Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 06.24.11
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.
This will be my last Ask Sam for the season. Thanks for all the questions and interest, and finally for a reduction in Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson requests. I'll be back when the NBA is back.
I liked what the Bulls did in acquiring the rights for Mirotic and drafting Jimmy Butler. I didn't quite understand what was going on in Sacramento, though. They already had Evans and Thornton in the backcourt, then they drafted the Jimmer (who plays on the ball), Tyler Honeycutt, and reacquired Salmons. Thornton is a free agent, if I am not mistaken, restricted, but with the wing players they brought in last night, could you see him becoming available for a sign and trade, if the right offer came along? Maybe Brewer or Korver and a draft pick (though Sac. could probably get someone better in return). Drafting the Jimmer just didn't make sense to me for the Kings...
Sam: It sounded like an ownership selection, as I suggested. Fredette clearly was the most popular player in a not so great draft, and it can work as they don't want Evans exclusively playing point guard. So they can have dual ballhandling responsibilities. Salmons probably is best as a small forward, though I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to move him somewhere, though I admit they took on that long term contract, though it declines over the next five years. Five! Ouch. It does open up their small forward situation and maybe they look to move Omri Casspi or Francisco Garcia. The Kings are going to keep Thornton, whom a lot of teams whiffed on when he was available early last season. The price then went up later as he was dealt for Carl Landry and finished strong with the Kings. They do have the chance to have a high scoring, entertaining, no defense group with Paul Westphal, so perhaps that draws fans. I don't see Fredette as a starter with Evans returning, but a good three guard rotation. But some of these moves opens things up for a team like the Bulls searching for a wing shooter. It's not preferable to make Luol Deng a shooting guard, but it's not out of the question if you can get another two/three to play him with. I think there are going to be plenty of possibilities coming out of the labor deal.
Why did Chicago trade up to just get the draft rights to Nikola Mirotic? I can understand looking to the future, but it seems ridiculous to trade up just to get the draft rights that the Bulls probably won't buy out his contract for three or four years. It seems especially ridiculous when the Bulls need a two guard and a player like Marshon Brooks was available. What's more is that a point guard was drafted with the second pick which is a bit confusing since it seems like we're relatively solid at that position. Were the right players drafted? Should Chicago have drafted Brooks instead?
Sam: I'm OK with going for Mirotic, though it's always a risk and no one will see the results of it for two or three years, at least. He's still a teenager, I think, so it's a building block for the future. The Bulls say he'll be great, so we'll see. After all, you can't spend all your money each year. There are no NBA bailouts. They didn't want to have two rookie guaranteed contracts, which I agreed with, and I've heard that coach Tom Thibodeau made it clear he didn't want rookies on the team, certainly no more than one, that there were enough young players already. So there was no point in loading up on draft picks and young players if the coach didn't want them. So then it makes sense to get some pieces for the future. Remember, Phil Jackson basically refused to play any draft picks. Yes, the Bulls need that shooting guard, but the Bulls made the determination a guy like Brooks wasn't good enough to step in as a starter on a 60-win team, and I agree. The Bulls, in effect, said they can do better.
The Bulls screwed up big time. What are they doing? They waste a draft pick on Dalibor Bagaric, when he's not going to play or fill a need, and they pass on Marshon Brooks, who fills a need A long athletic 2 that that can create his own shot and has a 7 foot 1 wingspan is something to take a chance on in a weak draft at the end of the first round! There is no guarantee that Brooks would've been the answer, but if anyone was going to fill that need in the late first round it was him and only him. The Bulls had nothing to lose and they blew it. If I'm Derrick Rose i'm scratching my head that the Bulls didn't go for it and that he'll be stuck with Keith Bogans and the soft Kyle Korver for another year. What a joke.
Sam: I always like to include the occasional rant, though it was interesting to me how many fans liked this Brooks. We'll get a chance to watch him over the next few years and see if they did make a mistake. Brooks is considered an awful defender, so there's a big question of whether Thibodeau ever would have played him. And maybe now you can pry loose someone like Anthony Morrow from the Nets.
For picking as low in the draft as the Bulls did, I can't be happier with what they did. When I read about Butler before the draft I thought that he'd be the perfect player for the Bulls to draft. He knows what hard work is all about and has his head on straight. I'm excited to see what he becomes in the next three to five years. And getting a European who might turn into a valuable asset in a few years without needing to use a roster spot on him is great too. Given where they picked, the Bulls did really well.
Sam: I think I'll pass on Alex Green's email to you and you guys can work it out.
I think Jimmy Butler is a great pick. Any chance that he was drafted to maybe convert to shooting guard? or strictly as a backup to Luol Deng?
Sam: I believe the Bulls — appropriately — see him as a career backup type, which if you can get an eventual rotation player from the end of the first round you are doing well, someone like Taj Gibson. I don't see Butler as a shooting guard with the abilities to make those plays. He seems more the defensive perimeter guy with his offense coming inside, though I believe him when he says he'll work on that shot until he drops. Perhaps he's no Marshon Brooks, but I expect he'll be a huge fan favorite of the Scalabrine nature. But playing more.
Are they serious? Jimmy Butler? Good character, but can't shoot, can't score. All this character mess... We need some one who can put the bucket in the basket That how we going to construct our team huh" All good guys? But we can't score. So maybe w ecan beat the Knicks. This stinks.
Sam: OK, maybe not everyone will love him.
The bulls shoulda traded both picks for rudy fernandez. terrible.
Sam: Well, I did like Rudy before last season and suggested trading for him last summer. He did have a poor season, but I might have taken a shot. The Bulls could have gotten him and did talk with the Trail Blazers, but they decided they didn't want him. They seemed to feel his combination of erratic behavior (he kept moaning last season of being homesick for Spain) and his worst season suggested he wasn't the guy to take over that shooting guard position. Plus he's a notoriously poor defender. I don't think the coaching staff was anxious for him, either. In doing so the Bulls said they could do better, so you should hold them to that.
How many teams in the NBA are in position to make a 1st round draft pick and able to wait 2-4 years for that player? Bulls management has put themselves in a position where their draft picks are worth more because they are able to draft lottery talent with lower picks. I remember reading similar things about Asik when they got him. He was borderline lottery talent, at least in their eyes, and he ends up being a second round pick. Credit to management for putting themselves in this position. Some teams can't afford to wait and have to take someone who can play now.
Sam: Yes, there is something to that as it has been one of the secrets of the Spurs, who got Manu Ginobili like that and have done a great job stashing guys in Europe and seeing if they'll develop, generally on someone else's time, which isn't a bad way. I think Tiago Splitter will be good for them as well and he's a guy like that. The Raptors invested heavily on such a guy in this draft, though maybe they were trying to dump the season for next year's No. 1 pick. Like good investments with your portfolio, you don't get the flashy car now, but you may be able to laugh last.
I read your article about the Bulls draft, and you mentioned Stuckey as a possibility. You really prefer Stuckey to Ben Gordon?
Sam: I think we all need to move past Ben. He's moving on as well with changing his number. He has an obscene contract which averaged more than $12 million a year the next three years. Stuckey's deal is expiring at less than $3 million. I don't know what is going to happen in the labor negotiation, but I do know payrolls will be coming down, and the Bulls already have three players with eight figure average salaries for at least the next three seasons, and that's not counting Derrick Rose. The Bulls could be one of the teams most hurt by some sort of severe payroll reduction or hard cap situation. They certainly are in no position to be adding eight figure salary guys like Ben.
I'm curious if it's possible for the Bulls to still acquire Joe Johnson even after the max contract that he recently signed. I would think it would take Taj, Asik, and the Charlotte pick. But to make the money work, what if we also threw in Noah for Horford? I'm sure the Hawks would rather go with the cheaper option in Crawford at SG. But if Noah for Horford can't be added to the deal, then why not just take on the contract and pay the luxury tax? Johnson is the type of player that an organization makes that type of sacrifice for.
Sam: You don't quite understand how it works. You have to match salaries, so that means getting up to $18 million for next season to pay Joe, which would mean maybe Noah, Brewer and Watson. The issue is the length of Joe's deal and the amount. He'll be making $25 million in 2016 when he is 35 years old and with the way the rules are changing your team would then be something like Johnson, Rose and 10 guys from the local YMCA. The train has left the station on Joe. He's not going to be a Bull.
Monta Ellis is clearly the most talented and I'd do almost any deal with Taj, draft picks and Brewer/Korver/Bogans though I don't know if the Bulls have enough to get him and I'm not sure how Rose and Ellis coexist defensively. I'm guessing they'd want Omer and if you're the Bulls you have to give him up for a talent like Ellis? Do you think Ellis would cause huge defensive problems for the Bulls like Ben Gordon did? Is Kevin Martin available for roughly the same deal? Same defensive problems? What do you think Jason Richardson has left and could the Bulls clear enough cap space dumping Brewer and Korver to bring him in? I've always liked his athleticism and scoring ability but haven't followed him as closely the last couple of years. He's a bit bigger, older, less talented... how well can he defend?
Sam: Mentioning trade possibilities for Monta Ellis is a hobby of mine, but there's probably zero chance. The reason is the contracts the Bulls have. Without moving Boozer, Deng, or Noah, the Bulls have basically no chance to take on another big contract given the pending labor changes because of Rose's extension, which they'll offer the maximum as soon as they can. So you — and I — probably need to forget guys like Ellis, Martin and free agents like Jason Richardson, who will command big free agent money. And the Bulls will have no (zero) free agent money to spend spend unless someone takes Noah and Deng into cap space, which nobody has, anyway. So, realistically, the answer to the two guard question likely will be someone of the talent level of a Marco Belinelli. I am not saying it will be Belinelli, but someone like that, better than they have and not as good as you'd want.
I always wondered how trade "rumors" begin. Are 99% of what we hear really started at the water cooler or some bored journalist? Do pro-ball teams have a representative that reports to the media every time they are considering a deal? How can all these "reports" out there even get out in the first place? For example, "Lakers are said to offer Lamar Odom to the Timberwolves for the No. 2 pick." - How would this info get out? Do GM's have a private line or access to every other GM in the league or a yellow pages of sort where just they have access, call them up and talk shop? Are their phones tapped? Someone under the desk listening with a notepad? Are any offers emailed through today to other GM's? I've been caught up in draft day, free agency periods the last 30 years and I am finally just too damn curious how this entire process works. If anyone can explain this the right way to us all, it's got to be you.
Sam: You have come to the right place. I even had an owner ask me this a few days ago when one of his players was mentioned in a deal and he said no one on his staff discussed it with anyone. There are some that start badly as you say, with a couple of guys talking and "what if" becomes "I hear." That's tremendously irresponsible, but there are some major web sites these days which basically have a policy never to admit a mistake and just publish denials, as if that covers them. Plus, it has become a bit of a game to report something with the idea that this is just entertainment reporting and for discussion so what's the harm? There are two ways most rumors begin and one problem is the pressure many media people are under for these internet scoops with the constant refresh button issue. Often a team will call another and propose something, like Odom for Love and No. 2. The other team laughs and says how about Kobe and Pau for Darko. And that's that. But then some scout who heard it in their office tells someone "can you believe the Lakers asked for this?" And technically it is true that is was "discussed." For some media people to get "hits" in this era that's enough as it is true that it was "talked about." The evil underside is agents. That's where much of the ugly stuff comes from. What some of these guys do is leak stuff to reporters in an attempt to embarrass a competitor. So then they pursue their client and tell him that if he changes agents things will be better. Though, after all, it is just discussion. And by now, really, most players and fans have come to understand often it just good talk and talk radio type discussion. The truth also is teams routinely ask other teams about basically everyone on their roster to try to determine the worth of their own players. I have no doubt, for example, the Bulls have mentioned to other teams everyone but Rose to get an idea what the player's value might be. That goes on all year, and what the reporting really shows is how few of these talks ever really get out as opposed to you thinking so many do.
With Jerry Sloan and Phil Jackson out of coaching, who do you consider the top five coaches in the league? Gregg Popovich has to be at the top of the list right? And would Tom Thibodeau be in that list?
Sam: Definitely Popovich, Doug Collins, Doc Rivers — whom I had ranked low a few years ago and he showed me — Scott Skiles and Stan Van Gundy. I'd say Rick Carlisle and George Karl are on the edge and Rick Adelman would be in there but is not working now. I'd rate Mike D'Antoni and Nate McMillen after them. Thibodeau has the chance to crack that group, but has coached just one season.
How about Noah and Boozer for Howard trade? Orlando gets a playoff front court instead of simply losing Howard and a Rose, Deng, Howard big three would be dominant. Throw in Gibson, Asik and maybe we find someone who can hit open jump shots without getting pumelled on defense and I think we have a championship team again. I don't see the downside in this for anyone.
Sam: I know I have answered this one about every week, but I still get them. OK, here's the main reason he's not being traded. He has no leverage. The glamour teams in the major markets, New York, L.A., Chicago, Dallas, all are well over the cap or whatever the new one will be and have no money to spend on a free agent. Think he's taking a minimum deal? Obviously, no. If you think it's all about winning over money, you are not paying attention. Orlando will have the leverage because the teams that basically will have space to recruit someone like Howard in 2012 are Sacramento, Minnesota, Utah, Charlotte, Indiana, Denver. Maybe Memphis, but they have to pay Marc Gasol, so forget them. Maybe Houston, but they'd have to stop spending. So Howard is going to one of those places and has a better chance to win? And who, exactly, wants to go to those places given he's such a popular figure in Orlando. The Magic have a billionaire owner, the newest arena in the league and willingness to do everything to build around him. So he's giving that up to join which of those juggernauts I mentioned? And all with what little cap room they have would be, at best, able to add him and no one else. I hope this finally ends this discussion.
With the NBA free agents signing coming up, we know that the Bulls need to sign a SG. A lot of people think we should go after J.R. Smith, yes Smith can create his own shot, but can he stay out of trouble and grow up?
Sam: Yes, his name will come up again and again and again. I think the Bulls have studiously avoided him in the past given his often outrageous, anti-team behavior and personal problems. He has the talent, but you could see with multiple benchings in Denver how difficult it was to coach him. I suppose the Bulls could become desperate, but I'd hope never that desperate.
That kid that the Heat got... people think he will be a starting NBA PG.
Sam: I do as well. I think the Heat did well with Norris Cole, ironically, forever mentioned as a Bulls draft pick. He's a fast guy who can get pretty much anywhere with the ball and will give the Bulls problems. I think the Heat helped themselves with the pick. Of course, whether he has the ball will depend on whether LeBron and Wade let him.
I guess we'll have to call you Svengali Sam, Carnac Sam, or even Nostradamus Sam (I won't call you Sham like that blogger who appears not to like you). Anyway, what's in your crystal ball now? I read the possibilities that were listed in your pre-draft articles, but which way do you think the Bulls will lean? The Bulls appear strapped to buy a player and a trade would ask too much in return, and might disrupt their chemistry. Money here says they go cheap and try talking Vince Carter, Shane Battier, Grant Hill, or some other aging veteran to forsake $'s now for a championship and future rewards of being on an NBA champion team (I notice all the ex-Bulls on those winning teams are still working off the coat tails of those winning teams). So which guy is going to land on the Bulls?
Sam: Great Johnny Carson reference. Wonder how many even know who Johnny Carson was. No, he wasn't a Watergate burglar. Watergate? Well, that was... I think you have some of the right names. I think the Bulls will try to talk a free agent like Hill or Battier into a reasonable deal with the possibility of a starting job on a potential championship team, which no one else can offer. Maybe Dallas. Maybe try to go bigger with a short deal with someone like Tayshaun Prince. Maybe Richard Hamilton or Carter gets bought out. They'll look into Mayo and Courtney Lee again, and things always change in the NBA. Plus, the labor deal could change things as well and maybe some teams will want expiring deals and they could get someone with a few years, though it's risky as well with their payroll and the Rose extension. As the mystic from the East, that being Brooklyn, I'd said the answer is "Catch 22." The question would be what does Carlos Boozer do with 100 lob passes. Ed would have loved that one. Maybe even Skitch, too. You'd have to really look that one up.
As an optimistic person, I am pretty excited about the drafting of Mirotic last night. If he would truly be a lottery pick right now, he is well worth the wait. The video I just watched of him at the Nike Hoop Summit from 2010 looked pretty impressive. My question is why do players make themselves eligible for the draft when they are stuck under a continuing contract? What is in it for them? How many years do the Bulls rights towards the player continue? When they do come, do they get paid a rookie wage, and if so, is it the wage now or the one that will be in effect when they show up? If he could get paid more in Spain (I understand he is very valuable to them because he now has Spanish citizenship), why would he leave unless the Bulls could pay more than the rookie scale? Could all of this change with the new CBA? These questions hurt my mind.
Sam: Because they are tough ones. Basically it comes down to getting the clock started toward free agency, which is why a lot of rookies come in before they should. The rules with international players is they can be drafted once they are 22. If they are under like Mirotic, when they come to the NBA they can be paid their rookie scale salary or more if the team chooses. With Asik, the Bulls had more to pay being under the cap and he made more than he might have. If Mirotic were to wait, he would be paid his draft level salary, which could be higher as he'd probably be drafted higher. But with the new labor agreement coming many believe rookies salaries will decrease. So maybe the scale is less then. It's weighing options, but basically he gets in position to make more money if he can negotiate a better deal with the team that drafts him.
Assuming the Bulls are allowed to sign players who went undrafted last night (I have no idea how the current labor situation would impact that), who do you see the team signing, if anyone? Is Richmond's Justin Harper a possibility?
Sam: Draft picks can be signed as soon as the draft is over and under the rules this year because of the labor imbroglio offers have to go out by June 30. Usually it's July 15, which is why rookies generally sign in July. So it's sped up this year. Teams can sign undrafted players, but only to minimum deals. I don't think the Bulls plan to sign anyone and it doesn't make much sense for undrafted players to sign minimum deals as they probably could get that anytime. It's hard to imagine teams offering guaranteed minimums at this point, and I don't sense the Bulls have any such intention.
Hey Sam, I would like to know what you think about Josh Smith. I heard that he wants to be traded so I was thinking that maybe he could be a good fit for the Bulls because besides Rose we don't have a player who can go to the basket and drive hard. Smith, with his abilities and athleticism, could do that. Now I know he's a poor shooter and makes a lot of bad decisions, but with coach Thibs he won't play like he did with the Hawks, at least I don't think so. So what do you think? He can drive hard, he's strong, and amazing dunker and shot blocker, he just has to work on his jump shot and stop acting like he's a big star.
Sam: Given he makes $26 million over the next two seasons, you'd have to give up a lot and he's not the most disciplined, team oriented guy. Which is my guess why after two years the Hawks still cannot move him.
For this coming year, how about this change: Luol Deng moves over to starting 2-guard. He keeps working on his shooting touch all summer, which has improved. Coach Thibs seemed to use Deng & Gibson on the floor together late in the Miami series. Taj Gibson becomes the starting 3.
Sam: I don't see that as the Bulls seem committed to finding a perimeter oriented shooter and see Gibson as an inside player, and I agree. It would also be asking a lot of Gibson given the way he's been yoyoed in the lineup to make a change like that.
I wondered if you got any news on what Jerry Krause is doing these days? Is he back in baseball or just enjoying retirement? It wouldn't surprise me if he was undercover following some prospect by now...
Sam: Jerry is scouting for the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team and living in the Phoenix area.
What ever happened to Joe Alexander? He looked like he would be at least an NBA bench contributor when I watched him play at West Virginia, and Milwaukee must have gotten a good impression drafting him so high. Definitely an unbelievable athlete.
Sam: He played all season in the D-league and put up good numbers, but he seems one of those guys just a notch below the NBA game who probably could have a career overseas.
I was wondering what you thought about the Minnesota Timberwolves with Rubio coming over and picking up No. 2 Derrick Williams. Love, Beasley, Williams, and Ridnour, Rubio.. seems like a decent 5.
Sam: I hope that's not their starting five because it would be the smallest in NBA history. Williams is probably a small forward for them. It remains to be seen about Rubio. They've built him up in Minnesota, but he averaged just a few points in lesser leagues in Europe. If you can't score and shoot as a point guard in the NBA, they lay off you and then it's not so easy to pass, his specialty. Darko still is their starting center and Williams seems a bit erratic to me, sort of full of himself. And with the coaching uncertainty there and them wanting to play Wes Johnson and Anthony Randolph more, I don't think 25 wins is in danger.
Any idea who the Bulls are inviting to summer league out of the undrafted players? I kind of like Xavier Silas from NIU to get a shot.
Sam: You might want to polish up on labor negotiations, though I agree there is nothing worse than sports labor stories. But summer leagues have already been cancelled even if there is a settlement by July 1, which is in question. If there is a lockout next Friday, teams cannot have any contact at all — even talking — with any of their players. Teams cannot conduct any workout with prospects or do any basketball business. They will have no idea what their players are doing or even where they are, and they won't be able to consider any workouts with anyone toward future roles.