Patrick Williams

Bulls, Patrick Williams poised to continue partnership

5th-year forward plans to reach verbal agreement on 5-year deal when free agency opens Sunday

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Following Wednesday's first round of the NBA Draft, Chicago Bulls executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas said he'd wait until free agency plays out to declare the franchise's identity.

But make no mistake: It's trending younger.

On the heels of Karnišovas drafting 19-year-old Matas Buzelis that night, which came mere days after trading veteran Alex Caruso for 21-year-old Josh Giddey, a source confirmed that the Bulls are confident in re-signing fifth-year forward Patrick Williams when free agency opens on Sunday evening.

The Athletic reported that Williams intends to sign a five-year, $90 million deal. The verbal agreement will occur on Sunday, but Williams can't officially sign until the league moratorium ends on July 6.

This salary would make sense given the difference between what the Bulls offered and what Williams and his representative sought before last season began in rookie extension talks.

Before last season, Williams turned down what sources at the time indicated was a four-year, roughly $64 million offer, though it’s unknown if that represented a final offer or part of ongoing negotiations. Sources at that time indicated that Williams’ side sought a deal in the vicinity of De’Andre Hunter’s four-year, $90 million deal but might’ve accepted $20 million annually.

This is why all signs pointed for months to Williams returning following a largely seamless negotiation. And with the salary cap set to spike with the new TV rights deal, Williams' annual salary won't be much more than the midlevel exception by this deal's end. It would represent 12.76 percent of next season's projected $141 million salary cap.

After all, Williams is poised to sign for $18 million annually following a season in which surgery cut short his campaign for the second time in four years. Williams, who will turn 23 in August and represents Karnišovas' first personnel move as the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, averaged 10 points on 39.9 percent 3-point shooting over 43 games.

On draft night, this is what Karnišovas said about the health of Williams, who underwent surgery in February for a stress reaction in his left foot. Originally, Williams sat after January 25 with bone edema in that foot but imaging as he ramped up to return revealed the injury progressed.

"We gotta look at his [Williams] schedule, but he was planning to be ready for training camp," Karnišovas said on draft night.

Whether or not Williams is fully ready to go by training camp, he's poised to land firmly in the Bulls' youth movement. Beyond the acquisitions of Giddey and Buzelis, Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu, Dalen Terry and Julian Phillips return for a team that may not be done shedding veterans even after the Caruso trade.

The Bulls have shopped Zach LaVine seemingly forever and sources indicated that on-again, off-again talks with the Sacramento Kings could still advance. Meanwhile, Karnišovas' tone on his stance about re-signing DeMar DeRozan changed dramatically on draft night.

"Everything is on the table," Karnišovas said on draft night. "And you know, it’s still an option.”

This is a departure from Karnišovas' previous stance of adamantly stating he'd like DeRozan to return. Now, DeRozan is poised to enter unrestricted free agency on Sunday evening. And with news on Saturday that Paul George has opted out, with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that he'll visit with his current team in the Los Angeles Clippers as well as the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic, there could be a domino effect for DeRozan.

League sources have indicated to keep an eye on the Clippers as a potential landing spot for DeRozan should George sign elsewhere.

As for Williams' imminent signing, he's a career 41 percent 3-point shooter with defensive versatility. The injuries have been out of his control, but even with his inconsistencies and occasionally maddening stretches of passive play, he's shown the ability to be a prominent "3-and-D" player.

And with the league's emphasis on wings and needing to guard multiple positions, Williams fits the bill. And that's why the Bulls are set to follow a similar path that they traveled with Coby White last offseason, proactively signing one of their own to keep him out of the restricted free agency game.

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