Bulls to lose Patrick Williams for weeks, and they were already short on tall guys
Williams hasn't had a great season but is a critical part of the rotation
The Bulls have been in an odd, but familiar, place these last few weeks: just playing pretty ‘meh’, but winning a good amount of games to separate themselves from the previously-grouped likes of the Hawks, Raptors, and Nets.
(Why don’t these other teams try playing the Hornets or Spurs every other game? That’s a neat trick!)
Despite the victories, the team did seem to be in a precarious spot. Maybe that’s just a Bulls fan expecting bad news?
The bad news was just dropped Tuesday morning: Patrick Williams’s foot injury - which has already kept him out of the last game and tonight - has a new extended prognosis. He’ll be out at least through the All-Star break (and trade deadline)
In that press release is the phrase ‘active rest’, another trigger for any long-depressed Bulls fan after the Luol Deng fiasco (sorry I don’t have the BaB archives available…). And after seeing Lonzo Ball and Javonte Green in the past couple years go from minor to career-ending injuries we are probably all over-worried this is going to get worse before it gets better. In those terms, it’s important to note that Williams is a restricted free agent after this season. Maybe that phrasing in the press release is a shot back at Pat’s agents for suggesting he was looking for >$20M annually in the offseason.
But let’s talk short-term, where we know the Bulls goals are “to be a competitive, tough out” that can “compete among the parity of the East”.
This injury may be severely damaging, not because Williams broke out in any way this season but that he is a scarce player type on this roster. The Bulls front office has long ignored addressing a lack of size on the wing. The roster has two huge centers, 20 year old Julian Phillips, and a bunch of 6’6” and under players. That last group includes Torrey Craig, who plays up a position a bit (and pretty effectively), but is also out with a foot injury.
The Bulls have managed to leave this hole in the roster while being so close to the luxury tax that they can’t (won’t) add another player.
There’s of course the option of making a trade, specifically a Zach LaVine trade, to try and address this. Though ‘try’ has not been this front office’s M.O.. Unless they have reason to believe Williams will be out months, I’m not sure they feel any urgency to address this season’s team.
And they may be right in that it won’t hurt them enough on the court to create that urgency: say what you will (and I do) about the roster and the coaching, but they’ve been resilient this season while succeeding over their performance level. They have an easy schedule in February, with more off days and opponents going through their own roster changes where Continuity can counteract.
It all goes to the existential question of what the Bulls feel as internal pressure. Do they want to give themselves a better chance this season and try and cultivate what few positives they’ve gained (just…Coby White)? Or do they have leverage in trade talks insisting they can keep the status quo because they think they’re good enough for their goals already?