Raptors' rumored interest in inconsistent forward contradicts earlier reports

The Toronto Raptors have been linked to an inconsistent Chicago Bulls forward in free agency, but signing him would contradict other offseason reporting.
Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors and Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls
Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors and Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors are being linked to all sorts of players, whether that's on the trade market, in the draft or in free agency. It's the season for rumors, and like cicadas buzzing up out of the ground they are swirling everywhere as the draft and free agency approach.

One rumor has already come to fruition: the Raptors offered budding franchise superstar Scottie Barnes a maximum rookie contract extension, a five-year deal that will pay him 25 percent of the salary cap starting in 2025-26; if Barnes makes All-NBA next season it would rise to 30 percent of the cap, and ultimately pay him $270 million over five seasons.

Now the task is to build around Scottie Barnes, and one name recently surfaced as a player the Raptors were interested in: Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams.

Patrick Williams will be a free agent

The four-year forward out of Florida State was drafted fourth overall in the 2020 NBA Draft and has spent his entire career with the Bulls. Injuries robbed him of time in his second and fourth seasons, but overall he has logged 213 games and 175 starts for the Bulls. Last season he averaged 10 points per game while shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 39.9 percent from 3-point range, chipping in 3.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

Williams is one of those players who always looks to be on the cusp of a breakout. He has great size at 6'8" with a 7'0" wingspan, a strong base, an above-average athlete and an explosive leaper. His career 3-point number of 41 percent looks incredibly valuable, and he averages a combined 2.1 blocks and steals (stocks) per 36 minutes for his career. It's not insane to think of him as a buy-low candidate.

There is another side to the coin, of course. Williams is highly accurate on his 3-point shot because he only takes them if he is wide open and completely comfortable with the look. The fact that he only averaged 5.1 rebounds per 36 minutes last season is an indicator of his inconsistent motor and inability to truly apply his athleticism. He may shoot well from outside on limited attempts, but he only hit 47.4 percent of his 2-pointers last season; a player with his size and athleticism should be well above 50 percent and finishing a lot of shots at the rim.

Even so, going after Williams would be a bet that in a different situation he can put everything together and take the next step forward. Players with his set of physical tools don't grow on trees, and he at least has the touch necessary to get to a high percentage from outside even if the attempts are limited. There is a canvas to work with here.

The problem is that the Raptors don't seem to have a path to entertain signing Williams.

The Raptors can't sign Patrick Williams

That's a twofold statement. First, the Raptors are financially out of the running to sign anyone to a significant contract in free agency if they pick up Bruce Brown's team option, as they are reportedly planning to do. Their cap space would be down to $7 or $8 million, not enough to do much of anything; they will likely just stay "over the cap" and use the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to add talent.

That won't be enough for Williams; other teams with space like the Charlotte Hornets or Detroit Pistons would likely offer more. Additionally, Williams is not an unrestricted free agent; the Bulls hold his restricted rights, which means they can match any contract that he signs. The $12.89 million MLE is not enough to pry him away; Chicago would surely match such a deal, and do so gleefully.

Would the Bulls be open to a sign-and-trade for Williams? Perhaps, but they wouldn't have a need for Bruce Brown, and the Raptors would have to include some significant draft capital to entice the Bulls with either Brown or a stacking of the likes of Chris Boucher and Jalen McDaniels to get the salaries close enough. That's no longer a "buy low" opportunity.

The other major problem is that there isn't a place for Williams on the Raptors. As a backup, certainly, but that's not the market that Williams appears to be entertaining. Scottie Barnes is a power forward, as is Williams. Neither shoots at a high enough volume to be a small forward in a modern offense, and certainly not with a non-shooting center like Jakob Poeltl at the 5.

The Raptors are committed to Scottie Barnes as the centerpiece of their future. Every move they make moving forward needs to be about maximizing the team around him, and Patrick Williams doesn't do that. The Raptors appear headed for an offseason plan with no room in it for Williams, either financially or on the roster.

Rumors are just that, and it doesn't hurt to check in on a player in case the price tag is shockingly low. It doesn't seem likely that Patrick Williams will join the Raptors, either this season or beyond.

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