Bulls Polarizing Former Top Pick Floated as Trade Target For Rebuilding Club

Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls

Getty Patrick Williams #44 of the Chicago Bulls dribbles the ball.

How much longer will the Chicago Bulls practice patience with Patrick Williams? The third-year forward recorded an 11-point, five-assist outing in the 128-120 overtime loss to the New York Knicks, finishing with the best plus-minus of any Bulls starter.

Even in that contest, however, Williams showed the up-and-down nature of his game with just two assists and two points in the second half. Still, Williams has put together a decent stretch with 11.2 points on 65.3% true shooting, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and two blocks over the last five games.

His slow progress could be just the kind of move a rebuilding team is looking for.

Since that is not the Bulls (yet), it might benefit them more to listen to overtures for the polarizing forward and one fitting destination could come calling.

Send Pat to Pop?

“The Spurs are clearly preparing for the future,” writes Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report. “Their deadline activities should reflect as much…Beyond draft picks, the Spurs should be scouring for young talent. If the Bulls grow impatient and seek more plug-and-play help, that might put Williams up for grabs.”

Williams was taken fourth overall in the 2020 NBA Draft and has played in just 115 games. More than reluctant to pull the plug on Williams’ tenure, Chicago has passed on including him in deals including for forward Jerami Grant, now with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Bulls were banking on a leap from the mercurial forward which just hasn’t happened.

He went from forecasting superstardom in his future to the bench in a two-game span. That only lasted one game thanks in part to an injury sustained by his replacement, Javonte Green.

In San Antonio, Williams would find himself under the master tutelage of five-time champion head coach Gregg Popovich. Popovich is the longest-tenured head coach in all four major sports in North America while his list of accomplishments includes none other than Williams’ teammate, Bulls star DeMar DeRozan.

DeRozan has been highly complimentary of Popovich, whom he played under for three seasons.

“Before then, I was a scorer,” DeRozan told ESPN last season. “if I’m 5-for-30, I don’t care. If I’m 15-for-30. Like that was my whole mindset. He challenged me to the point of understanding the game in the complete whole,” DeRozan said. “How to be a point guard. How to be a playmaker. How to dictate the game. How to move without the play. How to play without the ball. How not to turn over the ball.”

DeRozan averaged 3.1 assists across his first nine seasons. He has averaged 5.8 assists in his five seasons since being traded from the Toronto Raptors to the Spurs from Kawhi Leonard.

It’s just one aspect of DeRozan’s growth but highlights the kind of impact “Pop” can have.

DeRozan’s Impact on Pat

The Bulls essentially tried to cut out the middleman here over the summer. Williams went out to Los Angeles to train with DeRozan in what the latter called a “summer from hell”. Williams returned with a greater appreciation for developing consistency through a routine.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, it has not translated onto the court as they had hoped just yet with Williams posting a positive plus-minus in only eight of his 27 appearances this season.

Williams has the second-worst net rating on the team at minus-9.7, per Cleaning The Glass.

The Bulls’ defensive rating (112.4) does rank in the 59th percentile with him on the floor. But it is even better without him (111.9) ranking in the 63rd percentile while the offensive rating goes from 107.7 (13th percentile) to 116.9 (80th percentile) when he sits.

Too bad the Bulls cannot send Williams to San Antonio on loan or bring Popovich to Chicago. If anyone can get the most out of the enigmatic forward, it figures to be him.

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