In a bit of somber, pre-training camp news, the Chicago Bulls announced Friday morning that second-year forward Patrick Williams will be sidelined for four to six weeks after sustaining a "severe" left ankle sprain.
According to a team release, the injury occurred while Williams was participating in an optional individual workout on Sept. 15. He will undergo daily treatment until his return.
The precise date of that return, though, remains to be seen. A return on the shortest possible end of the team's stated timeline — four weeks, retroactive to the injury date — would see Williams back on Oct. 13, seven days shy of the Bulls' regular-season opener on Oct. 20. Returning on the later end — six weeks — could see him back on Oct. 27, at which time the Bulls will have played four games.
However you slice it, it's an unideal start to Williams' second NBA season, an important one for him and the Bulls. Even on an optimistic timetable, he'll miss important training camp and preseason reps. And should Williams miss any amount of regular-season action, a power-forward-sized hole opens in the starting lineup for a team that already projected to lack size and rim protection.
Needless to say, Williams’ blend of athleticism and two-way ability will be difficult to replicate. He started 71 of 72 games as a rookie, averaging 9.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals, and showed signs of growth in a three-game Summer League run in August.
If he does miss time, there are myriad ways coach Billy Donovan and his staff can choose to tackle the problem, but none of them are tidy. Stanley Johnson and Alize Johnson — should they make the roster — are candidates to see more playing time, as is Derrick Jones Jr. Another possibility could be to start DeMar DeRozan at power forward — where he logged almost 70 percent of his minutes last season for the Spurs — and either slide Troy Brown Jr. into the vacant small forward role or insert Alex Caruso alongside Lonzo Ball or Zach LaVine.
Whatever the case, size and quality depth will be pain points. And having both Williams and Coby White miss training camp isn't ideal.
On a brighter note, though, the Bulls' announcement also included a positive update on White, the third-year guard who is rehabbing after undergoing surgery to repair a left shoulder injury in June. He is expected to make a full return in November and participate in non-contact portions of camp, which begins Sept. 28.
A mid-November return for White would mark five months since the injury, which, in past cases with NBA players, has carried a four- to six-month recovery timeline. White appeared in 69 games in 2020-21 (starting 54), averaging 15.1 points and 4.8 assists.
Still, it's an ominous beginning to camp in what is expected to be an exciting season in Chicago. Now, the onus falls on the Bulls' wing and frontcourt players to step up in Williams' stead.