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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 05.23.2014
Every Friday, Sam Smith of Bulls.com opens his Ask Sam mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers
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All Love mailbag? Bulls need to go all in for a Love, Noah, Rose combo, which means taking on Minnesota's "garbage." T-Wolves get: 3 firsts (2 this year and Sacramento’s protected pick), Butler, Gibson, the collection of non-guaranteed contracts (Brewer, Amundson, etc), and Boozer. Boozer is expiring and his large contract allows us to take off long term money from Minny. Bulls get: Love, Budinger, Mbah-Moute. If we can get Kevin Martin great, but probably not as Minny could trade him in a separate deal.
Sam: Yes, there has been a plaintive cry theme this week that I can basically sum up as “We have to have Kevin Love and Minnesota is going to hand him over! Ok! So stop saying it won’t happen!” You’d think Bulls fans would have had enough of these with all the pleas and free agent disappointments over the years. There’s a one percent chance. Oh, so you mean it’s possible? Actually, there’s probably a better chance. Ten percent, 20? It’s not a great chance as this will be a very competitive market if the Bulls are in the chase for Love, and, frankly, unless Love says Chicago or bust, it would seem likely Minnesota can do better. I’ve gotten dozens of Boozer-is-a-match so what’s the problem emails. Impossible. Expiring contracts are mostly worthless in the NBA now given there are so many with shorter deals, and you don’t need to pay someone $17 million to save cap space if free agents don’t go there. As they don’t to Minnesota. Yes, the Bulls could amnesty Boozer and have room to take on contracts so the matching provision wouldn’t decimate your roster. But the Bulls are not in a strong position for trade. Their two lottery picks come nowhere near the multiple lottery pick choices the Timberwolves will have. OK, say Love doesn’t want to sign in those places with a year left on his deal? Sure, that’s possible. But the Bulls prime piece is Gibson, who is 29 next month. For a team of that sort starting again, they aren’t building with players going on 30 who never have started. And Jimmy Butler for now might not be a starter for them. The Bulls don’t know about Mirotic, and no one knows if they trade his rights if he’d sign there as he has standing big offers in Spain. So his rights don’t carry that much value. Deals happen and a package with Gibson, Butler and picks with future No. 1’s is appealing on some level. Though you’d assume Golden State gives up at least Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, and Love is said to prefer the West Coast. The Suns may consider trading Dragic, an all-league player. Minnesota can keep Love and have a good chance to make the playoffs next season and then if they lose him have the cap room to sign someone after next season, so what’s their hurry? Last year this time I got email after email about an All-Star power forward from a small market who missed the playoffs and wanted out and supposedly to Chicago. Now, LaMarcus Aldridge is ready to resign with Portland and loves being there. It is time for the Bulls to be bold if they can be as Noah will be 30 this season. So you assume the Bulls will be in the race if there is one, but they’ll have to make up a lot of ground down the home stretch.
Now that Love has made it official he’s leaving the wolves and is interested in joining the Bulls, Do you think a trade package of (Boozer , Dunleavy and one of their 1st round picks along with a 2nd round pick) is enough to get him?
Sam: Love has made nothing official; he has not said anything about the Bulls or any other team. There have been unconfirmed, blind sourced media reports he could be interested in the Bulls. Unless he isn’t. I’d say the Bulls best chance would be a package involving Noah and then taking back Pekovic as they like Gorgui Dieng for the future at center. So I could see them wanting Noah at power forward. If you were the Bulls would you do Noah and Boozer for Love and Pekovic? Minnesota might do that. Remember, when you are getting the best player in the deal or the player in the most demand, then you have to overpay. I would not trade Noah as he reflects too much who the Bulls are and how they play. He’s irreplaceable with this group, especially for someone like Love who never has made the playoffs. After all, don’t you have to wonder a bit about that? Of course, I’d take him in a second and do think he’s terrific. Though not for Noah.
All the trade talk for Love is too rich. For a player who plays on average I believe 56 games a year he is not worth it. If somehow Minnesota figures to gamble on the 16 and 19th pick Boozer's expiring contract and maybe the Kings pick in 2015 then maybe worth it, however I don't see that happening. Why would we give up so much for the potential of three guys who could be great superstars or great injured guys in Noah, Rose and Love?
Sam: This would be the journalistic balance email. So there are some who love you the way you are. Love has actually had a much under reported injury history given no one much cares about what happens in Minnesota. Though Love hasn’t seemed to take advantage of Minnesota being ranked the nation’s healthiest state for the second year in a row on 34 measures, including access to dental care, physical activity rates, obesity rates, prescription drug coverage, food insecurity, and percentage of quality nursing home beds. Love played 77 games this past season, which was his most since his rookie year. He does get hurt a lot and had averaged about 50 games played the previous four seasons as I think he broke his hand three times. Most have seemed freak injuries, but like with Andrew Bogut when it happens more than once it often keeps happening. But if you are the Bulls at some point you have to take a chance on someone if you can. As I’ve written, I think it’s a long shot and have never heard Love say he has interest in coming to Chicago. People I know around the Lakers still believe he wants to return there. Someone with the Warriors predicted he’d go there. The Cavs may offer the No. 1 pick in the draft. Boston’s in for a lottery pick. Obviously, it all depends on Love’s preference to start, and no one has heard anything credible about that, assuming the Timberwolves go along. At this point after several early round playoff outs you try to do something significant if you can, like maybe a dozen other franchise are trying.
During all of this crazy trade talk, the name Jimmy Butler has been mentioned a lot. For all of his offensive deficiencies, Jimmy is in my mind the best LeBron defender in the league. It is worth noting that any road to the finals goes straight through LeBron. So how willing do you think the Bulls are to part with Jimmy? Personally, even if it's for a superstar, I'm doing everything I can to make sure I keep him. Who else on the team would guard James? Tony Snell? Maybe in a few years if he bulks up. But if the Bulls want to win now, I believe Jimmy has got to be a part of it.
Sam: That’s the problem with not having a deep roster. It’s also the Carmelo issue the Knicks had. Yes, it’s great to get a star, but it’s a team game. The Knicks gave up so much for Anthony that they weren’t able to compete for a title, and then if anything went wrong there was no longer any margin for error. Every team wants to add talent, and so do the Bulls. Maybe you can win with three stars and role players. But Miami had the best player in the league. LeBron makes up for a lot. Love isn’t that kind of player, and we don’t know if Derrick Rose will be that again. He says he will and we all hope he will. The Bulls would miss Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler if they were not with the team, especially because both Love and Anthony are regarded as weak and indifferent defenders.
We know that it be hard to try to get Melo or Love to the Bulls, but do you think that there would be a possibility that we could have Deng return to the Bulls?
Sam: I’d doubt it as then you’d have to say no to Mirotic and I believe he wants to come to the Bulls this summer.
Can you please explain to me why so many people say that Thibs doesn't play or develop rookies. It is an argument that I can't figure out. As far as I can recall, he had Jimmy Butler, Teague, and Snell. They all played, most complained that Teague and Snell were on the court. I don't understand it. He developed Rose into an MVP, Deng and Noah into all-stars, Butler and Gibson into valuable players.
Sam: Sometimes the negative is a better story whether it squares with the reality or not. No NBA coach is into development. When they say they are it’s an excuse for losing. Coaches play veterans if they can. They like kids to show they can play and will compete. When those players have, Thibs has shown he’ll play them. I have no issues with his use of young players. He wants to win badly, as we know. If you can play, he’ll play you. It’s up to you to demonstrate that you deserve more time. Now it’s on Snell to show that. He hasn’t yet.
Are the Bulls interested in Emeka Okafor for the veterans minimum? Is he even healthy?
Sam: Interesting name. Sure, we haven’t heard from him all season, though with those nice Phoenix winters I guess it’s a good place to rehab. If he is healthy I assume he’d want and get more than the minimum. Though he’s certainly worth a look at the right price.
I saw an article on Bleacher Report, that said that the Bulls are in contract negotiations with Nikola Mirotic, any truth to that rumor? I saw a 15 minute video that detailed his strengths and weaknesses. I love his offensive game and his outside shooting. With Weight training, he could really be outstanding hope we get him over here asap, to get him ready for 2014-15.
Sam: Yes, quite the scoop as they’ve pretty much been in negotiations with him for three years. They haven’t pushed him, but they do talk to his representatives regularly as all NBA teams do with the players they have drafted who have not come to the NBA yet. Mirotic has yet to say what he plans to do next season and the Bulls, obviously, remain uncertain as well amidst all the Carmelo and Love possibilities.
I thought that the Cavs traded their #1 pick to Chicago for Luol Deng, so why don't the Bulls have the #1 overall pick?
Sam: Yeah, how’d we miss that. The picks the Bulls acquired in the Deng deal were top 12 protected from the Kings this season, so the Bulls didn’t get it. As a reminder, this is the way that pick goes: Protected for Kings 1-10 in 2015, 1-10 in 2016 or 1-10 in 2017; if Sacramento has not conveyed a first round pick to Cleveland by 2017 then Sacramento will instead convey its 2017 2nd round pick to Cleveland and on to the Bulls. The Bulls also get to swap its own 2015 first round draft pick with the Cavs own 2015 first round draft pick (only in the case that the Cleveland 2015 first round draft pick is between 15 and 30) and get the Portland Trail Blazers 2015 and 2016 second round draft picks.
I'm trying to get a feel for Mirotic's value: how big a contract to sign him, and where would Mirotic be ranked if he were in this draft class? 8th-10th? Where do you see his upside, ranging from bust to All-Star?
Sam: In that range sounds right. I’d say a mid-level exception type deal works for both sides as his priority also has to be to start the clock going toward his first free agency and big money if he plays to that level. I think he’ll be very good.
What would it take to get Doug McDermott into a Bulls uniform? I know the Bulls like him. Do you think we could give our two picks to a team like Cleveland and move up 6 or 7 spots to get their pick?
Sam: I can see being able to move up three or four spots, but not into the top 10. The Bulls still should be able to get a decent shooting guard at No. 16, though moving up a few spots with two picks is not out of the question. I’d do that if I could as you don’t want too many rookies on the team with also the chance to add Mirotic.
Everyone has Joel EmbiId going number 1 in this draft. However, I see him falling down to at least number 4.No body is taking a risk with centers these days. Remember Hasheem Thabeet? I was just going through Thabeet’s pre-draft assessments. This is what people were saying:
Strengths: Jim Calhoun called Thabeet “one of the most dominant players in the history of college basketball,” and it’s hard to disagree … Had Thabeet returned for his senior year, he likely would have broken the NCAA career-record for blocked shots (he left UConn 118 behind the all-time leader, Wojciech Mydra of Louisiana-Monroe)… Averaged 4.5 blocks per game as a junior, but altered about eight or nine more … Has impeccable timing and athleticism for someone 7-foot-3 … Is extremely mobile for someone his size. Often beats guards down the court … Jumpshot improved considerably in his three years at UConn. Towards the end of his junior year, Thabeet began to take—and make—12-15 foot jumpshots within the offense … Has a soft touch and a good stroke. With some polishing, there’s reason to believe Thabeet can be a consistent mid-range shooter at the next level … Shot just 63 percent from the free throw line, but shoots it with confidence and an excellent motion for a bigman and should be able to increase that number to the mid-to-high 70s throughout his career … Has a good nose for the ball on the boards … Tremendous lateral quickness for a player his size. Can guard smaller players out to the 3-point line … Is a bit stronger than he appears. Overall, Thabeet has a scary combination of size and athleticism that doesn’t come along often … Upside is tremendous.
Joel Embiid falls down a few spots for his own good.
Sam: It’s a valid point, though few pro scouts at the time, as I recall, had Thabeet quite that high. And, yes, Darko was a No. 2 overall pick. But if you fail at four that’s still pretty bad. At this point, yes, the scouts are saying he’s special. And really, really special. I don’t see these guys much and, yes, he didn’t play that much the end of the season because he was injured. We have heard that before with big men. It’s why if you had any hesitation, to me the No. 1 would be Jabari Parker. It’s who I’d probably take. When I did my mock draft this week I wrote who I thought they would take as I always do in mock drafts.
Do you think there is any chance the Bulls might trade someone for Jabari Parker or one of the draft picks?