If Healthy, Matt Willms Could Flourish in Today’s NBA
It’s official, former UTEP center Matt Willms has been added to the Chicago Bulls roster for the 2018 MGM Resorts NBA Summer League. He will join the likes of newly drafted rookies Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, as well as returning guards Ryan Arcidiacono and Antonio Blakeney.
Towering at 7-foot-1, Willms has all the makings of a promising NBA product. He can shoot on the perimeter, can hit mid-range jumpers well and is a monster on the boards. And he proved it with the Miners during his collegiate years, ranking third in school history in field goal percentage (.574) and fourth in blocked shots (125). Willms finished his UTEP career with 886 points, 541 rebounds and 125 blocks in 118 games for the Miners.
Everything is fine for the Ontario, Canada native when he’s fully healthy and on the court. But injuries beyond his control have hindered his continued progress throughout the years. Willms only played three full seasons with UTEP (2013-14, 2014-15, 2016-17), having underwent two major surgeries (one to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and the other for a fractured navicular bone in his foot) and recently came off a hand injury that he suffered in late 2017.
Despite the injuries though, the talent that Willms possesses is evident. In the 2016-17 season, Willms averaged 11.4 points per game, with 5.5 boards and 1.25 blocks per game, while nearly shooting 60 percent from the floor.
Here with the Bulls, Willms has another chance. He can train at the healthiest he’s been in the summer since the 2015 off-season. Willms can join an up-and-coming franchise like the Bulls and help out with depth as a big man. As their roster stands, Willms would be the tallest player in the entire Chicago organization.
The Bulls will take on the Cavaliers, Lakers and Hawks next week, in part of their summer league schedule. Willms will be competing with other centers on the roster, like Shawn Long of Louisiana-Lafayette and Jarnell Stokes of Tennessee. Other than Carter Jr., who’s a sure-fire to make the Bulls’ roster next year, Willms is the only rookie big man on their summer league roster.
Ultimately, this is a great opportunity for Willms to get a shot with a franchise, and possibly get a shot with the Windy City Bulls, which is the NBA G-League affiliate of Chicago. Last year, Windy City’s top big man came from 6-foot-10 Tyler Harris, so it's possible that Willms could compete for a roster spot considering his size and length.
In today's NBA, a 7-foot-plus center that can shoot (like Willms) is vital for teams down the stretch. Maybe Chicago's front office sees some Lauri Markkanen in the way Willms plays, and thinks he could be a formidable backup down the line.
If he doesn’t make the team, however, this experience could still boost his level of play and his confidence. He could end up playing for an international professional organization, or even go home to Canada to play professionally in the National Basketball League of Canada.
But for now, Miner fans should make sure to tune into the summer league games, which will be televised on NBA TV. Willms and the Bulls square off first against Cleveland on July 7 at 8:30 p.m. CT, then the Lakers on July 8 at 10:30 p.m. CT, concluding with the Hawks on July 10 at 5:00 p.m. CT.
Click here for the Bulls’ summer league roster.