We don’t often get to hear from Bulls general manager Marc Eversley, so when he speaks it automatically becomes notable. But his most recent appearance made one thing abundantly clear.
They are counting on Williams to step up and show why he was the No. 4 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft.
“This is a really big year for Patrick Williams, Eversley said during the NBA TV broadcast of the Bulls 80-76 win over the Toronto Raptors on July 7. “I think for us to take that next level, Patrick’s gotta grow. I know he’s put in the work this summer – he’s going to continue to put in the work…He’s really gotta take another step.”
Williams, 21, averaged 10.2 points and shot 41.5% from beyond the arc this past season.
Despite what was a career-high in points and starting all 82 games, Williams admitted this last season was not up to his expectations citing inconsistency and the absence of playmaking from his repertoire.
“Here’s a kid who didn’t even start in college,” Eversley said. “He’s learning every single day and we’re excited about his growth and the opportunity for him to take that next step.”
Last offseason, that next step was supposed to include putting the ball in his hands and moving him to center when the Bulls went with a smaller look on the floor. Neither of those things happened to any real degree as Williams was often reduced to a spot-up shooter which, as Eversley alluded to, falls well below his skill set.
So what exactly is the next step for Williams?
Figuring out how to better integrate himself into the offensive attack when he’s on the floor alongside the Bulls’ big three of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic all of whom are expected to be with the team going into next season.
“Learning how to play with those three guys is going to be critical for him, Eversley said. “Whether it’s making shots, it’s finding seams, getting to the bucket…He’s a really great defender but he’s gotta take that next step offensively; whether it’s playmaking, playing off the ball, finishing at the rim, making threes.
“I think he’s got a really bright future but this is a big summer for him as we kind of go into training camp this year.”
The Bulls might not be exasperated with Williams as much as financially motivated to finally figure out what Williams is as a player. He is extension eligible this offseason and, even if they do not strike a deal, the front office surely wants to have a better idea ahead of next summer.
Williams will be a restricted free agent and the Bulls will be able to match any offers.
But, given his athletic profile and skill set, he could garner enough interest to make the cap-conscious Bulls uncomfortable.
Marc Eversley Praises DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic
Eversley was asked about the Bulls’ decision to re-sign Vucevic this offseason. Vucevic and the Bulls agreed to a three-year, $60 million contract extension before free agency even began, keeping him off the market and checking off one need from the Bulls’ fairly lengthy list which also included point guard and three-point shooting.
“Vooch is so big and important to what we do and how we grow,” Everlsey said. “He’s a unique player in that he’s a 7-footer but he can stretch the floor, he can create space, he can make shots and he makes things easier for Zach and DeMar to operate.”
Vucevic, 32, averaged 17.0 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists this past season while shooting 34.9% from beyond the arc and appearing in all 82 games.
He and DeRozan were brought to Chicago to help them get back to competing for the playoffs.
DeRozan’s efforts have gone even beyond what he brings himself. Eversley noted his work with the younger players like Williams and second-year wing Dalen Terry both of whom trained with DeRozan in Los Angeles this offseason.
“He’s really taken the young guys under his wing,” Eversley said about DeRozan. “The great thing about those workouts are, they wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning, they’re in the gym at 4:30 [a.m.], and they have no clue what they’re going to be doing on any particular day. So mentally it’s demanding, physically it’s demanding, and it’s a great way for those guys to grow.”
Eversley also called DeRozan and LaVine’s relationship on the court “critical” and noted that they were working to maximize that partnership.
Marc Eversley: ‘You Really Feel’ for Lonzo Ball
“With respect to Lonzo [Ball], him being out, you really feel for the kid,” Eversley said. “He was such a big part of who we were as a team both offensively and defensively. You just feel for him, and you just hope at some point he can get back to a level of helping us and helping us grow, and win some games.”
Ball has been sidelined since January of the 2021-22 season and executive vice president of basketball operations Arutras Karnisovas expects him to miss all of the 2023-24 season too.
“We did apply for the DPE which we’re waiting to hear back from the league on whether we’re going to get that or not. In the meantime, we’ve got a lot of tools in terms of improving our team and we’ll look to do that.”
The Bulls are at 13 contracts including restricted free agent Ayo Dosunmu’s qualifying offer – Eversley noted Justin Lewis will be on a two-way contract – meaning they have the open slots to add players. However, with just a $10 million cushion before they enter the luxury tax, per Spotrac, those moves could be around the margins to fill out the backend of the roster.