Ask Sam mailbag: Trade rumors, Finals thoughts, Vucevic, and more

Brodie Larsh:

What's your thought on the rumor the Bulls are looking to trade for Gobert? I'm hearing it's for Vooch and Pat, or Vooch, Coby and Green.

Sam Smith:

There's been a lot of speculation about this for a while now, and this week a bunch more percolating. I've generally been opposed never having been a fan of Gobert's one-way game. It sounds like a leak coming from the Jazz. Here's a guy Gobert — I don't know him — who the best player on his team apparently doesn't want to play with, turns 30 this month and is owed $160 million for the next four years. Who never has been beyond the second round of the playoffs, and if you examine the teams in the conference finals, all the "big" guys are active, 6-9 types like Bam Adebayo, Robert Williams, Al Horford, Kevon Looney and whoever the Mavericks were playing. Sure, there are big man exceptions like Embiid and Jokic and perhaps Ayton, but that's not Gobert. And then the Bulls could have four players making about $120 million, which is about the cap total for next season. So perhaps you could acquire Gobert for what doesn't look like an overwhelming package with Vucevic's expiring deal and reserves.

The other part of the speculation as you note has Pat Williams included. After all, Gobert is a multiple Defensive Player of the Year. So the thinking would be you have to at least come close to matching talent. And the Bulls need defense and all that. But it also sounds a bit like sitting down for a lunch of a chili cheese dog and a banana split washed down by a milk shake. You better consider the long term ramifications. I'd hope the Bulls would step away from the table.

Mike Metz:

Rookie Jonathan Kuminga's energy and athleticism would help the Warriors.

Sam Smith:

That's the "adjustment" that immediately became the most popular after Game 3. Though rookies in the Finals tend to find the most fouls quickly. It becomes a collision and the refs look for the guy they don't recognize. Plus, he's basically played one game in the last month. Steve Kerr's most famous playoff adjustments have been bigs on smalls, like Andrew Bogut against the Grizzlies and DeMarcus Cousins a few years back. Kuminga is a bit taller, but the Warriors need Poole to make some shots. But hey, play Kuminga for Otto. Then I can go back to rooting for the Warriors.

Jon Kueper:

I'm guessing with the most recent ESPN story you are getting the Donovan Mitchell trade questions. Hey, sign Zach to the max and somehow get Mitchell in here with DeRozan and Vuc leaving and then you have have that Tatum/Brown three point shooting duo. Is that the new formula? Then just need to get some size somehow. I don't think it's really a possibility, either. How the heck are the Celtics in the Finals and will have a good chance to win it, crazy to me. If they can do it, so can next year's Bulls.

Sam Smith:

The more you see the Celtics — recall last November's Bulls wipeout of Boston with all its regulars — and yes, you can project if only Lonzo and Caruso stayed healthy... I'm not particularly impressed with Boston now the favorite to win the NBA title with their best player an isolation oriented modest shooting percentage guy (lower than Zach on threes) and their next best player who barely can dribble. Makes you think maybe the Bulls aren't that far away. Though look out from behind as Brooklyn and Philadelphia don't figure to have so many issues this season, and Atlanta and Charlotte believed they underachieved. Like we said last year, it's as wide open an NBA as it's been in recent memory. Which both allows for the possibilities of Why Not Us for the Bulls, as well as Can We Make the Playin? As for Mitchell, I don't see them letting him go. Obviously all the Gobert talk comes from somewhere.

Alejandro Yegros:

I watch the playoffs and the Bulls seem far away from a team that could even hang in the same court with any of the top teams for defense. But then, interestingly enough, I read that in a metric called "Point of Attack Defense" the Bulls had four of the top 8 or so players in the league (Lonzo, Caruso, Javonte, Ayo)... a stat that Thybulle led. Seems like there's a good defense in there somewhere with some rim protection. So the question: How much can we realistically improve rim protection as long as the team is committed to Vuc playing starter minutes? We're built on one-way players, and the one two-way player is the most injured.

Sam Smith:

Which is why I guess they said there's work to be done. You've stumbled on some of the interesting contradictions management faces. I'm not sure how two-way Lonzo is given he doesn't create offense, but the offense-heavy rotation is an issue against teams like the Heat, Bucks and Celtics. But then the heart of the team's defense, Ball, Williams and Caruso, basically were out most of the season, and the Bulls were still at the top of the East heading to the All-Star break. Donovan missed coaching the East All-Stars by one game. I suspect we'll hear a lot of both when camp begins next September. There's a case to be made for anywhere from first to 11th, it seems.

Dwayne Corry:

I believe the real MVP of this past Bulls season was our center, Vucevic. The guy had to change his style of play after establishing himself as an All-Star for an extended period of time and was available all season to play. I know DeRozan gets all the Hoop-la for his scoring ability but in my opinion some of his shot attempts should have gone to Zach or Vooch. I am not dismissing DeRozan's accomplishments but he seemed a little ballhoggy at times. The reason for the swoon was the injury to Ball. If that kid can stay healthy all season I believe we are a top 4 in the East as is.

Here in order is what I would do:

1) Fix the 2020 draft and trade Williams, White, and our #1 pick to Indiana for Tyrese Haliburton and their #2 pick.

Sam Smith:

Vucevic has been a lightning rod for fans, as you can see from the various emails. Though it has sounded like management is higher on him than fans and some media for reasons you note, the ability to stay healthy and play and the sacrifices he made to accommodate DeRozan and LaVine. Karnisovas at his season ender talked about how maybe Vucevic was as important as anyone on the roster. So I expect him to be around. It's doubtful Indiana would trade Haliburton after acquiring him for Sabonis. I'm not sure what they are doing. No one among NBA executives seems to think Cockburn is worth a first-round pick. So we'll see, but a word on White. I thought some of his difficulties last season were physical and about strength, which he couldn't develop with the offseason shoulder surgery. I expect him to come into next season stronger and better and wouldn't be so quick to give up on him.

Bill Lash:

Do you think it's time for the league to expand? Seattle and Las Vegas seem like the most likely additions. Anywhere else that makes sense?

Sam Smith:

I haven't thought anything was imminent until LeBron announced this week he wants the Las Vegas expansion franchise. So here comes expansion. The NBA likes to get its big names involved and has been seeking diversity in ownership. David Stern gave Michael Jordan a sweetheart deal to take over the Charlotte franchise, and you can see the same thing going with LeBron and Vegas. So now we also know where he's going to play to finish his contract playing with his son. Sorry, Lakers. Seattle has been the obvious one owed after the NBA allowed Oklahoma City to steal the Supersonics when Stern got into a dispute with the Washington state legislature. You didn't mess with David. Kansas City, Nashville and Louisville have been making pitches for a long time, but now expect Seattle and Vegas maybe in two years. Though LeBron probably needs to come up with another billion or two.

Bruce Roberts:

The Bulls need to get younger and more physical. Do you think a sign and trade for Deandre Ayton for Vucevic makes sense? We get younger, improve interior defense, Ayton wants to be more involved in offense which we could use and he is more athletic than Vucevic. Phoenix gets a bonafide scoring option. This seems like a Chicago, Phoenix win-win.

Sam Smith:

Well, let's see: A 30-plus Vucevic on an expiring contract for a former No. 1 overall pick who is maybe the game's best developing big man? Not sure that deserves win-win for the Suns. They're feeling bad enough already after having the best record and losing to a pretty ordinary Dallas team. Of course, there's no chance of that trade. There's obviously something going on with Ayton and the Suns, and a big time sign and trade seems likely given Ayton's desire for a maximum deal. And the Suns' not so much. Ayton's good, but I'm not sure about being worth that given, you know, the Bulls have some contract details to work out on their roster. And all those little big men in the finals four. The Suns likely will want some picks, which the Bulls lack, and most mentioned have been teams like the Pistons, Raptors, Spurs and Trailblazers.

Brian Tucker:

I go online and search "Chicago Bulls" and there is so much horror out there. Today I saw a trade with Utah—-Caruso and Patrick Williams for Bojan Bogdanovic. Should I just take an internet break?

Sam Smith:

Maybe read a book. That one sounds like more Danny Ainge, I think I may have a sucker like the Nets were.

Michael Mortenson:

If I hadn't watched him in college, it would be impossible to believe Al Horford came into the NBA the same year from the same team as Joakim Noah.

Sam Smith:

No, it wasn't the weed. But give Jo credit. He made it 13 years with that body. Playing against the biggest, strongest guys in the league. Noah was the No. 9 pick in that draft and outlasted four guys ahead of him, including obviously No. 1 Greg Oden. Among the 30 first round picks that year, 22 from that draft were out of the NBA before Noah. Give it up for Jo. He was a warrior, small w. He also long outlasted Bulls second-round picks JamesOn Curry and Aaron Gray. That's also why I'm not big on second-round picks. Thad Young was in that draft. To finish his career back in Chicago?

Matt Cooney:

Draymond Green is all the rage after Game 2. I know the rules of engagement are far different now than they were in the 80's and 90's, but who does he remind you of anyone from the Bulls/Knicks/Pistons years? Bill Laimbeer was more like a heavyweight boxer. Jordan liked to get in people's heads, but he didn't get into as much physical stuff. I don't remember Charles Oakley well enough. It's probably a stretch, but I see some parallels with Rodman. Create chaos, keep the other teams guessing, make them look over their shoulders.

Sam Smith:

I understand the recency thing and how if people didn't see it then maybe it wasn't as special as everyone says. Green a disrupter like Rodman? Who was wrestling with Shaq and Karl Malone while Green is guarding Jaylen Brown? It's a further indication of the lack of star power in these Finals that Green seems to have emerged through three games as the biggest name despite playing poorly, especially the last game. Not in post game comments, though. Anyway, Green versus Rodman? Green in these playoffs at 32 years old has gotten more than 11 rebounds in a game once in 19 games. He has 20 rebounds in 108 minutes in this series. Dennis Rodman in 1996 at 35 when he came to the Bulls had at least 11 rebounds in 14 of the 18 playoff games, including double figures in the last 15 playoff games?

Green may be a bit more like Ed Nealy. A lot of those so called disrupters were guards, like Patrick Beverley these days, Raja Bell against Kobe Bryant. I remember Gerald Wilkins used to call himself the Jordan stopper. Brother Dominique warned him not to say that, but Gerald and the Cavs couldn't resist in the 1993 conference semifinals. Didn't turn out too well. Jordan scored 43 points in Game 1, reminded Wilkins frequently and loudly, "You can't guard me," averaged about 31 in the four-game sweep and hit the buzzer beating game winner over Wilkins in Game 4. That's what that GOAT thing was all about.

Greg Young:

Two good franchises, very interesting first Finals game, but I have a question. Having zero exposure to the players in real life, I have an observation on Otto Porter Jr. When the Bulls signed OPJ, I was impressed. It seemed like a nice—not great—move. But then he got hurt, the team was down and worst of all from a distance he seemed disinterested and then checked out. Fast forward to Game 1. Totally different player. Happy, smiling, hustling, making plays and shots. Is OPJ a player that only exerts himself on winning teams or am I being to harsh?

Sam Smith:

This hasn't been the most memorable NBA Finals. There's probably one, maybe two true All-Stars in the series. Steph Curry has been great, and most probably would add Jayson Tatum as an All-Star, but his shooting has been brutal and he's reverted to dribbling around a lot for bad shots. Jaylen Brown has trouble dribbling, Klay Thompson hasn't quite regained his form despite a big Game 3, and all three games ended in garbage time. And all the three pointers. Enough already; it's pretty boring watching everyone search out threes all game. The story of Game 1 was 50-year-old Al Horford. The story of Game 2 was Draymond Green and his "tough guy" triple single with five rebounds. Without two of the game's best shooters ever and a Hall of Fame coach, Green's Jerome Williams. Can you root against him when he usually does so little? That's really what missing in these Finals: A true villain. These seem like two teams of basically good guys. But I have my rooting interest with Porter.

In theory, it sounds right to add a veteran to a rebuilding core to help them mature and take the pressure off. But it really doesn't work. I learned that with Jalen Rose, who during my unofficial assistant GM days lobbied hard for the Bulls to acquire. My theory seemed sound: Get a savvy veteran with Finals experience who was a natural scorer to take the pressure off the two kids, Curry and Chandler, help them along and then be there to step back as they took over. What happens, instead, is the veteran comes in and looks around and seeing 60 losses basically checks out to collect his money and try to force his way out. Jalen did so with the Bulls, but when you don't study history and all that... I'll admit I've been switching off to watch that Oklahoma softball team. Wow, can they hit. The Sox need to scout them.