Insider: West Playoff Contender Has ‘Shown Interest’ in Bulls’ Former Top Pick

Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls have not made an in-season trade in three years. But their players have drawn interest from rival teams, including fourth-year forward Patrick Williams. He has caught the eye of Head Coach Billy Donovan‘s former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Williams will be a restricted free agent this offseason and his qualifying offer is $13 million.

“It will be fascinating to see how much more Williams commands on the open market and whether the Bulls are willing to match it,” The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry wrote on February 25. “The Oklahoma City Thunder … are among the clubs that have shown an interest in Williams and could make a bid in July.”

Spotrac projects the No. 2-seeded Thunder to have $41.7 million in cap space this coming offseason. Comparatively, the Bulls project to have $16.3 million, and they still have designs on bringing back veteran DeMar DeRozan and an extension for Alex Caruso.

Further clouding the issue, Williams is out for the season with a foot injury and undergoing surgery to correct it.

He finishes with averages of 10.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists.

Williams was the first draft pick made by Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, who selected him No. 4 overall in the 2020 draft. The 22-year-old forward has been valued by the front office in a manner reflective of that reality.

They held on to him over more proven commodities, perhaps most notably including Portland Trail Blazers star Jerami Grant.

The soon-to-be 30-year-old Grant is averaging 21.6 points, 3.6 boards, and 2.7 assists.

Holding onto Williams was a clear nod to his ceiling and more forward-thinking than trading for Grant would have been. However, Mayberry says there is not as much certainty around Williams’ future as there was.

“Though he might not possess the star potential the front office was hoping for, management still believes in Williams’ ability to be a positive contributor,” Mayberry wrote. “Williams has established himself as the proverbial if not prototypical “3-and-D” wing.

“His erratic performances over his 213 career contests make it difficult to gauge his dollar value.”

Patrick Williams Turned Down Bulls’ 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.”

Johnson notes uncertainty around the finality of the offer. He also points to a belief that Williams could seek a contract in the $100 million range.

Mayberry agrees with that as a target for Williams. It might be a question for the Bulls though.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels, a fair comparison to Williams, got a five-year, $103 million deal last summer.,” Mayberry wrote. “What once might have seemed like a fair market value contract for Williams now doesn’t appear to be such an open-and-shut decision.”

Production-wise, McDaniels is certainly an apt comparison for Williams. The Bulls could also bristle at Williams matching McDaniels (the No. 28 overall pick in Williams’ class) in production while possibly seeking substantially more than they initially offered.

Williams’ return isn’t just about the money. It’s also about the kind of player that he will be once he gets back.

Williams suffered a fracture to the navicular bone in his foot, which is located mid-foot.

Injury Analyst Paints Grim Picture of Patrick Williams’ Upcoming Recovery

“While most NBA players to undergo navicular surgery were ready to play by the start of the following season, there are multiple cases that did not go smoothly,” In Street Clothes’ Jeff Stotts wrote on February 24.

“A study from 2006 revealed some individuals report pain at the injury site for up to two years. Additionally, analysis shows athletes often display an increased loading pattern on their knees following surgery. This results in an increased chance at injuries like tendinosis and even meniscus injuries.”

Names like Philadelphia 76ers star and reigning MVP Joel Embiid and Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis dot Stotts’ list as examples of positive outcomes.

As does Bulls legend Michael Jordan, who missed 64 games in the 1985-86 season.

On the other end are players like Yao Ming whose Hall-of-Fame career was cut short by foot injuries. Even more pertinent to Williams is veteran forward T.J. Warren. He missed two years following a similar procedure and was never the player that Williams has been defensively.

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