Ask Sam Mailbag: Potential Free-Agent Targets

Brodie Larsh:

I know the focus right now is the head coach and the draft, but are there any free agents you have your eyes on? I know the draft will alter the teams needs and determine what roles will still need filled. Regardless of draft, AK and Eversley should be be thinking about free agent PG's and SF's, probably on one year deals (veterans or 'prove it' type guys).

5 SF's to watch:
Josh Jackson
Davis Bertans
Evan Turner
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (especially if we lose Dunn)
Jae Crowder

5 PG's to watch:
Goran Dragic
Jeff Teague
Reggie Jackson
Emmanuel Mudiay
Jordan Clarkson

Side note: I feel like Fred VanFleet is going to cost too much, Nerlens Noel could be a good fit at backup C.

Sam Smith:

Hey, we're talking actual NBA players! Appropriately because the NBA is finally going to allow the Bulls to play some, too. The Bulls, Monday, begin a week of Covid testing for the 'Eliminate-Eights' who then start their own bubble workouts once there's a week of successful tests. They're back?

Anyway, as for dreaded free agency, the Bulls, once Otto Porter Jr. opts in, will be over the salary cap. Even if they renounce potential restricted free agents like Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine, they're not far enough under the salary cap to pursue a top free agent until after next season. So they'll likely stay just above salary cap to use the mid level exception, which is significant depending on what happens with the cap and the pandemic effects. So if estimating a starting annual salary of about $9 million, it extends to a contract close to $40 million. You should be able to add a good player.

This is difficult to say with a straight face, but the Bulls are pretty deep for a team 20 games below .500. No. really. They should get a good draft pick, a player who would be on the edge of starting. So then it becomes more about how the new management intends to build the roster with what style and philosophy. None of which we've heard anything about. Which actually complicates adding someone because it's not really about next season. One can speculate that the Bulls could use a point guard, a small forward or a center. But they're likely to start Coby White at point guard, Porter at small forward and Wendell Carter Jr. at center. So you're not looking at adding a starter with Zach LaVine at shooting guard and Lauri Markkanen at power forward. At least the way it seems now before any trades. Seriously, how were they 20 below .500? Plus, the Bulls have at least another season each with Tomas Satoransky and Thad Young, both quality veterans who are as good as the free agents you'd get with an exception. And the big man trend in the NBA is to smaller, more active sub-seven footers. So Daniel Gafford fits that definition. Hey, maybe they are ready for a run at the Finals next season. OK, I'll take a breath.

The big names, like Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram, are restricted free agents and seemingly certain to return to their teams. Given the changing economics and perhaps cap reduction, it's doubtful any of the big name potential opt out players, like Gordon Hayward, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond or Mike Conley will test the market. In addition to Van Vleet, you assume free agents like Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell and Goran Dragic are out of the Bulls financial range. I don't see the "prove it" one year types being Bulls targets since I don't think it's so much about next season or shoe horning in a veteran with guys like Young, Porter and Satoransky needing playing time. We'll see if there are trades.

I'd like to get one of the Morris brothers because the Bulls are missing that sort of toughness on the offensive end to take a big shot or force contact. Maybe if you can put together a deal for a young guy who can shoot as I do like Davis Bertans. Versatile big man veteran Serge Ibaka probably also is financially out of range. Josh Jackson was one of those top five picks who busted out. A third team a charm? Needs to find that shot, though, and wouldn't cost much. Same, I presume, with Evan Turner. No shot, but maybe a shot to come home and add a little toughness for the youngsters? And Denver when Karnisovas was there when they drafted Mudiay, who's just 24 although he seems like he's been around longer. Maybe take a look for a reasonable price? Hey, LeBron's a free agent after the 2021-22 season. Midwest could be more livable by then. Could 12 years later be the lucky charm?

Elijah Humble:

Wanted to get your take on the case of Enes Kanter, who as you may have read is basically an international fugitive and can't return to his homeland of Turkey, how he's seriously looking over his shoulder as a target of the government, and how his father was apparently finally released from captivity but also can't even communicate with his family.This is serious stuff, and Kanter, to his credit, has been very outspoken about using his platform to speak out against the injustices of the current regime in Turkey, and he's been doing it long before the meltdown/reawakening of 2020. It's certainly troubling that it's not only Turkey now, but Poland and Belarus also have borderline dictators in charge (not counting Russia). I think it's interesting how in the U.S. we've been sheltered for so long without having to deal with such unrest, and how this region is such a fertile ground for some of the best players in the NBA. The 30 for 30 with Vlade and Drazen Petrovic was heartbreaking, but this is reality for most of these players and their families, literally having their countries torn apart.

I've followed Kanter since his attempt to play college at Kentucky, and after he was denied due to not being an amateur, he still wanted the college experience and basically served as a practice player (he was allowed to practice) for an eventual final four team, which I thought showed a lot of character. And P.S. is he hurt? Why hasn't he played? I know his defense isn't great but he's a big body and knows how to score. Speaking of European players, I love guys unknown guys like Theis, who's playing very well and surely wasn't on anybody's draft chart. Kanter played big minutes in OKC with Adams as a strong frontline on the team that got Golden State down 3-1.

Sam Smith:

Talking about your free agents, he isn't one yet. But he has a fairly small opt out at about $5 million. He is someone who intrigues me at 28 years old. He isn't playing for the Celtics mostly because of Theis and what the NBA has evolved to regarding big men. And with Miami's success with the mobile 6-9 Bam Adebayo, I don't expect to see Kanter in this series. I can see Kanter opting out and someone who might be interesting.

Coaches apparently have not played him because of defense. And he is a little slow laterally. But he might be the best big man in the NBA on the offensive boards, a lost art. I don't know that you always have to do what everyone else does. Just because everyone is running down and pulling up for threes all the time you don't have to. There are other ways to win. If that method is not your strength, you pursue something else. It's been the flaw around the NBA of trying to duplicate Golden State's success. You need Curry and Thompson. Kanter has a unique ability to get the ball on the offensive glass and score inside, which also potentially inhibits fast breaks. And as offensive as it may seem to some, two points also adds up when you are counting. Kanter's been one of the league's best per minute scorers.

I also love his activism, by the way, for standing up for his beliefs and against authoritarianism despite the obvious personal dangers and threats. It demonstrates character and commitment. And he's basically doing it alone, which perhaps also suggests he's not easily intimidated. I know Kanter some and like him. I knew a previous agent of his and had breakfast with him before his rookie season and spent some time with him that year. As potential free agents go if it comes to that, he seems like someone who might be able to give a team something different.