Late last month, Bulls general manager Marc Eversley pointed out that the coming season would be critical for fourth-year forward Patrick Williams, taken by the Bulls with the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft. Williams appeared to be a star-in-the-making as a rookie, averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds while frequently guarding the opponent’s best players, but has stalled out since then.
He suffered a wrist injury that cost him the bulk of his second year, and came back last year to average 10.2 points and 4.0 rebounds, making 41.5% of his 3s—a solid complementary year but not one in which he showed star capability.
That needs to change. The Bulls are quietly holding onto hope that they could get involved in the pursuit of superstar Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo when he hits free agency in 2025. But it’s likely that Antetokounmpo will inform the Bucks of his desire to leave before then, setting up Milwaukee to find a trade for Antetokounmpo.
The Bulls could position themselves to sign Giannis in two summers. But positioning themselves for a trade comes down to Williams.
“The best hope Chicago has for Giannis is Pat Williams,” one Eastern Conference executive told Heavy Sports. “It might be the only hope. They’re not probably not going to be able to sign him (in free agency). So it’d have to be a trade, and there’s no deal to be made there unless Patrick comes back as Kawhi (Leonard) Jr. That was the upside coming into that draft. He needs to show he can still get there if you want to have him in a major deal.”
A Lot of ‘Ifs’ In a Giannis-to-Bulls Trade
Now, there are some major contingencies there. First, Giannis would not only need to want out of Milwaukee, he would have to try to force his way out before free agency. Both of those are entirely possible—Antetokounmpo would not want to leave Milwaukee empty-handed, and he can make more money if he is traded rather than if he simply signs elsewhere.
Second, the Bucks would have to be willing to deal with their cross-border rival. Antetokounmpo would have some say in that because he would be working in the final year of his contract, giving him some leverage. If he wants to be in Chicago, he could nudge the Bucks into making it happen.
The third is up to the Bulls and Williams. If Williams can build on some of his progress from last year, he’ll be more widely viewed as a potential star—he’s still just 22, after all.
Bulls Still Believe in Williams
The Bulls would rather hang onto Williams and sign Antetokounmpo on their own—if that option stays viable between now and 2025. Eversley said on the Bulls Talk pod that the team still very much believes in Williams.
As the GM references, when he was entering the NBA, and in his early going, Williams drew comparisons to Kawhi Leonard, now of the Clippers. His numbers in his age 21 season do compare will with those of Leonard (11.9 points and 6.0 rebounds).
“He has shown flashes over the first three years. I want to see him show more instances of flashes, more consistent,” Eversley said on the podcast. “He’s got it in him.
“A lot of that comes with growth off of the court. And I can tell you he’s starting to grow. He’s starting to get it. It’s starting to click. And when he puts it together—and he will put it together—we might have something special.”
Or, maybe, the Bucks will have something special, eventually.