Bulls Have ‘Major Gap’ to Bridge With Pending Free Agent: Report

Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls are expected to retain DeMar DeRozan in free agency this offseason. But that is just one of many questions facing the storied franchise as it looks to return to prominence and playoff contention.

They also have to address two-time All-Star Zach LaVine’s future. They have tried unsuccessfully to trade him over the last two seasons.

And former No. 4 overall pick Patrick Williams is heading for restricted free agency.

“Williams and the Bulls will have to bridge a major gap dating back to extension discussions before the season,” HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto wrote on May 13, “but an injury-marred season for the forward should help.”

Williams appeared in 43 games last season. It was marking the second time in his four-year career he’s made as many or fewer appearances due to injury.

He entered the season under a direct challenge from management.

“This is a really big year for Patrick Williams,” Bulls general manager Marc Eversley said on NBA TV in July 2023. “I think for us to take that next level, Patrick’s gotta grow. I know he’s put in the work this summer – he’s going to continue to put in the work…He’s really gotta take another step.”

Williams averaged a career-high 1.5 assists. But he also experienced dips in his scoring, rebounding, and efficiency while once again narrowly maintaining his role as a starter.

Williams, who has been critical of himself in the past, has said he wants to stay.

Rival’s Eyeing Patrick Williams in Free Agency

“I would love to continue to be a Bull,” Williams told reporters on February 24. “I love it here; I love the opportunity we have to build a culture, build something special with this group, with this team. And I think I’m a really good cornerstone piece for this team. But you never know what the future holds. I understand it’s a business.”

But he is expected to garner some interest as he heads into restricted free agency. Teams could be wary of making larger commitments as stricter CBA rules take hold.

“Other rival executives are quietly monitoring the availability of former No. 4 overall pick Patrick Williams ahead of the deadline, given he failed to sign an extension with Chicago,” Scotto wrote on February 5.

Adding to the uncertainty, Williams rejected the Bulls’ previous contract offer.

“Williams turned down a contract proposal before the season and previously said—before this injury—that he had no regrets doing so,” NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson wrote on February 24. “Sources at the time indicated the Chicago Bulls’ offer was in the neighborhood of four years for $64 million with a team option.

“It’s unknown if that represented a take-it-or-leave-it proposal or was part of the ongoing negotiations.”

Bulls Have Final Say Over Patrick Williams’ Free Agency

The Bulls still control the situation. Williams is heading for restricted free agency. The Bulls have the right to match any offer sheet he may sign with another team. That is an arrow in the Bulls’ quiver.

But Williams has not been shy about looking for big money.

“This is how I feed my family. Obviously, I want a big contract,” Williams told media members in October 2023. “I think that’s what I’ve worked for. I think that’s what I’m worth. But whenever it comes, it comes. I’m not 100% gonna say this summer or next summer, or whatever the case may be. I go out and hoop, and try to win games. Whatever comes of that comes of that.”

New CBA rules could make tying up cap space on an offer to Williams more appealing than a big trade. An offer could force the Bulls closer to the $100 million mark Williams is said to seek.

“I’m hearing Patrick Williams wants big, big numbers,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on “The Lowe Post” podcast on October 20 “Like starts with a two and isn’t ‘[$20 million] kind of stuff potentially.”

The Bulls could face even more changes than even Karnisovas anticipates.

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