The Chicago Bulls need to avoid a repeat of last season.
They might need to shake things up even more than they did this offseason. Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report believes they need a “win-now trade”.
“If Chicago isn’t trying to win as big as possible, then what is the end game exactly,” Buckley wrote on September 12. “If the Bulls want to give this group the best possible odds of competing, then they have to explore what Patrick Williams‘ potential would bring back on the trade market.”
The Bulls have been notoriously reluctant to part with Williams, the first first-round pick of executive vice president of basketball operations Aruturas Karnisovas, despite having rumored interest in potential replacements like Portland Trail Blazers star Jerami Grant.
Williams, 22, averaged 10.2 points while shooting 41.5% from deep last season.
He added 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and just a hair short of 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals. But the discourse around and from him was about the campaign being disappointing.
“I wanted to be more consistent,” Williams said, per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic on April 26. “I wanted to play-make a little bit more; show that I can do that. … I think I have the skill to do it. I think the opportunity was there. I don’t think I grasped it. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t.”
He opened last season as the starting power forward but lost his spot in the first five to Alex Caruso coming out of the All-Star break. Williams set career highs by appearing in all 82 games during the regular season and starting 65.
But Williams started just seven of the final 23 games to close out the campaign.
Bulls Put Patrick Willams on Notice
There is increased pressure from the organization going into this season too as Williams heads for restricted free agency next offseason. Bulls general manager Marc Eversley has made multiple public statements calling on Williams to step up next season, something he has struggled to do when on the floor with the Bulls’ starters.
“This is a really big year,” Eversley said during the Bulls’ win over the Toronto Raptors on July 7. “For us to take that next level, Patrick’s gotta grow. …He’s really gotta take another step.”
The Bulls were 11-6 when Williams came off the bench last season and 29-36 when he started.
That is not all on Williams. The Bulls went 14-3 after the All-Star break following the addition of Patrick Beverley – now of the Philadelphia 76ers – who started all 22 of his appearances with the Bulls last season.
Torrey Craig Could Be Insurance for Patrick Williams
“The Bulls targeted Torrey Craig this summer for … two reasons,” Buckley wrote on August 17. “He is versatile and tireless at [the defensive] end. … Second, he ramped up his outside shooting this past season and wound up with career highs in makes (1.3 per game) and accuracy (39.5).”
Craig, 32, also set career highs last season, making 60 starts in 79 appearances while shooting 39.5% from beyond the arc in a season for the Phoenix Suns.
It’s not just Craig, as fellow newcomer Jevon Carter could have the inside track at point guard.
“Carter comes closest to matching the skill set a healthy [Lonzo] Ball once provided,” Buckley previously wrote. “Between Carter’s defense and off-ball offense, he seems like the simplest fit alongside the Bulls’ big three.”
If Craig does indeed beat out Williams for the starting spot, it could make the Bulls more amenable to dealing him, though the return value would likely shrink as well. As it stands, he represents their best bet for a building block if they have to pivot away from this core as center Nikola Vucevic suggested could be possible, and seems unlikely to be dealt this season.