Ask Sam Mailbag: Depth Concerns, Trade Possibilities And More

Sam answers questions about the Bulls depth and if they should look at adding reinforcements.
by Sam Smith
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Mike Freeman:

I know you hung up your GM blazer long ago, but you must admit Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner would look good in red and make our very good Bulls 'contenda-Bull.'

Do we have the assets to make such a deal? Patrick Williams, Coby White? A draft pick?

Sam Smith:

That's been the question du jour. Suggesting a team might do something is a long way from doing. Also, you tend not to get your best rebuilding type of deal in-season given that you don't know where the draft picks might be, and it's not like you're looking to play better, and you have sold tickets and especially in a small market like Indiana you have some selling to do. Dumping players like that isn't a nice message. The one guy who I especially like is Sabonis. I know, he's the best guy there.

Sabonis really is a tough, clever, skilled player. Wonder where he got that from? He's just what any contending team could use, a scorer in the post who can rebound and make a shot. I suppose that's also why he's an All-Star. I don't see with the Bulls lack of draft picks from the Vucevic deal and the extended absences of both White and Williams—hey Pacers fans, we have a chance to get two guys out with surgeries for six months—that the Bulls are in position for another major acquisition.

Remember, they've made about four in the last eight months.


Myles Turner and the Indiana Pacers

Bobby Grbevski:

I was wondering what you make of this news that the Pacers are ready to blow up their team and go into a full rebuild. If that's the case, then what can the Bulls realistically trade for to strengthen their roster, or do you think they will be looking at potential buyouts by the trade deadline? We desperately need a rim protector and more scoring from the bench. We address these weaknesses and the way the Bucks and Nets are struggling, we might come out of the East with the right moves. I would love a player like Caris LeVert on this Bulls team. Maybe Justin Holiday as an instant scoring/floor spacing option off the bench? I'm a fan of Coby and Pat Will, but if there's a move out there to be made I think the Bulls should go for it.

Sam Smith:

I get the point that many fans are making, that it's win-now (or soon) with Vucevic and DeRozan over 30 and the Bulls playing so well against the top contenders. Not saying the Bulls will win, but they actually can win and can play with pretty much anyone in the league now. That's a long way from where they were. My guess is the buyout market finally includes the Bulls and becomes a possibility. But you can't expect too much from it more than a player who might make a big play or two in a crucial playoff game and help you get a win.

The buyouts late in a long season don't generally have a regular role, but are more like PJ Brown, who was like a buyout after sitting out most of the season and signed with the 2008 Celtics in February. He had a crucial 10 points in a Game 7 in that run, the sort of thing you hope for with a buyout addition.


Patrick Williams in the triple threat position

Jeffrey Pierce:

Clearly we need someone to defend the power forward spot. We are ready to win now so developing someone like Pat Williams seems counterintuitive. Do you think the Pacers would trade Williams for Myles Turner? Myles is exactly what we need and he seems like a team guy. Not sure how the league views Pat Williams. Would we have to put something else in that deal like a pick or Coby? I would hate to trade Coby because of his shooting but Ayo Dosunmu seems to contribute more to winning with his all-around game.

Sam Smith:

Similar to the reasoning with Sabonis, I don't see the Pacers even if they are in trading mode moving expeditiously if not for big prizes. After all, what's the hurry if you can't get a star now or the No 1 pick in the draft? I also don't particularly see Turner a fit with the Bulls because of Vucevic. After all, neither is about to chase players outside if they were to play together. And you're not making one a reserve. Plus, Vucevic is a much better scorer and generally more highly regarded. Turner also shoots mostly from outside, and Vucevic does that. And, you know, Zach and DeMar and Lonzo…I am interested if they will make moves. I don't expect up I-65 will be anyone's destination.


Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard

Mike Sutera:

Do you think Kyrie Irving comes back after the All-Star break? That's my guess. Also Damian Lillard is telling people that NY is his destination of choice if moved. His circle is trying to push him to the Sixers. The Knicks have youth and picks to offer though.

Sam Smith:

I was thinking the virus vaccine restrictions might be eased (not sure why; hope mostly) and Kyrie would return for at least the playoffs. I guess it's still possible, and I know players forgive players, but it's so bad what he's done to his team, especially since he basically helped persuade everyone else to join him. Seriously, I'm from Brooklyn. I'm pleased to be most anywhere else.

As for Dame and the Knicks, if the Knicks have youth which would excite a franchise fan base, Thibs and I have missed it. It's going to be a stretch for them to make the playoffs after committing to a third option as their first option. He's a slow, 6-foot-7 jump shooter. Not like we haven't seen that before with the Knicks. The 76ers thing is interesting because it seems obvious they are holding Ben Simmons hostage for Lillard. The Trailblazers do look almost ready to crack. You gotta love the NBA. No sport has more scenarios and mystery conspiracies.


Patrick Williams posting up on Derrick Rose

Mark Schweihs:

It seems that the main question is; Which big man should the Bulls pursue to fill in behind Vucevic (to make a deep playoff run)? The players being identified are not very intriguing in my opinion. And so, do you think their expectations of Patrick Williams have changed? They wanted him to be an aggressive power forward with post-up and shooting skills to go with his strong defense. Now, this team could use a strong defensive player that doesn't need/want the ball (but can catch it). I think they stick with Pat Williams and will be glad they did.

Sam Smith:

True, many of the next Tristans or Favors or Kanter Freedoms who might be expendable probably are for a good reason. Though most fans are about now and today and go for it, and honestly I believe more in playing for now than those long drawn out rehab projects. But this isn't the last NBA season.

The Bulls appear to now to have a nice balance of veterans with young players, and you also need a pipeline of talent, especially with limitations on draft picks. I know the biggest thrill is always the current one, but you hate when the big one got away. I'd also rather wait a bit more and see with Williams.


Stanley Johnson playing defense against the Grizzlies

Joseph Austin:

I understand why the Bulls are signing Stanley Johnson under the Emergency Player Exception Rule. Stanley Johnson was one of final training camp cuts. A lot of people thought that he was going to be with the team when signed. Are teams allowed to sign more than one player under that rule?

Sam Smith:

I honestly didn't know about that rule since it had always been a player had to be out for the season in order for a team to sign someone else. But these virus rules are ever changing, mysteries and often secretive and it seems like the NBA changes them whenever they feel like and you better like it. The league surely doesn't want to start cancelling and postponing games, especially since players are being scrutinized much more closely than fans, so I suspect the team eventually will be able to add as many players as it wants.

The problem is that you have to keep paying them and paying all the other guys not playing. I suspect some self control will be used. As for the Bulls, Billy usually plays eight or nine guys, anyway, so how many extra rooms at the Ritz do you really need to pay for?


Tristan Thompson

Bambi Choy:

The Bulls are playing with big hearts and bringing joy to us fans. But when the playoffs come, their lack of size will definitely be a problem as the opponents will definitely focus on matchups. We must go after Tristan Thompson. He's a smart, tough defender, great rebounder and can be how Dennis Rodman was to our championship team. I doubt Sacramento would mind too much to let him go. Perhaps he can be had for very little, future second rounders? If we get him, we're going to the NBA Finals.

Sam Smith:

I don't usually take much interest in the players' off court activities and relationships, but he's got a lot of stuff going on with the Kardashians, who tend to ruin the careers of players they are involved with (Kris Humphries, Lamar Odom, and I think James Harden had an awful start after one of those Kardashian summers; just how they do this I am uncertain), which isn't a reason to say no because everyone has some stuff they wish they didn't do. But you sort of wonder about this seemingly amicable Bulls group with the Kardashian thing and lately I saw some law suit (and as I don't usually see this stuff, it must be bigger than usual) of a paternity thing and him wanting nothing to do with it and saying he's retiring, anyway, so tough luck. Like Krause used to say, NOKP—Not Our Kind of People. Of course, he said that about Rodman in 1995. I saw Thompson had a 14 and 10 game the other day after not playing eight other games. He could be worth a buyout spot if he goes that route, I suppose. Not much offensive game, used to be a good offensive rebounder, but didn't move well last time I saw him. Not sure how he'd fit the way Billy likes to play. But if that's all the team needs for the Finals...


Coby White being guarded by the Charlotte Hornets

Randall Sanders:

I read your response to a fan. You mentioned with a healthy Coby White, Ayo could get to play more and develop in the NBA G-League. Based on his play and growth now, I think that would be a setback for him mentally if he was ever sent to the G-League except to recover from an injury. I see an excellent competition going on between Ayo & White for playing time.

Sam Smith:

I mentioned that because I don't see the G-league as a demotion. It seemed to do a lot for Alex Caruso. The way things are now with all the virus absences, obviously anyone who tests negative has to remain on the roster. My point with Ayo (and most rookies) is they are not ready for the NBA and have to learn and improve, especially since the Bulls are no longer in the instructional league. Perhaps the last three years, fine, let him play, who cares. But it's about winning as many games as possible now. What's wrong with having a better Dosunmu perhaps in March?

He's still reluctant with his shot and doesn't seem to have a feel for the speed of defenders closing in. He can make plays in transition, but I haven't seen it much in the half court. That's what playing 40 minutes in the G-league is about. Is minor league baseball a negative? I know everyone expects every high pick to be an All-Star immediately, but fortunately they mostly go to bad teams where their inexperience doesn't matter. With a full roster with perimeter guys like Ball, Caruso, Zach, DeMar and Coby, and the other wings Billy likes to play, I didn't see Ayo playing enough.

I believed because he has talent that it would hinder his development sitting around waiting for eight minutes in a blowout. Plus with all the veterans, I've noticed the Bulls don't practice much. I still believe Ayo needs to be playing against NBA talent where he can take 25 shots in a game. And not, to paraphrase Richard Nixon, which I usually avoid as most should, have those shots analyzed with a proctoscope more than a microscope.


Billy Donovan

Samuel Coggins:

I love our little recent win streak we got going on even with Coby, Caruso, and Green out. But what I am wondering is Billy said after the game we still have some things to work on, does he know about the small ball situation that he puts us in most games. He is a great coach and leader but some people have been wandering why to put Green in the PF when other players are having their way with him sometimes in that position. Most of the time we lose the rebounding battle. Are we going to trade for a PF at the deadline? Also does AKME know about the strain on the team the small ball puts on us? Even though we have a lot of hustle and grit and get steals and disrupt teams, it is still hard on the team. Love this team still.

Sam Smith:

I suspect Karnisovas is aware of how the team is playing. The Bulls actually don't get out-rebounded much because their guards do rebound well.

Their margin is close to even, and about the middle of the league. So it seems not as urgent as many suggest. I know, the playoffs, slower ball and all that. The point I keep coming back to wondering about is whether Donovan would play that guy. Unless he's some high-level star player. I get many of these suggestions for reserve big guys, and the Bulls have one in Tony Bradley, who rebounds per minute well and blocks shots. But Donovan clearly is also from the Don Nelson smaller ball school and believes the speed and quickness and disruptive game will outweigh the play of the taller guys, who also slow the speed/transition game he wants to play on offense.

It seemed clear watching last season that he did not like the Vucevic/Daniel Theis combination. I know things can always get better, but I suspect the answer is things are pretty good, and he'll want to play it out this way.


Nikola Vucevic

Ivan Tan

What's your opinion on Vucevic? You have to start wondering if Vooch is declining at age 31 instead of just in a shooting slump. He is the BIG problem. Terrible offense this season and moves too slow. Big mistake to give up two 1st round picks for him. Totally not worth it.

Sam Smith:

But other than that? As I've mentioned before—and he walks the fine line between excuses and explanations—his adjustment is the most difficult because he basically has to reinvent himself after a decade of playing one way. It's not like before we all thought of him as one of the three best centers in the NBA. Good, skilled big man who because he was with a bad team had the offense run through him and lifted them up farther than their talent suggested.

Now he's playing with two ball dominant All-Star guards, who will be unselfish, but also need to play to their strengths, and another guard making plays. He's more a fourth option in some respects, and perhaps rarely getting his usual shots. So some he rushes, some he aims. But don't lose sight of the fact that he's the best defense against size.

He did a great job against Jokic, who had one of his worst games of the season. Because even if Vucevic is not athletically fast twitch, he's skilled and versatile. He won't be able to put up the numbers he did in Orlando, but he's just what the Bulls need for the playoffs in a slower game when they'll face bigger and better centers. They'll probably outperform him, but his presence will enable LaVine and DeRozan more opportunities the way he'll occupy defenders. Let's continue to be Vooch-o-philes for at least another week.


Sacramento Kings

Kyle McGill:

How would you feel about the Bulls trading for Harrison Barnes and Alex Len? Would you be willing to trade Coby, Troy Brown Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr? Plus that Blazers pick or is that too much?

Sam Smith:

I can tell trading season is about to begin with the three month/December period for summer signees finally available in trade. I'd feel pretty good; not so much the Kings, I assume. The Portland pick is interesting because it's looking like things could fall apart there. It's lottery protected, but with McCollum out (collapsed lung, uuugh) and the Lillard trade talk and blow it all up going around, the pick could remain with the Blazers for awhile. I suspect the Kings still consider themselves an NBA franchise as little as most opposing fans do.


Christian Wood

Steve Gledhill

The Bulls send Coby White (based on potential; maybe he will be really good someday), Troy Brown, Jr., and Marko Simonovic (any potential there?) to the Houston Rockets for 26 yr-old PF, Christian Wood (16 ppg, 47 fg %, 37% on 3s, 10.6 reb, and 1.5 blocks in 29 mpg). Who has more to gain and who has more to lose with this deal?

The Rockets would be banking on Coby's potential. ESPN's trade maker gives the Bulls 5 more wins this season with this deal. It doesn't seem to do anything to disrupt their chemistry and would make the Bulls bigger on the interior. Perhaps Vooch gets a few easier shots rolling to the hoop, or better looks outside if Wood occupies a big closer to the hoop, and vice versa. I wonder if Bulls' brass has already inquired to see if such a trade is possible.

Sam Smith:

I see everyone is pretty much done with Coby. Wood's name comes up a lot, and I can see why as he's a 6-foot-10 guy who is averaging about 18 points and shooting an amazing 48 percent on 3-pointers in this even more amazing winning streak, though I see some teams have been resting against them, like Brooklyn with Durant. Again, as much as many fans may believe, Troy Brown and a second round pick from overseas who doesn't play isn't on the minds of many opposing GMs. I'm the Rockets GM: "So you want my best young player and leading scorer. How about LaVine and a No. 1? Look how much you gain in age and potential." Making trades is much more difficult when not using the ESPN fantasy boom box.


Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball talking to the team

Matt Chilewich:

I knew Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso would bring a lot to the table but I never envisioned the dominant perimeter defense these two would be bringing every night. It is beautiful to watch them slide their feet and use their bodies where so many NBA guards simply reach or try for the back tap after they are beat off the dribble.

And lets face it, none of us knew how much instant offense 4-time all-star DeMar Derozan would bring to the table. His mid-range game is literally a thing of beauty. But how do you think a healthy Patrick Williams would impact this team? It's not known yet whether or not he can make it back this season and I'm sure that weighs into AK's thoughts on whether or not to bring in another back up big man. But while P-Dubs looked hesitant to exert his will on offense, I still think his rebounding and multi-position defense would make him a critical piece to this team perhaps surprising people and making a real run at the Eastern Conference Finals or even NBA Finals. I don't think enough fans understand that his return might fill the gap in what this team is missing.

Sam Smith:

Perhaps it would if he were not missing five of six months. It's unfair to ask a guy to sit out all season and then fill the gaps for a team that is ready to win, though perhaps not to your level. We can hope, eh? Williams wasn't really ready to play last season, but what did they have to lose pushing him in there in what clearly when we look back was an experimental, evaluation season. And well worth it given how the team came out on the other side. Smart of Karnisovas not to have presented it that way. The Bulls sort of force fed him in Summer League to be assertive on offense, but then not surprisingly he reverted with all the scoring around him. He isn't a great rebounder and is about 6-foot-7, though with a wide body.

Lots of draft analysts said he'd be a guy in five years you might put at the top of the draft. The point was being so young and not even being a starter in college, you couldn't seriously expect him to make a consistent impact in the NBA. Less so after sitting out most of the season. I'm looking forward to seeing him in the 2023-24 season.


Anthony Davis vs. Grizzlies

Jay Hearfield:

My trade proposal is that the Bulls get Anthony Davis and the Lakers get Vucevic, White and Brown. Who says no?

Sam Smith:

LeBron, for one. Heck, the commissioner could step in and void that one to save the Lakers franchise. Davis has been a conundrum this season to some, especially those who voted him in the top 76 all time list. He's a complimentary player. Talented sure, athletically remarkable for a man that size, but he's always been inspired by the Beatles; you know getting a little help from his friends.

But the Lakers have invested in him being the anchor of the relay team to get the baton from LeBron, and I'm not sure I see where your list includes that person. I know Davis once said he wants to play in Chicago one day. Pssst, he lied. Pass it on.


Ayo Dosunmu

Art Alenik:

It was funny listening to KC Johnson explain to Ayo that starting players are usually introduced as being "from" their college. "Chicago is in Illinois, right?" And when told that he was emulating Derrick Rose, "Yeah ,Derrick is from Chicago, too." He eventually got it. But maybe it's time to introduce all the starters as "from" their home town. With one-and-done, they're barely associated with their college, and soon we'll have lot's of players who never attended college, or even completed high school. Heard of the Overtime Elite League?

Sam Smith:

It's a good point, though I've also never been fully sure on why we have to know where they are from. Do they expect to be sent mail? Why can't it be something like, "Son of Barbara and John..." Or maybe, "...whose favorite TV show is..." It's true; by the 13th year I did remember Michael Jordan went to college in North Carolina. Come to think of it, I've never been introduced to anyone in my life from the college I went to, or any of them. Maybe for the future something like, "Sam Smith, born in Peck Memorial Hospital." Or Sam Smith, conceived...uh oh, not going there.

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

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.

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