Insider Sheds Light on Potential New Deal for Bulls’ Former Top Pick

Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls

Getty Patrick Williams #44 and Ayo Dosunmu #12 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls have plenty of decisions to make this offseason and could look to kick the can down the road on one of them.

“There’s still quite a bit of belief and confidence internally in Patrick Williams,” said NBA Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson on the ‘Bulls Talk Podcast’ on June 8. “But we should pause here for a couple of reasons: They don’t have to extend him, and teams typically in this situation…either don’t engage in negotiations or they set a hardline.”

White cited restricted free agent Coby White and Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler as examples in the Bulls’ history of letting their picks play out. In the case of Butler who has gone on to lead the Heat to two NBA Finals appearances, that decision backfired.

But the Bulls compounded the issue by trading Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Their return of three players has been whittled down to Zach LaVine while the two other pieces – Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen – both had breakout seasons with the Utah Jazz.

Williams, 21, averaged a career-high 10.2 points per game last season while knocking down 41.5% of his threes and appearing in all 82 games this past season. He was the first first-round pick made by Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and it doesn’t sound like they are eager to venture down that previous path.

“They still believe in him,” Johnson reiterated. “He’s growing as a player. Obviously, that second season was difficult with the injury history. I would consider him as part of the future regardless of if he gets an extension or not.”

Williams is still the closest thing to a future building block on the Bulls’ roster.

Johnson also noted that the potential $100 million extension floated by Keith Smith of Spotrac would not be as exorbitant in a few years as it seems now, nor is it an inevitability.

“I understand five years, $100 million dollars sounds like and is a lot of money,” said Johnson. “But…to maintain a young, growing, physical presence that you believe in, you can’t worry about what’s happened in the past. You gotta just focus on keeping the asset. They don’t have to a $100 million contract – this summer or next.”

Johnson went on to note that head coach Billy Donovan’s decision to pull Williams from the starting lineup served the youngster well but more is needed.

Williams only averaged 0.1 more after the shift.

But he went from shooting 45.7% from the floor and 39.8% from deep while starting 58 of the Bulls’ 59 games at the start of the season to 48.1% and 46.5%, respectively, albeit in a much smaller 23-game sample down the stretch, though he did draw seven starts in that span.

Next Steps for Patrick Williams

Johnson called for Williams to be more aggressive on offense, noting that it could show up in ways other than scoring like cutting to the basket which can open things up for teammates, and Donovan has called on Williams to be a more consistently active rebounder, noting that he can be one of the best when he does.

“It’s gotten better but we need it to be more consistent,” Donovan said, per Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune. “When he does go, he’s an elite rebounder and he’s got great strength. He’s a guy in very, very tight spaces that gets off the floor and can really rebound.”

Yet, for the second year in a row, Williams’ rebounding numbers dipped, with the 6-foot-7, 215-pounder snagging a career-low 4.0 rebounds per game this past season.

He also hasn’t taken the steps as a playmaker as some had hoped.

Perhaps his lost 2021-22 campaign in which he made just 17 appearances during the regular season after suffering torn wrist ligaments means the breakout he seemed poised for last season happens in 2023-24, and the Bulls took one major step to ensure that is the case.

Bulls Hired Player Development Coach

One of the things Karnisovas was praised for upon taking over in 2020 was bringing the Bulls operations into the modern era. But they still lacked in the player development department, until recently that is.

Chicago hired Chicago-area native and former DePaul standout guard Peter Patton as what Johnson reports is expected to be the “director of player development”.

“Patton, who set the DePaul single-season 3-point shooting mark by connecting at 54.1 percent, also has history with renowned shooting coach Chip Engelland,” Johnson wrote on June 10. “Currently with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Engelland got his start working with Steve Kerr while Kerr played for the Bulls.”

Karnisovas noted in his exit interview that players often passed up threes they could have taken which would have improved the Bulls’ 30th-placed ranking. Perhaps Willams, who averaged 3.4 threes per game, will benefit from the additional emphasis Patton should bring.