Bulls Face Regret Over Former Top-10 Pick, Says Insider

Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls looks on from the sideline.

Another game, another loss, and another disappointing final stat line for third-year Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams. The Bulls dropped another demoralizing game, this time to the New Orleans Pelicans (without Zion Williamson). They have now lost three in a row and five of their last six.

Williams finished the 124-110 loss with five points, four rebounds, and one assist to two turnovers with a plus-minus of minus-21 which was the worst mark on the team.

Coming off of a recent run of strong performances, it’s hard to immediately jump back on the “bust” train, but there is clearly an issue with getting what the Bulls need out of the youngster which could pose a serious problem.

Especially when it comes time to pay him.

Bulls insider K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago pointed out how the rise of Utah Jazz star Lauri Markkanen could be “instructive” on how this regime approaches things.

Bulls Twice Bitten

“Markkanen’s breakout season, which features early talk of All-Star and Most Improved Player candidacy, could serve as a reminder about the varying paces of player development, says Johnson. “Which could have ramifications for the Bulls and Williams.”

But, even Johnson acknowledged Markkeanen’s desire to leave by the end.

Still, the front office did offer him a new contract which he declined, and rightfully so. And the exec thinks that could suggest there is another player that could be even more instructive on Williams’ future in Chicago: Wendell Carter Jr. now of the Orlando Magic.

“I think they probably worry about Carter more than they do about Lauri,” a rival general manager tells Heavy Sports‘ NBA insider Sean Deveney. “But Carter, yeah, they gave up on him for Vooch and he has been becoming the player they thought he could be when they took him in Chicago, especially on the defensive end. Offensively…he can shoot it, good passer, gets to the line, and makes his free throws.”

Like Markkanen, Carter’s career has taken off since leaving the Bulls.

The former seventh-overall pick in 2018 signed a lucrative four-year, $50 million contract extension with the Magic — Markkanen got four years and $67 million when he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer.

“He [Carter] is still finding his footing and learning how to play off other guys but…That has been something they have to regret.”

Williams a Conundrum

“This front office really has a lot invested in him,” the GM said echoing Johnson, “he was their first pick. He was probably a reach going as high as he did but they’re invested in him so they’re going to be patient with him. The thing is, you will have to decide on an extension this summer and he is not showing much that is going to have you rushing to give him a lot of money.”

The executive went on to explain that the Bulls still have restricted free agency working in their favor. But he added that the uncertainty of that process — where another team can make life difficult — is something they’d want to avoid given the lack of evidence of Williams’ stardom.

It is similar to the logic used to argue for offering Coby White a contract extension before he hit restricted free agency next summer.

Williams still has the rest of this season and next to work through his issues. But those issues include the second-worst net rating on the team behind only second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu, per Cleaning The Glass.

The Bulls might not have that same luxury in their current veteran-driven iteration. Not with 33-year-old DeMar DeRozan and 32-year-old Nikola Vucevic nearing the ends of their respective deals and already out of (or near the end in DeRozan’s unique case) of their primes. Even Zach LaVine is in his ninth NBA season at 27 years old.

But the past informs the present and that’s why this situation is so difficult to navigate if you’re the Bulls and vice president of basketball operations Arutras Karnisovas.

Waiting on Williams

For both Carter and Markkanen, it took a change of scenery and freedom to evolve their respective games. That is a cost the Bulls are surely not willing to find out, especially when you add in Vucevic’s struggles during his time in Chicago.

The Bulls’ slide feels like last season’s but they are no closer to moving off of Williams.

But, until he starts producing on a consistent level — his defense has looked solid at times — angst over him and the current state of the Bulls will persist.

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