Ask Sam Mailbag: 2020 draft prospects, Michael Porter Jr., Zach LaVine, and more

Don Figgers:

Do you still believe that the Bulls, if they win the draft lottery, should take James Wiseman over LaMelo Ball? I do but the most recent mock drafts I've seen still have Ball as the 1st pick for the Bulls.

Sam Smith:

As long as they don't get eight or nine, right? We can always hope. The caveat I offer is I'm never quite certain since I haven't seen any of these guys play. Of course, the way things have gone this season with the virus and many college players, like Ball, even leaving the country hardly anyone has seen anyone play. Wiseman seems like a difference maker, which is what the top of the lottery generally is about if you get that chance. The Bulls have done about as well as they could the last three drafts given having the No. 7 selection. It's not like they made huge oversights. Sure, Donovan Mitchell has been good, but Lauri Markkanen until this past season's mishaps was trending as favorably from that draft. And Coby White looked ready to break out. I'd be OK with Ball at No. 1 since he trends exciting, which the team needs, and especially needs a point guard. It just seems like there are fewer seven-foot athletic types like Wiseman with offensive potential. I know it's a wing/three-point shooting era, but a more complete version of Rudy Gobert looks good.

Jake Henry:

This draft has no consensus anything. As the old days show consensus picks get you fired. Or cripple a franchise. Hasheem Thabeet. Toppin....he's a cant miss starter. Surefire top 5. Ball....elite passing, elite size, his brother shows defense at least is a possibility. Surefire top 5 as well. Edwards. He can score and he has the size and athleticism. Likely top 5 if i got to see more. The Israeli guy.....was mvp of some good league at 18. Looks like a better version of Saric. Killian Hayes.....good passer, good ball handler.....not concerned about his shooting woes as he's over 90 from the stripe. He's big for a point guard. I see him possibly being the best player in the draft down the road. Other guys id take before wiseman who may or may not be any good in the 6-9 range, Haliburton, the auburn defender who looks like PJ tucker…Okoro, One of the Florida state guys, Nesmith.

Sam Smith:

Well, that should give the Bulls a chance to get Wiseman at 11. I know some, especially in Houston, believe there's no use in the game today for tall guys, particularly if they can't run the court, break down guys off the dribble and shoot. Though I still think you have to guard Embiid, Towns, Jokic and even guys like Jarrett Allen. The Bulls haven't been able to. The Warriors had those impressive shooting lineups, but they always had some big guys around. I don't see Wiseman as talented as Embiid. But part of the issue with this draft is I don't see sure all-pro types otherwise. Someone could emerge. They usually do, like Pascal Siakam. The new management is said to be strong in scouting and evaluation. The Nuggets, where Arturas Karnisovas was a top executive, have done well outside the lottery. So perhaps he will bring that expertise to the Bulls. I like those top five guys you mention, though I'm not sure about Hayes. Since I don't see a Durant type scorer, I'll break the tie for No. 1 with size and defense. Though just barely.

Tim Flynn:

If you believe that Ball is "disinterested" in playing defense and he is a poor shooter, especially from 3, he is absolutely not a player the Bulls should pick given, as you say, most of their best defensive players are poor scorers and It would not be unfair to say that, so far in their careers, Lauri and Zach and maybe White seem to regularly be "disinterested" as well. Secondly, since AK was a significant part of the Nuggets team which drafted Jokic at 41st, Morris at 51st and last but certainly not least, MP Jr at 14th - who, if his back does not ruin his career - is a surefire All-Star; he just may have a better insight in who the Bulls best two picks should be than the vast majority of those suggesting them, especially given that people like you -and myself - freely acknowledge that we do not watch all that much college bball.

Sam Smith:

That's what they hired him for. Now it's his chance. I assume there's plenty of second guessing these days about Porter from that 2018 draft when the Bulls selected Carter at No. 7. But I doubt the Nuggets staff would have selected Porter for the Bulls. It was an ideal risk pick for a playoff team with a strong rotation and a rare lottery pick to take a chance with a player they didn't need. And remember, if Porter were with the Bulls who didn't get to go to Disney, he would now be rehabbing for two years without having played much. As an aside, the NBA for the damage its done owes these eight teams, Golden State excluded. They should adjust the lottery to make sure no team from Orlando can pick ahead of any team excluded. Adam! Help! Nice to see Zion, whom the NBA seemed to do all this for, resting in the last Pelicans game before their four to eight months off. Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

But good for the Nuggets and hopefully Porter's back isn't an issue again. It also looks like they're tiring him out as the last three games he is shooting four of 15 on threes and averaging 16 points. I still see him mostly as a straight line driver/shooter like Nikola Mirotic, who fans forget had a run of five games scoring at last 24 points in seven games late in his rookie year until Tom Thibodeau mostly benched him for the playoffs. In the last 23 games that competitive season, Mirotic exceeded 20 points nine times and averaged 18 points per game and almost seven rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench. As for Ball and defense, things can always chance given these guys coming into the NBA these days are so young. I don't expect that much will with Ball on defense. The problem is most of the other projected top picks, like Toppin, Edwards and Avdija, are considered questionable defenders. Though if you watch the NBA this month, defense doesn't seem to be much in vogue. You better be able to score.

Nicholas Hill:

It seems the Bulls want to keep capspace available for 2 max slots in 2021. However, I honestly think the only star level player we have that other stars would want to play with is Zach Lavine. What do you think about trading Daniel Gafford, Lauri or Wendell (not both), Otto's expiring contract, and our draft picks in 2021 to the Jazz for Rudy Gobert? I don't see why the Jazz wouldn't take it considering they've fallen short the last few years and might want to retool. Rudy and Zach would probably attract an impact free agent in 2021 much easier than Zach alone could. Plus if the Bulls really are trying to compete, the draft picks aren't much of a loss despite it being supposedly a deep draft class.

Sam Smith:

I understand the concept, which is reasonable. The Jazz could/should be out in the first round of the playoffs with a matchup against the Nuggets (you know it's tough playing Denver when they've got home court advantage). With the Mitchell/Gobert Covid contretemps from last spring perhaps they do something. I've never been a big fan of Gobert's and feel he's been much overrated with the awards but little playoff effect. Obviously, he isn't impacting the game all that much considering the Jazz' routine playoff failures, though I'm not blaming him. But he's just got one year left on his deal to become an unrestricted free agent. If the Bulls want to pursue the free agent market after next season, it's pretty much gone making that sort of trade. I know, free agency has been a problem. Hey, maybe Arturas knows something.

Kirk Landers:

I thought Obi Toppin would be hard for most teams to pass up because of his scoring and rebounding abilities, but many of the mock draft sites also claim he's a liability defensively. That conjured memories of Jabari Parker's struggles here in Chicago not that long ago. As much offensive potential as he seemed to have, his on-ball defense was best described as dazed and confused, and his help defense was just as awful. If the Bulls were to draft a big man this year, it seems like the USC center, Okongwu, has more potential because of his combination of grit, power and athleticism. His high-energy defense and rebounding could bring better balance to a lot of different Bulls lineups. Speaking of which, is this the year Kris Dunn breaks out?

Sam Smith:

Toppin is very intriguing because he looks like he fits the way the NBA plays now and will be very, very good. He may even project better than the power forwards the Bulls currently have, which a year ago they were saying was their top talent with Markkanen and a developing Carter. They both had their struggles last season again with injuries. Try a new toy? But with so many other holes in the roster? All the scouts say Toppin is as close to can't miss as there is in this draft, if not an quite all-league possibility. Maybe even that, too. I'm a believer if you are athletic and care you can play some level of defense. Yes, I know, Zach. But I think he can get there, or at least better, as the team improves. But defense really is very much a team sport. And practiced, which the Bulls have had problems doing with so many injuries and personnel changes. Given the depth at power forward with Gafford and perhaps even Porter these days, I suspect the Bulls will look elsewhere in the lottery if they get lucky. If they think Toppin's the best player when they pick, then take him. I also believe good players together will figure it out. The most viable NBA slogan remains, "Talent wins."

Jeff Hartman:

I have watched Jaden McDaniels since he was a freshman in high school. I think it would be a big mistake for the Bulls to pass on him in the draft. He may of had some issues this past year in college, but I think his game is more suitable for the league. I think he is the most underrated player in the draft this year. What do you think the chances are that the Bulls will draft him?

Sam Smith:

I hadn't really heard of him and doubt the Bulls would draft him even if they fell, as unlikely as that is, to 11. But he has started to show up in some mock drafts late in the first round. He's really skinny. Really skinny. Which suggests a long way to go to the NBA. But intriguing with that size, maybe 6-10 and 190 pounds, and what looks like a shooting touch. You see some guys like that these days, like Bol Bol, who is taller. Those guys seem to get pushed around too much, though in the Covid NBA with defensive social distancing and no more postups there seems a lot less interest in physical contact. The Bulls may have a second rounder depending on a bunch of things, so perhaps then as with no workouts allowed for this draft there could be a lot of misses.

Mike Sutera:

Say what? LaVine's availability being monitored by several teams, including Knicks and Nets, in event he asks for trade before his free agency.

Sam Smith:

Which I assume is especially why LaVine won't be traded. I hear occasional suggestions about trading LaVine; doesn't play defense, team is losing, Coby is a scoring shooting guard. But it's also why I don't see much trading by the Bulls before next season. Yes, I've harped (not Ron) on the Bulls being left out of the bubble/campus/frat house in Orlando, and it's especially hurtful for player value. Suddenly we're talking Cam Payne. OK, not all of us. But Devin Booker is now an MVP snub. T.J. Warren is about to be a known by initials only. Damian Lillard is Kevin Durant. Conversely, Bulls players not being able to engage in these statistical anomalies with the high scoring games effectively see their value decline. Which seems to me more reason why the new management's job is so much more difficult now. Teams will try to steal and thus undervalue Bulls players based on a lesser performing team season and no chance to prove otherwise in Orlando. And perhaps not until 2021. Have I mentioned how badly the league has treated the Bulls? Zach's got two years left on a contract that is very favorable given his production. So I can understand why teams would love to have him. And why I wouldn't trade him, especially because I really want to see what he and Coby can do together.

Thomas Golden:

Sato is going to be the best PG on the Bulls next year regardless if they pick Ball or whoever. Running with Coby, Zach, Lauri and WCJ. That's what you're going with. Dunn, Porter, Young, Gafford and (hopefully who we get for the pick) will be a powerful second unit. We don't have a little guy out there, so we shouldn't get pushed around. But if Zach, Lauri and Coby want to win, ……they better start to play D.

Sam Smith:

It's always good advice, but there's that debate over whether you coach and play to your talent or develop and demand the way you want your team to play. Many of us—I think including new management—have posited the Bulls are more talented than they showed last season. They still have to show that with wins in a conference that's getting better: Wall returning to join Beal, Durant and Kyrie returning in Brooklyn, Thibs in New York, lots of young guys in Atlanta, Drummond in Cleveland. It will take more than just saying you should be better. As for Sato, he's suggested to European media he perhaps underestimated what he needed to do for the Bulls, especially coming off a summer of international play. This time he's really going to be ready. His addition sounded like a good idea last year. But if the Bulls pick a point guard to go with Coby White, and Kris Dunn still is around, well that may be missing the point.

Mats Ramsted:

Tom Thibodeau is back coaching. What do you think?

Sam Smith:

Time to do his job without letting go of the rope. He's back, back, back! And cool as ice, ice, ice. Though perhaps better next season than in Orlando in an arena with no fans and sensitive microphones. This one isn't going to be easy for Thibs, who had a team with an MVP ready Rose in the 2010 Bulls and a team ready to make the playoffs with Jimmy Butler pretty quickly. There appears no quick fix with these Knicks, who may have the league's most mismatched roster with what appears to be seven power forwards, some young players who seem to have regressed like Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith and a bottom of the league defensive rating. But Thibs is very good. He's been criticized leaving the Bulls and in Minnesota for being out of step with the league's increased offensive emphasis and lack of innovation. But he's very good at an overlooked element of coaching, a subtlety coaches call organization. He gets players in position, yes, to do their job. He does have a shot blocker in Mitchell Robinson and a defensive guard in Frank Ntilikina. There's a bunch of small power forward scorers around and RJ Barrett. I'm not sure what his shelf life is, but he makes teams better when he arrives.