Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 06.10.11
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As a Bulls fan should I even bother looking at the draft? You've mentioned a few times how Thibs doesn't play rookies. There seems to be a few players who could fall the to end or round 1 that could supply a little O to the second string, any chance we get one or two and they see the court next year?
Sam: Sure, I'm going to be paying attention. I love the draft. The Bulls have been very low key about the draft because they truly have no idea who'll even fall to them with picks so low, Nos. 28 and 30. They've probably had about 30 guys in already for workouts and they'll likely pick a guard with one of the picks. You can probably look among guys like Charles Jenkins, Shelvin Mack, Nolan Smith, Scotty Hopson, David Lighty and maybe even someone like Marshon Brooks, who is expected to go much higher and probably won't get to the Bulls. That's also one issue. No one has any idea how far guys fall and who's available. They probably would like to find a European with one of those picks who'll come in a year or two, like Asik. They also have the No. 44 pick. I don't expect anyone they pick to be in the rotation next season, but you do need to build a roster and perhaps they can get a player or two who can find a way into the rotation in a few years. After all, this is not considered a great draft and 28 picks in you are not exactly getting high level talent.
I understand the consensus around the league is that Brandon Roy is done and that the Blazers even asked him to retire. But, I still believe that given his age (only 26), he can regain some form and be a 15 points per game scorer and solid defender in this league. With that being said, I know the Blazers would love to get out from under his contract. Would the Bulls take a big chance and trade Carlos Boozer's bad contract for Brandon Roy and maybe Portland's 1st round pick? The trade would allow Taj to move into the starting lineup where I think he belongs and if Roy could get back what he had, the Bulls would have maybe the best backcourt in the league. He did show flashes in the playoffs like when he scored 24 points in a Game 4 win against Dallas. Boozer would probably start at the 4 for Portland if they moved Aldridge to center. Any hope of something like this or have I really lost it this time?
Sam: Lost it. As for Roy, if the Blazers want him to retire, which I'm not sure is true, then why would the Bulls believe he could play? And then give them a guy who can, though maybe not as well as you'd like. The Bulls had a chance to draft Roy when they took Tyrus Thomas and eliminated Roy from contention because of serious knee issues they were told would substantially shorten his career. Sometimes it doesn't happen, like with Sean Elliott, but more often it does and it's too bad for Roy. He doesn't have the stability in his knees apparently to ever recover. I'm purposely avoiding mentioning the Tyrus pick. Meanwhile, I probably should get something clear for reader: The Bulls like Boozer. They are not trading him. Yes, they wish he had a better playoffs. But they feel he was a big part of getting 62 wins and after a disjoined season in which he missed all of training camp and barely played with Noah all season given then Noah's surgery. My sense is they are not entertaining any low ball offers with Boozer and I'd be shocked if Boozer isn't with the team this season and the Bulls shop him around. My sense is they want to see what they have with a full season with Boozer and Noah, assuming they can get that.
I heard another rumor today that the Bulls are among few teams that inquired about Monta Ellis. Is it possible for a deal before June 30th? I heard comments about how both Rose and Ellis demand the ball, and can't coexist in the back court together. Reminds me of "Wade-LeBron can't play together" talk before the season, and now they are two games away from a championship. The Bulls can make it work. Is a trade possible without unloading Noah? Do you think an offer of Boozer, Asik, Brewer, and picks would be enough?
Sam: The Bulls in recent years, like many teams, have had talks regarding Ellis. Now it seems obvious given Jerry West's comments of late that the Warriors will move one of their small guards, mostly likely Ellis. My sense is the Bulls are not a serious player regarding Ellis given they'd likely have to give up at least Noah. And say they wanted Deng, which I would be surprised given they have a solid three in Dorell Wright, who would play small forward and especially defend the other team's best guy, as Deng does. Although I like Ellis with Rose given the explosiveness of the backcourt, I don't think the Bulls are thrilled with that kind of guard given his size and his lack of defensive ability or interest. Plus with what you'd have to give, Noah or Deng, at least, with maybe Asik, you'd then so compromise your defense and give up your shot blocking at the basket. So you'd become the Warriors. They want to become the Bulls by getting rid of Ellis. What I've heard is the Warriors have little interest in the Bulls roster beyond Rose and just maybe Noah.
There has been a trade proposal. We are offering David Lee and Monta Ellis for Carlos Boozer, Asik, Kyle Korver, 3 million cash, and that 28th and 30th pick. That trade talk has been circulating around the bay area for the past day or so." Is that in any way, shape or form true?
Sam: Not sure which Warriors message board that's from, but are you sure the Warriors aren't throwing in the cable cars?
I was glad to hear Jeff Van Gundy's criticism of all the flopping compared to Reggie Miller's glorification of LeBron's wink to the camera. If I wanted to watch sports acting I'd be a wrestling fan instead of an NBA fan. That said, what is your opinion of the NBA sending a memo to all the teams letting them know that while the referees have an incredibly difficult job and may not be able to distinguish a flop from a foul during the heat of a game, the league would begin to review game tapes next season and players with a repeat pattern of flopping would get zero benefit of any questionable calls. Hopefully this would clean the game up without any rule changes. I think almost all fans would rather watch legitimate baskeball moves and plays than an endless parade to the free throw line.
Sam: I am unaware of such a memo, though I'd certainly welcome it. And say it's well past time. A few years ago the NBA said it was going to crack down on flopping and begin suspending guys. I'm still waiting for the first time. I've discussed this with referee friends often and ask why they continue to reward guys for running halfway across the court and falling down and falling for all these dramatics. Plus, everyone knows who the floppers are. Defense, to me, is moving your feet, staying in front of your man, not running around and jumping in front of someone. And then snapping your head back and falling down no matter the level of contact. The NBA could end this in a second as the referees merely are following what the league is asking them to do. It's the league's fault and up to the league to rectify this situation that has become so obvious they even notice it on the TV broadcasts. Actually, Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy really are good.
I read an article Iverson wants return to NBA. I know he is not the Answer like before, but I think he could be what the Bulls need if he can accept a sixth man role to score and lead our second team. I think today he can accept he's not the same player he was 10 years ago and not have much options to return. How about receive a chance to have a shot to a ring with a up and coming team? Can this work?
Sam: What, Marbury's not available? I seem to recall the Pistons, Grizzlies and 76ers were among the teams who believed Allen was at the stage of his career where he certainly would understand and become that willing sixth man. What's that definition of madness? Doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Coaches often say there's nothing more difficult than coaching a star on the way down, even one who is rational. Allen has had a great career and coming back to help ruin a fourth team probably is not the best idea.
I can't think of a realistic signing at shooting guard who helps the Bulls beat Miami. Both Bogans and Brewer did an excellent job defensively on Wade, but couldn't spread the floor enough and create shots enough to overcome Miami's talent. Yes, the Bulls need another superstar, but only Miami was really able to counter the Bulls defense with great talent. Given the realistic constraints of money, fit and availability, the Bulls don't need to make a panic move. I would wait until the new CBA is set in place. This will give the Bulls financial clarity and will also bring about new trade possibilities. I also think we need to see the next progression in Rose's game. Does he become a 40% three point shooter? Does he develop a midpost post game? These additions to his game also change the calculus for the Bulls. Perhaps the best part of Rose's game is how losing drives him to get better. Let's see what happens this summer with Rose's game. We also need to see how Noah's, Gibson's, and Asik's offensive games develop.
Sam: Is that you again, Gar? The Bulls know their issue and they'll try to upgrade that position. But the sense I get is something like your view, that's it's going to be easier said than done and not likely to take any shape before the labor deal is agreed to. The problem then is after the settlement in 1999, teams had just a few days to make deals and sign free agents before starting, so there wasn't much change. Although we'll hear of plenty of rumors and teams certainly are exchanging proposals, there seems to be a lot of uncertainty because of the labor issue. Since no one knows the new rules, teams don't seem that anxious at this point to make all that many moves, especially taking on contracts. It narrows the field some. If the Bulls make any sort of significant move, I suspect it will be after the new agreement is ratified.
I've heard Michael Beasley is on his way out of T'Wolves. He can play SF/PF so we can put Lu to SG. We can trade Gibson for him and still have a PF insurance just in case Booz get hurt. Would he be a good fit?
Sam: I usually stay away from erratic personalities, which doesn't fully explain my fascination with politics. And his defense is horrible. Beasley, not the latest politician explaning his latest scandal. Beasley would make Boozer look like Scottie Pippen. He can score, though. The larger issue would be he makes $6.2 million, which you'd have to match. OK, that's possible as you'd give up Watson or Brewer and some of the expiring deals the Bulls picked up, like Butler and Pargo. The problem is it basically would be a rental as with Rose's extension and the new labor agreement it would be unlikely you'd be able to resign him. So what's the point of picking up a scorer off the bench, which is what Beasley really is, who is one of the league's poorest and most indifferent defenders and who has had a series of personal issues and very poor work habits. Could the Bulls be that desperate?
How do you think Kevin Love would fit in with the Bulls? Is there any chance the Bulls could put a package together to get him? He doesn't seem happy in Minnesota, and he would be a major upgrade over Noah. Teams would not be allowed to lay off him and leave him unguarded as they did with Noah.
Steven J. McSweeney
Sam: Given he's their only All-Star, I assume they'd want Rose. I'm trying to print only a few of these let's say not well thought out trade proposals. I got a few like this suggesting Gasol for Boozer, to which I answer the same. Here's my test: Be the other team and see if you want (insert Boozer, Gibson, etc.) for their best player or an All-Star. If you were rooting for that team would you take that guy for your best player or one of your All-Stars? If not, try to come up with something reasonable. By the way, if you are suggesting Love for Noah, I'd say a front court of Boozer and Love wouldn't give up more than 150 or 160 points every game.
While watching these Finals I thought to myself "too bad Wade did not come to the Bulls." It could have been the best backcourt ever assembled!
Sam: It's why I wrote several articles last spring and summer about why Wade should come to the Bulls. Plus the Bulls still had enough money to add LeBron and still have Rose, Deng and Noah. Now, wouldn't that have been a better team than Miami has now or ever will have? Still, I think they will win the title, so I guess they weren't wrong.
If there are no major changes to the salary cap in the new CBA (i.e. no hard cap) would the Bulls consider going after Ben Gordon? Detroit is under new management, possibly looking to rebuild, and with ben not exactly lighting the place up, the Bulls have expiring pieces like Korver and Brewer. While he's not a major upgrade he can (and will) shoot and while he may not defend Dwyane Wade well he would probably balance out better than Brewer/Bogans by scoring/keeping the defenders honest at the other end.
Sam: Again, it's a financial issue considering Rose's extension. To go for someone like Gordon you'd have to get rid of some long term money, which means Noah, Boozer or Deng. It's not about paying the luxury tax. It's about the likely limitation on payroll in the new labor deal, especially long term. To get Gordon, the Bulls would have five salaries of at least $10 million or more in 2014 with Ben more than $13 million. And we know Ben is a sixth man. There's no chance the new labor agreement would allow such extravagance for one team. Though the Bulls are not down on Ben. After next season, they likely could get Kirk Hinrich for $10 million less. I assume that would be a much higher priority.
As far as SG possibilities go, what about Stephen Jackson? He's big, versatile, can get his own shot, defends and is a decent shooter. MJ has shown a willingness to deal with the Bulls and I'd be surprised if they wanted a lot in return. Would Brewer, Bogans and a late 1st round pick be enough? I'm guessing the reason his name doesn't come up often is his reputation as an attitude problem, but I've also read that his teammates all love him.
Sam: His name comes up from time to time as well, though Charlotte may be able to absorb some money being under the salary cap. So it is theoretically possible even without salaries matching. He's got the talent and size even though he's older at 33 and obviously somewhat difficult to deal with. The larger issue is he has two more years left at about $10 million. Until the Bulls know the new labor rules, if they were to take on a contract's like Jackson without giving up a matching contract there would be a chance they wouldn't be able to extend Rose and risk losing him. Everyone seems to feel whenever there's an agreement there'll be a year to phase in. But Jackson's deal runs through 2012-13 and it would be a risk to take on a contract like that as it could mean losing Rose after next season. I would guess that wouldn't happen, but is it worth the risk?
I know there is a lot of talk about Ellis, Mayo, Rip Hamilton and other guards names are mentioned as possibly being our starting shooting guard next year but I think the shooting guard is already on the team and it will be Rasual Butler. He is a career 36% shooter from 3 point range and 40% from the field. He has size and would come rather cheap. I know he didn't get much playing time this year but I thought if Tibbs would have played him, he might would have made a difference.
Sam: It could come to that and remains a possibility. I believe the Bulls offseason priority is to improve at shooting guard. At the same time, they don't have much they want to give up without ruining what they have. So I consider Butler an alternative.
It was suggested in game 4 that Wade might be the 3rd best SG ever. I thought that was a bit of hyperbole, but during my 20 so years of watching, that would be true. Where does he rank on your list?
Sam: It is hard sometimes to rank guys before their careers are over as while they are playing they look better than guys who are not playing. It depends on what position you consider some guys as well. Obviously there's Jordan and I have Jerry West and Kobe Bryant next. Wade could be after that with Clyde Drexler.
As much as I love Joakim Noah, I wonder if he might be the most logical to trade? I believe Asik and Gibson can fill in at center, and there are some big men in the draft, or perhaps Kurt Thomas can be convinced to stay on another year. While losing Noah would hurt, we would get more in return for him than we will for Gibson or Asik, and I believe both are getting better. The closest analogy I can think of was when the Bulls traded Charles Oakley for Bill Cartwright. Losing Charles hurt, but Bill filled a need and it made room for Horace Grant.
Sam: I doubt he's untouchable, but you probably don't want to over react to losing or to Noah not playing as well since his return from thumb surgery. I think it would be a big risk to trade Noah unless you get someone like Dwight Howard, which I think is impossible. All I hear is Howard is leaving the Magic. OK. The big markets, New York, Chicago, L.A. and Miami all are capped out. So Howard wants to leave. OK, where's he going? Minnesota? Sacramento? This is not like last summer when so many top teams had cap room. The top market teams have committed for the next two or three years. Howard's not going to have anywhere to go, and then if for some reason Orlando caves in — why would they? — then there's no way they trade him in the East and have to see him in the first round instead of the Finals.
Omer Asik played great this season, and obviously a lot of teams now have interest in him. His potential is unlimited. Do you think the Bulls will try and use him as trade bait for a much needed shooting guard, or will they try to keep him, and eventually bring him into a starting role? One possibility is Noah moving into his natural position at 4, and Asik coming into the 5 spot. If Asik can develop a strong inside game on offense, I can see him as being a force to reckon with. Boozer will add a large amount of scoring to the bench, and the bench mob will be stronger than ever.
Sam: First of all Boozer is not going to the bench. He is a starter, sees himself that way and so do the Bulls. My sense is the Bulls want to hang onto Omer. He probably is the team's best rim protector now even in limited minutes. I know everyone wants to get rid of guys for a fancy scorer, but one of the keys to the Bulls defensive success was their ability to close the paint and protect the rim. So you cannot give up those sorts of players easily. The Bulls could upgrade with a player like Courtney Lee or O.J. Mayo in a second by offering Asik. I think that would be a mistake and don't see them doing it. If anything, Asik was underutilized this season, especially in a chance to do anything offensively. I think that ability is there. I'd also like to see more of Asik and Noah at times, which we saw early in the season and not much afterward. You want to improve, but you don't want to mess up what you had. As I noted several times, the Bulls were a bounce here or there from winning Games 4 and 5. There's not that much difference in the teams.
I have just about had it with all the comparisons of LeBron to Jordan and not to mention the Dirk to Bird comparisons. All of that got me thinking though, back when Jordan, Magic, Bird, Hakeem, David Robinson, Ewing, and etc. were playing, were they always compared to someone before them? Say Dr, J? Russell? Wilt? I wonder if it is the media that is trying so hard to relate the current players to a great age for NBA basketball. Basketball that wasn't tainted with publicity lovers and "celebrities/athletes" (James, Wade, Howard). Maybe our culture of self-love has done a number on the sports world as well.
Sam: Today's media is a big part as there wasn't sports talk all day like there is now, to say nothing of all day blogs and twitters and refresh buttons. So when you have to keep talking and trying to get more attention you tend to say or write more things that are attention gathering. It's part of today's culture, true, and, after all, it is just opinion and discussion. Yes, Jordan did get a lot of comparisons with Dr. J and Kareem did get to Wilt, though not every two hours.
I was talking to a person with a professional coaching background and he said he thought the reason Derrick Rose struggled in the playoffs a bit was that teams adjusted/changed their defenses from the regular season and Rose was having trouble recognizing the changes. That struggle led to delays in getting into the offense and subsequently the Bulls were fighting the 24 second clock on too many possessions. Some validity?
Sam: There's no question Rose wasn't perfect and had some issues with the defenses he was seeing and the Bulls were getting too deep into the shot clock at times. Which, Miami, of course, does all the time. But he is 22 and was the best player on the team in the playoffs every game. I'd look elsewhere for issues.
Don't you think the bulls miss everything Tyrus Thomas brought to the table and do you think they will get him back?
Sam: I know, personally, I miss the running drives from the wing in which he throws the ball over the rim, the pull up jumpers with no one under the basket, the moody abusiveness with media and seeing it with teammates, the efforts to block every shot when his man goes in for repeated back door layups, the trotting up court so he can get to half court and be ready on offense when there is a miss. Oh, the good times. Like a first love, it's something you never forget.
What happened to Joakim with his complete loss of offensive confidence driving for those away hand banks/hooks that we're unstoppable in November (15 points per game)?
Sam: The Bulls hope that Noah comes out for the team again next season. Actually, I saw some stats after the season and Noah actually shot better after the injury than before, though he didn't shoot as often. The larger issue was a big reduction in rebounding, shotblocking and steals. He wasn't anywhere near as active and clearly had issues grabbing the ball. It seemed obvious looking back he never gained confidence enough after the thumb surgery and wouldn't risk injuring that thumb again. Plus, because of the frenzy he plays at he always has issues running out of steam early. With missing so many games he likely never was able to get back into condition given the crush of games once he came back after the All-Star break. I know it seems ridiculous, but we saw way too many times Thibodeau having to lift him after a few minutes. The hope is he gets back in condition and his confidence in his finger and hand return by next season.
Noah might have to go if they want to upgrade the SG position. I was looking at the roster and he's the only one I can see being traded, where the Bulls have guys to try and fill his spot. Asik? I'd hate to see Noah go, but we have to be reasonable.
Sam: There is that issue of becoming worse, like the Magic. They realized they couldn't win as they were, so they made a series of big deals. They have the guy really closest to Rose as MVP as far as value to his team in Dwight Howard and now they can't get past the first round. It's the real issue for the Bulls. Sure you need an upgrade at shooting guard and everyone knows that and wants an addition. But you don't want to blow up what you had going, which the Magic did. It's like the Carmelo talk from last season. What most don't realize was it wasn't Noah for Anthony. Because of salaries, it would have been Noah, Deng and Taj for Anthony. Would you do that? No, I wouldn't. The point is if you make the wrong move you aren't in the conference finals needing a shooter. The Bulls played three quarters of the season without their starting lineup. Perhaps they should take a look at it once for maybe at least a half season.