Despite the many rumors, the Chicago Bulls have tip-toed through the hottest two weeks of the NBA offseason.
Not only did the Bulls select Dalen Terry with the No. 18 pick on draft night, but the front office has confidently stood by their comments about continuity during free agency. Veteran bench assets Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic have been the only two roster additions thus far, while Derrick Jones Jr. saw himself rewarded with a new two-year contract.
Of course, there is always time for Arturas Karnisovas to blindside fans with an unexpected shake-up, but most signs point to the Bulls walking into the 2022-23 campaign with their existing 15-man unit. And that feels especially likely now that Rudy Gobert is off the table.
The Bulls were largely considered the front runner for the Utah Jazz big man during the early portion of this offseason. Gobert’s elite rim protection and offensive rebounding prowess felt like an obvious fit for a win-ready team that finished bottom-third in each department last season. However, whether or not the Bulls had the assets to put together a deal Utah deemed worthy was a real question, as was whether or not the front office would be comfortable including 2020 No. 4-overall pick Patrick Williams.
The Athletic’s Zach Harper addressed all of this in a recent interview on 670 The Score’s Bernstein & Holmes Show, and it sure sounds like the Bulls remained in the mix for a while:
“Everything that I had heard – and, granted, this is all third and fourth hand, but it’s people that I really trust, they haven’t steered me wrong – I heard before the draft that the Bulls were the frontrunners for Rudy Gobert because of Patrick Williams,” Harper said. “If they were willing to include Patrick Williams in the deal, it was going to get done. Also, there was an amount of picks that had to be agreed to. But that Patrick Williams put it over the top, and that league sources thought that eventually the Bulls would include him, it was just a game of chicken.
Then, when the Wolves got in the mix … once it got to that, it just became too high priced for anyone else to get involved.”
For those who may have missed the historic deal, the Minnesota Timberwolves sent a godfather offer to Utah that included … Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, and four first-round picks (2023, 2025, and 2027 unprotected firsts, as well as a top-five protected first in 2029).
As Harper suggests, this price immediately ended the Bulls’ pursuit of Gobert. Not only did the organization simply not have the assets to match such a package, but it’s hard to imagine they would have if they did. Still, I can’t help but wonder where things may have gone if the Timberwolves never entered the equation.
I know discussing hypotheticals is rather useless, but Harper’s words imply the Bulls would have gotten a deal done if they included Williams from the jump. If that’s the case, do they regret not doing so before the T-Wolves swooped in? My gut says no, but Harper also says that folks around the league thought the Bulls were ultimately going to include him in a deal.
Of course, this contradicts a prior report that stated the Bulls were unwilling to include Williams in their Gobert pursuit. But who is to say that wasn’t part of the front office’s “game of chicken,” right?
If one thing is for sure, Utah viewing Williams as a big enough piece to put a Gobert deal over the top does reinforce how valuable the 20-year-old is perceived to be in NBA circles. Thus, it also further justifies why the Bulls have been so hesitant to include him in almost any trade conversations.
With that said, Chicago has to hope that Williams can begin to show his true value on the court sooner than later. Missing out on Gobert may not feel like the biggest deal after seeing the T-Wolves trade package, but it does put that much more pressure on the third-year forward to take a significant step forward this season.