Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 06.20.2014
Every Friday, Sam Smith of Bulls.com opens his Ask Sam mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
I wanted to ask you what the best scenario is for the Bulls in order for Carmelo Anthony to be a Bull next season?
Sam: For Anthony to decide he wants to play for the Bulls. This really is what it comes down to because he has to play for substantially less money if he comes to Chicago. Yes, people will point to Dwight Howard and say he left an equivalent amount by signing with the Rockets. But he was younger and a center and they last longer. Imagine Anthony in four years at 34 after 14 years in the NBA. Is he getting another big contract? How big a contract do you think Dwyane Wade would get now on the open market at 32? Maybe $5 million? Maybe. Perimeter players go more quickly. So Anthony has to decide to walk away from that fifth year of close to $30 million and more with smaller raises. It’s a lot to ask. And why is it always asked of players? I don’t see many CEOs turning down big bonuses when they ruin their companies. Or the bankers who basically made the recession. I don’t see a lot of teams reducing ticket prices. Why should players take less money so the team (franchise) can have more success? It always seems to be the worker who should sacrifice. The U.S. is a capitalistic country. We’re supposed to seek out the best deal. Who accepts less at the job so the company can be more productive? There’s no guarantee of winning anywhere. Plus, as much as you may make at your job and are happy, don’t you then get upset when someone doing less is making more? That could be remedied with a sign and trade involving Carlos Boozer or maybe Taj Gibson and several other players. I don’t see the Knicks taking any contracts. And how would that look in New York to enhance a rival’s chances while taking back, say, Carlos Boozer? They’re asking a thousand dollars for those lower level seats. Could even Phil Jackson survive that? It’s all up to Anthony.
Now that the Heat has finally been defeated and the breakup may occur, is there any reasonable hope that LeBron could come to the Bulls? It seems the greatest obstacle is Rose. The Bulls with a healthy Rose would appear to be a desirable place for LeBron to go. However with Rose's medical situation the past 3 years makes his dependability very uncertain and LeBron may look elsewhere.
Sam: Well, in 2010 with a healthy Rose, Noah and Taj Gibson and with the chance to come to the Bulls along with Dwyane Wade, James said no. So it has nothing to do with Rose, obviously. He’s not coming to Chicago this summer; or really anywhere. The Heat had a great season. They lost in the Finals, their fourth straight, by the way, a historic run. We said all season they would have trouble winning again because of the strain of going for it four times, losing Mike Miller and the decline of Shane Battier and Ray Allen. So when it happens we’re supposed to be shocked and break up the team? Even if LeBron wanted to “go somewhere to win,” which is the dumb cliché of the era (as if it’s somehow guaranteed elsewhere), there really is no place that even makes sense where they’d have the financial ability without breaking up their team and would make sense for James long term. It’s virtually certain he returns to Miami for at least one more season. They have a full cap exception, which can get a good player. And they are always a good spot for minimum salary veterans. Plus, Wade will have an offseason of treatments and be at least decent another season. If I were Bosh I’d opt out and go to Dallas for a long term deal as he’d be the first traded. But he likes living there, and who can blame him. I’m thrilled just to get there twice a year. And especially with the East so wide open there’s no reason to believe they can’t get back to the Finals again. Plus, you heard a terrific press conference with Pat Riley Wednesday. If you wanted to know what the locker room was like with Pat, that was it. No sugar coating; not making nice. It’s all about challenges. And he’s exactly right. You lose once and you are going to run away? None of the great ones did. Show you can make it better. The same might be said of Anthony. What sort of competitor has one down season and runs away to be with maybe better players to help him?
I know everyone has this infatuation with landing Melo or Love, but I just really think we need to add some offensively skilled role players and have great depth. Unless LeBron James comes knocking on our door saying he wants to play with the bulls I think the Bulls should move on from Melo and Love. Melo has not proven to be a difference maker and has proven to be a ball hog his whole career. It’s not like the Knicks don't have good players. They don't have good ball movement when he's on the court. As for Love, I think we'd be getting a young version of Carlos Boozer. A guy that can score, but not really that efficiently for a big man and can't defend a lick. I really think Taj is the better all-around player. Taj has developed into an offensive threat and is a beast defensively. The Bulls will have the best starting defensive front court in the league next season and it would not surprise me if Taj averaged 20 and 10 as a full time starter getting close to 32-35mpg. Butler is an excellent defender and knows what he needs to work on in the offseason. I believe Tony Snell is going to get better his second year and showed flashes of what he can be. I just don't think the Bulls need to be so hasty in their decision making. A smart draft and some smart role player signings and a healthy rose is all we need.
Sam: Yes, it’s possible it doesn’t work. Not every Big Three does. Houston went for one in the late 90’s with Barkley, Pippen and Olajuwon, and it failed miserably, though they were older. Though not that much older than Garnett and Allen going to Boston. You can also get worse. Love has an injury history, missing at least 10 games in half his seasons. Plus, Minnesota lost more close games last season than any team and he’s a poor defender. I’ve heard general managers describe him as slightly better than Boozer in Utah with a three point shot, where Boozer didn’t defend and averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds in a four year run. You give up Gibson and Butler on a team regarded for defense for a poor defender, amnesty Boozer and maybe bring in Mirotic, another poor defender, and who knows what you have. And you still have no shooting guard. I still think you may have to go for it; if you have a chance to land an All-Star you take it. But there are no guarantees with a player who hasn’t led his team into the playoffs even once in six years. And that’s just being top eight. No one in the West is exactly the 60’s Celtics, 80’s Lakers or 90’s Bulls.
I want to encourage you to strongly promote the addition of Carmelo Anthony to the Chicago Bulls. After watching him firsthand on somewhat rare occasions (though I do live in Denver), I found him to be hard-working and industrious, a brilliant floor tactician, and always watching out for his fellow teammates. A chap who will never take a shot unless it's for the betterment of his team. Plus, he has a wife whose only priority in life is to promote the career of Mr. Anthony. Clearly, you cannot go wrong with such a choice. I know he is criticized on occasion for not being defensive minded, but I attest to the fact that I actually saw him once try to block an opposing player before realizing his limitations, and humbly backing off. Ever so sincerely.
Sam: Is this sarcasm? I thought that was my job.
So if Melo tells the Knicks he's leaving don't they have to agree to a sign and trade? Sure they won't want to help him get more money but it makes awful business sense to not get anything for him if they have the chance. The Cavs and Raptors did the same thing with LeBron and Bosh so they at least got some compensation for them when they were going to lose them anyway. Would the Knicks take back Boozer & Dunleavy (both expiring) plus the Bulls two first round picks this year and a future first? The money matches and if that wasn't enough the Bulls could include their trade exceptions and take back Felton's contract... Either trade seems to be a great haul for Melo when comparing to what the aforementioned teams got for James and Bosh.
Sam: I don’t happen to agree you take back anything. You call Anthony’s bluff. And if he goes, he goes. Pat Riley made that point to his Big Three today as well: “We’ll survive. Life will go on without you. We’ve been down before and come back. But will you stand up to a challenge and not run away for the easy way out. Michael didn’t, Magic didn’t, Bird didn’t. You want to be considered an all-time great. Act like it!” Phil Jackson’s plan revolves around free agency, not draft picks. If he loses Anthony he’s not making the playoffs, so you ride it out, save your money and then hit free agency. I happen to think Anthony would be a great addition. Without doing anything major other than amnesty to Boozer, the Bulls have maybe $11 million or $12 million in cap room. They could give away players like Butler and Dunleavy , though to do so you generally have to add a draft pick, thus losing their two as they had to do with Kirk Hinrich in 2010. By the way, the two picks after their No. 17 pick that season used by Washington were Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley, who would have been nice to have along with Hinrich. Gibson probably won’t cost you a pick, but does Anthony want to decimate another team he’s going to? So there’s a big risk. Then say you are the team and do all that for the free agent. And then what if the guy decides to go elsewhere, like James and Wade and Bosh did in 2010. Say Anthony gives you the wink and says he’ll sign July 11. So you dump all that salary. Maybe Taj Gibson as well. Here’s a guy who begged the Knicks to trade for him, declaring lifetime fealty. Then after one bad season he wants to leave. Would you do all that and then trust him to sign for so much less money? What if LeBron calls him at the last minute July 11 and says, ‘Stay and I’ll join you next summer.” They are buddies. As crazy as it sounds I might still do it. Sometimes you have to take a big risk. You lose you probably are a lottery team. Hey, that’s what they pay the big executives for.
Jo played 80 games this year but was hobbling at the end. His body regularly breaks down and that will continue. But, his stock has never been higher. In a sign and trade for James, we offer Jo and Carlos. That is close enough for matching salaries. What more would it take? Could we do it with just draft choices/Mirotic and keep both Jimmy and Taj?
Sam: Thanks for the memories, eh Jo? I’m sure Pat Riley would just love to ship LeBron James to an Eastern rival, who by the way denied him about five titles, for a player who averages barely more points than Udonis Haslem. I think the Bulls might agree, but it’s safe to say Noah is not going anywhere and will remain a Bull for a long time. He and Rose remain basically untouchable.
The Bulls trade Boozer, Dunleavy, No.19, and Gibson to the Lakers for the No.7 pick in the draft. The Lakers get what they need in quality players that Kobe can play with, two bigs when they currently have none, coachable players, and two contracts that come off the cap after this season. This frees up the money for Melo and other free agents to sign with the Chicago Bulls.
Sam: This will remain my advice for Bulls fans. If it looks too good for the Bulls it is (not happening). I assume you also own a lot of Florida swamp land. The Lakers are not about to use any future cap space for anything but stars like Love, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, etc. They are not interested in next season but the summer of 2015 and 2016 for free agents. As much as we like Gibson, he’s a 29-year-old who never has been a starter and has averaged in double figures once in his career. His value isn’t as high around the NBA as it is here as I think he can produce numbers—without the perimeter shooting—close to what Love might on a team with Derrick Rose having the ball so much.
Carmelo and Kevin Love are big moves to in the making this summer, whom every fan is surely aware. I think the best way to get Carmelo for Chicago is to trade for Love. I think we have the ability that could include Boozer's expiring contract. I say offer the Denver pick, Gibson and Boozer and next year's first round pick for Love. Then we can sign him to a deal extension and that should entice Carmelo, correct? I mean Rose will be playing summer league so Carmelo will be able to see how he's progressing. Rose will not need to force things so he can play healthy and sound in mind. I think Rose, Butler, Carmelo, Love and Noah would be formidable against anything Miami could put together.
Sam: Well, that really is too good to be true. Of course, no way Minnesota takes that and you assume the Bulls already have traded up to get No. 11, which remains a long shot as well. Rarely have teams been able to move up in the NBA draft with picks. The Bulls being so much better next year’s No. 1 is mostly worthless. And, no, Rose isn’t playing summer league, though he’ll probably play in that minicamp the Bulls will have with young players before summer league. Rose doesn’t scrimmage much, so there’s not much to say until he plays the last week of July.
Would it be possible for the Bulls to do something like the Spurs did by not making a big splash for either Anthony or Love and attempting to buck the odds like the Spurs and being great that way? If the Bulls make the trade up in the draft which I like is it possible then to get a shooter at SF and then maybe resign both Kirk, and DJ. The Spurs are a great team with a great coach. The 2004-05 Pistons are a model to also consider who almost beat a Spurs team in 7. Only major issue is Chicago is big money big media it may not fly with either and then fans might not handle it.
Sam: The Bulls have been doing that, the little engine that could team the last five years. They obviously get the most out of their players. And also let’s remember the Spurs though with players in their 30s still start in most games three future Hall of Fame players. So it’s hardly the role player crew. It’s probably time for the Bulls to take a risk and a big jump in that talent lake. But like when they tried in 2010, the water is crowded and often you end up losing your swim trunks. Man, was that tortured. I’m not even sure what it meant, but suffice to say you can try and still come up empty and then go to a 2010-like plan B, which the Bulls may have to do. I do believe the roster no matter will look different next season.
I don't think the Bulls need to be putting their eggs in the Melo/Love basket. There's no need for Anthony or Love in order to win the Eastern Conference. 1. Swap number 19 pick for Shumpert; 2. Draft Payne with number 16; 3. Amnesty Boozer; 4. Go after wildcard Lance but no more than 27 mil for 3 years. Fallbacks are Evan Turner and Stuckey; 5. All players at the end of the roster should be gone except for Greg Smith; 6. Bring back Hinrich and add Thabeet as well.
Sam: The Shumpert part is interesting as the rumors have been the Knicks would give him up for a first round pick. I’d do that. They could want more and there’s salary to match. I believe the Bulls get a chance at some shooting guard at No. 16 and take the best one there. And certainly no Stephenson, a chemistry class explosion. Here’s my other one I wonder about. It’s possible the Timberwolves get to draft day and say the heck with it, are sick of Love’s whining and trade him to the highest bidder. They’d probably like him out of the conference, which gives the Bulls a reasonable shot. Though if the Warriors give up Klay Thompson, as it the latest speculation, they could well do that. It would cost the Bulls, meanwhile, a minimum of Gibson, Butler and both firsts or one first and the rights to Mirotic. The Bulls might have 15 minutes to decide. There was another rumor the other day of Faried, Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo, which the Bulls would be nowhere close to matching. I also think the Timberwolves could say no unless you take a bad contract off their hands, like Kevin Martin at $6.7 million or Chase Budinger at $5 million, though they have a bunch of them. That could put the Bulls out of it as they’d also have to add Dunleavy or maybe just those expiring end of bench deals they added the end of the season. It’s not unreasonable Minnesota could say Love and Martin for Gibson, Butler, Dunleavy and the extra guys like Brewer, Amundson. Plus a pick or two. You have 30 minutes. What do you do?
If the Bulls strikeout on Anthony and Love, who do you see them targeting? Is Eric Gordon a possibility via trade? I know he's undersized for SG, but who cares? The draft will not get them a contributor for next year and as you said, if they add Mirotic, you can only have so many rookies. Rose and Gordon: Quiet in emotion...but loud with scoring and play making. I don't know what they could offer the Pelicans...but just wondering if they are interested in him.
Sam: He’s a Bulls fan favorite and I’m not sure why as he’s always hurt with a huge contract. I assume the Bulls are not interested, though I think you could easily get him. If the Bulls miss on Love and Anthony, I think they get Mirotic, bring back Augustin or Hinrich and thus have a nice front court with Noah, Gibson and Mirotic backup. I say they draft someone who can fit in and play, add a Jodie Meeks type shooting guard (though not necessarily him) and with Rose, Dunleavy and Butler and maybe a backup center like Kevin Seraphin (the pick the Wizards got in the 2010 Hinrich dump) and the Bulls have size, depth, more shooting and a nice chance in the East.
Can you see them at all looking at Patty Mills as a potential back up for Rose? To me, he could have a similar impact as D.J. Augustine did this year. While he will certainly be attracting a higher contract from his current 1.1 million, he is not a starting point guard like D.J. is (or will be looking to be) and would provide the scoring and shooting that the Bulls needs to add to their bench. He has proven himself on the biggest stage – both Olympics (led all teams in scoring) and the NBA Finals and would be a great addition. This all of course, is if San Antonio can’t afford to keep him. He could follow in the great Aussie Chicago Bulls tradition of Luc Longley and Chris Anstey (cough, cough)!!!
Sam: I tend always to avoid the role player who had a great or good Finals. Because everyone is watching the worth gets magnified. Then a team that is not as good picks him up and suddenly he cannot do what he did for the great team because the attention was all on the stars of that team. We saw that with a parade of Bulls like Scott Williams, Jud Buechler, Steve Kerr, Longley and even Scottie Pippen. I assume the Bulls try to bring back Hinrich or Augustin and then perhaps add a point guard in the draft with the No. 19 pick.
It appears that teams are becoming far more sensitive to the salary cap to avoid the penalty and in some cases because of the significant constraints it places on personnel moves (Nets, Knicks, Houston etc.) which leads me to Deng. He was very productive for the Bulls but his trade to Cleveland revealed that he is not an equal asset in all systems. Other teams must question his productivity in their system and factor in his age and injuries. This suggests that the most valuable spot for Deng for both parties is back with the Bulls where he knows the system, the organization and the teammates. At the same time it’s difficult to imagine his free agent value remains at $10,000,000, most probably less. If he wants to be comfortable and accept a modestly lower annual salary, Deng’s best option might be a return to the Bulls after a Boozer amnesty. The press has the Bulls in a strong effort to improve their starting lineup. Do you think the Bulls could be interested in Deng for three years at say $8,500.000?
Sam: I do not. I think both parties were upset the way it ended and pride alone would keep Deng from returning. I suspect if he cannot get the big money on a long term deal he’ll take a shorter deal for bigger money, which he should get given the relatively few major free agents this summer.
I would be extremely surprised if you haven’t been asked this recently, but what are your thoughts on any of the 90’s Bulls championship teams vs this year’s Spurs championship team? I realize it’s difficult to compare the game from era to era.
Sam: I don’t usually get into this kind of thing much as there are no answers; just personal opinions. Not to take anything away from the Spurs as they finally are getting the credit nationally that they so long deserved, but Miami was a broken team held together by one great star that came through the East at perhaps its weakest ever. Still, the Spurs came through a very tough West and proved to be the best team. But Miami’s defense was exhausted and unable to compete even at a modest level. The Bulls long armed defenders would have made all those shots much more difficult and the Bulls always had size, which Miami didn’t. You can’t condemn Miami as they were in four Finals. But playing Bosh outside like that still has made no sense and the Spurs dominated the boards with relatively weak big men. The Bulls obviously were far superior, but given most of their players are now in the 50’s, I’d say the Spurs would have beaten them last week as well.
If the Bulls can't land a star this off season, they will have several fallback options. I don't like Lance Stephenson on the team because he is a poor shooter. Do you think the Bulls could take a chance trading up, or signing a player like Michael Beasley?
Sam: I also thought the Heat did a poor job with Beasley, who could score. No matter what people say about Tom Thibodeau not using his bench, I say he would have played Beasley. Anyone who can score that much has to be able to get in games for you. But at least this should get Jeff Van Gundy to stop for 10 minutes talking about Erik Spoelstra’s Hall of Fame career.
Do you think Rose would be willing restructure his contract in order to allow the bulls more flexibility if he also had a no trade clause?
Sam: I answer this one from time to time. It is not permitted under NBA rules agreed to by both the owners and players. A contract cannot be changed even if the player wants to do it without giving up the entire contract. What I suggest is all those people writing me suggesting that ask for pay cuts at their jobs, which are permitted, because companies have been struggling since the recession.
I'm really surprised by the lack of Derrick Rose news. Maybe Bulls fans and the media have been conditioned to having him injured these past few years so it's a non-story. Or maybe everyone stopped asking the questions because Gar and Thibs are going to come out with the same talking points of, "He's right on schedule with his rehab," and "Rose remains a big part of this team moving forward," and so on. I know the Bulls organization is good at keeping things from the media, but man, I didn't know they were this good. Have you heard any news off this typical Gar/Thibs script? Is he currently 100%? Is he a shoe-in for Team USA? Do you expect him to come back the same or stronger? Is he changing his reckless style of play to lessen the load on his knees? Are his knee injuries hindering big free agents from wanting to take the gamble of playing alongside an injury prone star?
Sam: He is right on schedule with his rehab because he is a big part of the team moving forward. There is no news because he is right on schedule with his rehab. And he does remain a big part of the team moving forward. He works out every day but is not ready to play yet. He plays with nowhere near NBA talent, so it’s really just a continuation of the rehab process. I think he plays in the Bulls’ July minicamp and then the news will be when USA Basketball starts its camp. But after what occurred last season I think we all can agree nothing much matters until we see Rose go through a season or a big part of one. This latest injury wasn’t as serious. It’s more than two years since the ACL with no trouble there. Everything is going fine. But it doesn’t matter until he plays against NBA competition. It have heard privately that he eats lunch most days; dinner as well. And sleeps at night.
Where would you rank Anthony Davis among all NBA players in terms of value moving forward? The Pelicans are pretty much locked into a roster with Davis, Gordon, Holiday, Evans, Anderson for the next 2 years. On paper a pretty good looking lineup offensively if they could only find a way to stay healthy. If Davis ascends to an MVP level player, which doesn't seem like that much of a leap in my opinion, could this team suddenly become a threat to win a title?
Sam: I had them as a playoff team last season until injuries hit. They have a lot of talent and Davis is on the way to being a top five player in the league. They need a center to save Davis’ wear and tear. I still cannot understand why they basically gave away Robin Lopez and saved Portland’s season and franchise, probably, as it looks now like LaMarcus Aldridge will stay as he finally got big man protection. That’s one issue for teams trying to acquire Love. The Timberwolves also are considering that Portland was in the same situation with Aldridge last year, didn’t panic and now it looks like he’ll resign. Maybe Love will. It seems unlikely, but I believe that still remains an option for them. We could know a lot more by Thursday. The interesting part is Flip Saunders with his offensive type game is the ideal coach for someone like Love.
If LeBron was smart, he would have his "camp" get Gilbert to give an ownership stake to Maverick Carter, then LeBron could come back and pick his coach, his GM, and Carter would already be in charge of Basketball Operations. Then "wink-wink" LeBron would also get an ownership stake at retirement. The Cavs draft the Kansas Center, LeBron makes Irving, Bennett, Thompson better and they pick up McGrady in the second round. I guess I should have said if Gilbert was smart, he would back channel through World Wide Wes to the Kentucky Coach to Carter to LeBron.
Sam: I see a devious mind working there. I like it. One of the scenarios for the Cavs was to pick Embiid and have Irving as a one-season off Broadway play for LeBron to watch and then if he likes it return. I suspect that’s also why they have not named a coach as they may be hoping for LeBron to send a signal. I think the plan would work if Gilbert would sell the team to Maverick and the guys. I think the one LeBron may be waiting to get out of there before returning is Gilbert. Though now with Embiid hurt, you assume the Cavs in having to avoid another draft embarrassment go with Jabari Parker. Though that shouldn’t preclude anything potentially affecting LeBron as he can obviously play anywhere. The Jazz, meanwhile, are going to go big to try to get Parker, who is an active member of the LDS church and they see as the future face of the franchise. I assume they trade their No. 5 pick and pretty much anyone else. It all does liven up the draft as well for the question of how far Embiid, who could have or would have been the No. 1 pick, will or could fall. The speculation is he could get to Boston and the Lakers at Nos. 6 or 7, or since the 76ers are planning to dump another season maybe No.3 as that would merely further aid their plan of having fewer players to play.