trusted with more.”
Bulls select Marko Simonovic in 2nd round
The Bulls drafted 6-foot-11, 215-pound center Marko Simonovic, a 21-year-old from Montenegro, with the No. 44 overall pick in the second round. Simonovic plays for Mega Soccerbet in Serbia.
He’s what’s known as a draft-and-stash player, as he’ll remain in Europe for “at least a year,” Karnisovas said while also praising his skills.
“Can handle and shoot, very versatile, can pass, runs the floor,” Karnisovas said. “Gets to the free-throw line a lot, high basketball IQ.”
The Bulls have 13 guaranteed contracts already for their 15-man roster and appear set to retain wing Denzel Valentine after extending him a qualifying offer as well, which made roster space a premium. Free agency formally begins Friday.
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.