Ask Sam Mailbag: DeRozan, Lonzo, everything about Bulls free agency

Sam Smith knows there are many reactions and opinions on the Bulls acquisitions of DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso.
by Sam Smith
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Ron Goldberg:

I have been reading you long enough to know you will speak well of the DeRozan deal. You will argue talent over fit and commitment. And probably at least laud management for having a plan. And speak of how hard it is to attract any talent through free agency. All the while glossing over the fact he can't shoot, is better with the ball in his hands and is a minus defender making $30 million a yer. Oh yeah, he's the most boring player in the league to watch. Similar to trading for Vuc and Theis at last year's deadline; once again this management team has shown a total lack of understanding on how to build a team. Adding Ball seemed like a great move. Adding DeRozan negates so much of that.

Sam Smith:

I’m spending too much time writing Ask Sam when it seems you can do it as well (or competently). Ditto. Yes, I love the DeRozan acquisition. Like the Lonzo addition; OK with Caruso and Bradley. But I love the DeRozan acquisition. Did I mention that? Lonzo was the need; I understand that. Everyone has been talking point guard for a year or more; OK, everyone but the teams pressuring the Bulls guards into turnovers. Lonzo’s not top 10 at his position, but he’s young, a former No. 2 overall pick (I prefer them when someone else has trained them), an improved shooter, a defender, good size, unselfish, smart. You don’t teach point guard. You either are or you are not. But basketball is about making plays. Lonzo doesn’t; DeMar does. I know the analytics mob doesn’t like DeRozan because he doesn’t shoot threes. And this debate is never ending without either side giving in, the sporting version of today’s political talk. Though every time you look, it seems mid range shooting is saving the day. Chris Paul, anyone? Booker? Middleton? The Finals was all about making baskets. Heck, just watch this recent USA Olympic team. They generally missed their first eight or 10 threes every game and then got back in the game telling Kevin Durant to make 15 footers. I know everyone has their own evidence. And those three falsehoods, lies, damned lies and statistics. None of the calculations seem to take into account all those times you don’t shoot searching out a three. Anyway, back to DeRozan. You’re right; I like talent. It’s what the NBA game comes down to after all the back and forth, make a run, give up a run. Who’s going to make a play? It’s not Lonzo or Caruso. But now it’s not just Zach or perhaps Vooch. It’s not about multiple playmakers; it’s about multiple scorers. The Bulls have them now, and they’re not the kind of players hesitant to show you. We haven’t seen this here perhaps since Chet and Butterbean. They didn’t win, I know, but what fun they were and they sure got close. I’ll take that. Rating the signings: 1. DeRozan. 2 Ball. 3. Caruso. It became significant only once they added DeRozan. Certainly to me.


Arturas Karnisovas

Art Alenik:

Remember when Lauri & Wendell were the future? Oh, and Zach could be a good 2nd-level guy when those two arose to greatness?

Now we've got 3 established 20+ pt. scorers who are all good playmakers as well... plus Lonzo Ball and the potential of Patrick Williams. The bench looks pretty good too, esp. when Coby is back. Still maybe a little small.

What's become clear is that AK is a brilliant and persuasive negotiator. That's one reason I'm not too worried about all of the future draft picks he's dealing away. I think AK assumes the Bulls will improve and those won't be such juicy picks to start with, but also that he'll be able to get the veteran players he needs through trades and free-agency. Also, with rookies becoming younger and less coached, it makes sense to let them make their mistakes elsewhere and trade for the ones who grow. The Vucevic trade: Most everybody interpreted that as a "win now" move and many considered it a failure since we didn't make the playoffs. I'm sure AK would've preferred making the playoffs, but that's not why he got Vuc. It wasn't a short-term move. It did signal AK wasn't going to sit on his hands and wait for things to develop. All that being said... I'm still in shock. BD probably is too! All the pressure is on him now; Can't say he doesn't have the players.

Sam Smith:

You are accurate in what really stood out here on the macro level is the way Karnisovas has taken 35 years of Bulls history and said, No, not that way! I have a better idea. The Bulls from the day the Reinsdorf group took over, and even several years previous with a run of top 10 draft picks, always were about building through the draft. And it did work: See Jordan, 1984, Pippen and Grant 1987, Rose 2008. Though to me it’s too much luck to be in the right draft with the right number at the right time. It has been the sporting blueprint and still mostly practiced in all sports. But we’ve all had enough of it here. Look, Paxson and Forman got lucky with Rose (1.9 percent chance) and were really close to a championship. Then they were in position to get lucky again with Zion Williams, Ja Morant, Luka Doncic and Trae Young. They didn’t. Would they be elsewhere if they did? But they didn’t, and I also applaud the new guys for declining to ask ownership to give them five years. The core the Bulls were so hopeful about really wasn’t, and it often takes an outsider to tell you what you don’t want to hear. I didn’t understand, as you note, why Vucevic would be judged a failure because it seemed obvious to me the first so called domino, that it hardly was a seriously competitive team until many more changes were made. Now many of them have been. And I also never saw the upside when everyone kept saying they’re the second youngest team in the league. Enough of that. As Tex Winter always said, you win with men. Which is why when the Bulls were winning in the 90s they basically got rid of all their draft picks. This isn’t that, but it’s a reiteration of the philosophy. Veterans dominate the late stages of the playoffs. Let’s challenge those guys. As for Donovan, fans and media tend to celebrate or condemn the coach according to the record. Part of the reason is he is the one who has to do all the talking. But few ever transcend the talent. The pressure should be on the players.


Lonzo Ball defending Zach LaVine

Ateeq Ahmed:

Can we petition Stacey and Adam to start using "ZZ Top" on the many upcoming Zo to Zach alley-oops? Who do you see as our starting 5?

Sam Smith:

I'll pass it on. Stacey is excited and I'm sure he's working on hot sauce subsidiary products and appropriate sobriquets for the new roster. Though the pressure is on Stacey now, also, after his own verbal slam dunk with Thadgic Young. For whatever it's worth, it's probably the best starting five since the championship years with Ball, LaVine, DeRozan, Williams and Vucevic, three All-Stars still in their primes starting, all at least 6-5 or 6-6 with a mix of transition and half court play. Don't do him like that! And, yes, Lonzo Loves the Lob and a Zesty Zach Zigs and Zags.


Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, and Coby White

Jake Henry:

Closer and closer to positionless basketball. All four of Lavine, DeRozan, Caruso, and Ball can play 1-3. Not sure who Derozan can guard. Also concerning he can't shoot threes for 28 million. Nice to get off that terrible Aminu contract though. I don't see Coby in the future plans after all these moves. It is incredible. We have a front office who made moves for the better. Hated the Vuc trade last year, but with these new defensive point of attack additions maybe it works out. I love Caruso. Ball is a nice step in at least having a defensive guard on the floor to start the game. Is Coby now the fourth guard when he comes back or is he gone too? Have to max Zach next year.

Sam Smith:

There's a lot there; I know we'll hear about Zach's finances a lot, but with those new teammates, All-Stars, and the Bulls basically being able to pay him $30 million more than anyone else, where's he going? Where would he want to? After all, watching all the stars limp to the operating room the last two years, you better be sure about giving up all that money and picking somewhere else. Plus, Zach seems committed. Plus the latest conspiracy from the hard evidence of seeing he and Kevin Durant talk on the sidelines in the USA Basketball games that they will team up seems deflated with Durant extending with the Nets. Coby is the interesting one in all of us. Yes, you wonder what he's thinking after the Bulls basically spent free agency signing guards. And using their only draft pick on one. Many note the potential defensive deficiencies, but I still say, especially in the regular season, if you win 125-120 it still counts. This iteration of the Bulls isn't quite the group that has to defend in the conference finals. Worry about that then. Magic's Showtime Lakers didn't do defense much. They usually were about 10th and giving up 110 points per game; but they were fun. There are many ways to win.


Zach LaVine

Kent Hyun:

Carushow will bring energy excitement, he brings playoff experience, is an nba champion, he looks like an accountant but I love it!? Now that we have a hundred point guards can we assume we loaded up on guards in case Zach wants to exit next year. If we don't make the playoffs next year I don't see Zach wanting to stay. I just think that Zach may have outplayed a contract extension and also is expendable. Coby starting at the 2 isn't that bad of a replacement. Zach has been with the bulls 4 years and hasn't proven himself to lead a team. I think he's overrated and not surprised if he becomes expendable because he costs too much money.

Sam Smith:

I feel it's my duty to publish at least one email a week comfortable with getting rid of Zach. You know, the guy who lately was one of the best players on the USA Olympic team, it's best shooter and assists leader. Yeah, why would the Bulls want to keep that guy when they can substitute in Caruso and his six per game career average? I have a bit of a bias against bald white guys in head bands, but I am getting counseling. Caruso is destined to be a fan favorite in the Scalabrine/Nate Robinson/Rodman tradition, the guy diving all over the place whether productive or not. He's a good addition, but hardly what this free agency has been about. As you note, there are a lot of guards, and ones who'll play a lot of minutes like LaVine, Lonzo and DeRozan. Coby probably wasn't thrilled by it all, but he's always been the unselfish, supportive teammate ready to come off the bench if needed. He's an impressive scorer, and I do think this Bulls team is going to have to win more games with its offense. If so, there should be an important place for Coby. While there's been a lot of wonder about White, it's going to be tough for second rounder Ayo Dosunmu to find much light. My sense was Arturas had his eye on someone to stash (and develop) in Europe and then bring in next year. But the Illinois kid was too tempting to pass for possibilities and fan interest. I assume he splits the season with Windy City.


NBA Draft

Ben Arrieta:

Is this the first time in the history of the Bulls that a lot of future picks have been given out in a span of five successive years? It is too risky for anyone to take that route since there is no certainty that the chosen players in exchange for the pick will win the championship. All superstars in the NBA came from the draft and it is a matter of wisdom and sound judgment in choosing the right player for the given position needed. There are several young players to choose from in the draft and would cost the company less money for the same or even higher value.

Sam Smith:

There are always teams that are going to use the draft with your logic, which has been proven. The draft does produce the stars of the game. And everyone else. The Miami Heat is a good example. They disdain the draft and continue to be about competing regularly. I happen to prefer that model, and it seems the Bulls now do, also. Though it is a massive sea change turnaround for the Bulls, so yes, probably difficult to embrace so quickly.


Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine

Lex Gray:

The Bulls are now locked in to mediocrity. Win now mode with a lackluster core. No first round picks in a deep draft. This is the Jimmy Butler/D Wade/Rondo Bulls 2.0 but much softer. It's pathetic. Not a fan of the moves, starting with the trade for Vucevic. I think they're locking themselves in to 40 win seasons and play in games.

Sam Smith:

So you're not on board? There's plenty of inspiration for this, and you can point to the Phoenix Suns. They were the Bulls of the last decade, though much worse, and then added a few experienced veterans to their longtime non-playoffs group of babies and were two wins from the championship. Without much that isn't different from the Bulls. LaVine matches Booker; Vucevic matches Ayton and is much more accomplished, DeRozan matches Crowder with not as much defense but way more offense, Williams will be at least as productive and defensively effective as Bridges and Lonzo is no Chris Paul, but he's a missing piece. And Coby and Caruso versus Cam Payne? The star power has diminished around the league. Kawhi is out, Golden State is reorganizing, the 76ers are teaching guys to shoot free throws, LeBron is putting together an AARP branch; OK, Giannis is great, but you can't match Middleton and Holiday? Harden, Durant and Kyrie? You know there's always the possibility for a Kyrie comet to strike there. The opportunity is there in the NBA like it hasn't been in years. So why not reach for the ring? It's not as far away as it once seemed for so many.


Lonzo Ball

Mike Kay:

Simple question, why would New Orleans not want to resign Lonzo Ball? Do they not think he is a good fit? I can understand if they were to land and upgrade, but missing out on Lowry, wouldn't matching any offer sheets Lonzo gets be a no brainer?

Sam Smith:

Though teams don't say that, money likely was a big part of it. They paid Ingram big and they're going to have to pay Zion. Small market, weak attendance even when fans are allowed in. It seemed obvious they didn't want another big debt on the books, which is also why they moved Adams and Bledsoe, though I think that also helps from a basketball standpoint. Look, Lonzo isn't everything. The Bulls needed him more than others because they didn't really have anyone. He won't help in many areas, like creating and free throws. So they needed DeRozan. Lonzo is a transition guard not adept at pick and roll joining a team that slowed down after acquiring half court Vucevic. There's some fitting to be done by the new tailor, Billy Donovan. Though Lonzo improved his shooting (a lot), some games the box score looks like he wasn't there. But he does those little things with defense, unselfish play, pace and intelligence. He's not one of the Big Three for the Bulls. So don't blame him. The Pelicans have some young guards (inexpensive) they want to try and in the deal acquired a less expensive Devonte Graham. You know, follow the money.


Patrick Williams

Matthew Chilewich:

We're not jumping to the top of the Eastern Conference just yet - not even close. But you certainly can't find out what the combo of LaVine and Vucevic can be without a real distributor and I think we'll see if Patrick Williams can make the jump now that he has a point guard dishing the ball in good spots. I think this was a very necessary move. If the team is no good next year, they can still deal Lavine and get some quality for him. Only way to jumpstart an organization is to take meaningful steps forward, one at a time. I like what I've read about Caruso - lakers media, fans and players were raving about him. Some local reporters said there is no way lakers replace his grit and defense. He's a big gamer. I think a terrific pick up. I'm bullish on DeRozan making a positive impact, teaching guys to win, helping Zach... he's the new and maybe better Rip Hamilton...but he may also go downhill fast like Rip in his mid-30's.

Lets face it- with Zach and Vuc we're a fun team, but we're a 5 seed at best. It's a start. We need Patrick Williams to absolutely become a force in front of our eyes and it starts this summer and we could use a surprise from either Ayo or Marko. I can see a 15-20% chance of a real disappointment, maybe .500 ball, nobody figures out who is supposed to take the last shot and once again Zach playing hero ball. But until I see that, I'm gonna enjoy the new roster and the excitement.

Sam Smith:

One issue you have hit on is for maybe the first time in 20 years you can say the Eastern Conference is stronger than the West. Obviously, there's the champion, which has happened before. But now there's probably more star power in the East with Durant and Giannis, the two best players in the league (sorry, LeBron, not anymore), half the top 20 scorers and many of the biggest names with Harden, Kyrie and Embiid. And the bottom of the playoff East looks like Boston with Tatum and Brown. Versus? Memphis, San Antonio? So as much of a quantum leap as this Bulls team may take, there's the Big Three of Milwaukee, Brooklyn and Philadelphia and then presumed certainties like the Heat and Hawks. And the Knicks surprising again with Kemba? So you can get 15 games better and be a play-in team. But because of these changes, the Bulls don't have to say anyone is really out of reach anymore. They've got three current level All-Stars to make their case.


Marc Eversley

Randall Sanders:

I just wanted to say as a die-hard Bulls fan since my childhood, you have to tip your hat to the organization and this new management. Bulls are finally going in the direction (contending) teams do. Bulls have tried the draft route but with back-end lottery picks (6-8), Its seldom you land a Franchise difference maker. They tried the "staying under the Cap approach in order to sign superstar free agents in the offseason only to be taken advantage of and left at the alter by superstars leaving them to throw tons of money at past his prime (Wade) $40 million along with ‘defense & hustle is Optional (Jabari Parker) $20 Million. These current moves do not secure a championship but, it's defiantly in the right direction.

Sam Smith:

That's the point. You know, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Though often attributed to Albert Einstein, I think he was a sugarholic and said to let them eat cake. Though I digress here once again. Everything the Bulls tried produced championships. Though for someone else. When the new boss comes in—no matter where it is—he or she generally has to present a new plan or direction. Otherwise why not keep the other guys? Only Zach LaVine, Coby White and Patrick Williams remain from the 15-player roster that started last season in late December.


Coby White

Bam Douglas:

With regards to the latest free agency activity by the Bulls: How does Coby White fit into the Bulls plans now that they've signed, Lonzo Ball? Lauri. Ditch or keep?

I'll miss Sato's energy off the bench, but can see why the Bulls traded him to get the player(s) they did. Along with Thad leaving, is this a net gain? Or a net loss for us?

Why move Theis on so soon after signing him? Did AK sign him with the sole intention of using him as a trading pawn in the off season? Or did the Bulls not like what they saw from him?

And finally: the romantic in me would've loved to see Rose back with Chicago! In reality, how close was this to actually happening? There were plenty of pre-trade rumours that it was a serious possibility.

Thanks as always (and surely with this roster we make the playoffs next season?!?!?).

Sam Smith:

Another Bam! Who knew? And now Javonte Green, too. Another guard as we are told it's a guards' league and Donovan often has shown a preference for guards. Green also has Montenegro citizenship to buddy up with Vucevic and Simonovic. Maybe this is all about luring back Mirotic. Coby, as we've all noted, just will have to find his way. Perhaps wear a Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford disguise. It appeared with Theis--and they do probably need another big, but the season isn't quite over yet and this Bulls team could be in the buyout brigade—and Rose it came down to Caruso. Defense? Aggressiveness? Head band residuals? You can't have everyone. The rumors were Rose was up for a return and I believe he was serious. The Knicks apparently were more serious. Credit Rose for refusing to accept everyone's judgment a few years ago that he wasn't even worth a minimum. He signed for about $15 million. It is a remarkable comeback. But it does seem like this Bulls management, which has done in weeks what it seemingly used to take years, wanted its own guys and its own direction without any of the baggage (or memories and sentimentality) of previous eras. It's not unusual. Yes, it's about the playoffs. It really is; really.


Zach LaVine and Devin Booker

Kirk Landers:

Agree with the multitudes of basketball analysts who are singing hymns to Kevin Durant, but the fact is, the USA Basketball would have been buried in the first quarter against France if it wasn't for a truly intense, almost vicious defense played by every man who rotated into the game. Only by holding France to a low shooting percentage and defending the post with grit and clawing hands was Team USA able to stay close enough for Durant's splendid shooting to make the difference. I was less impressed with Jason Tatum's offense. It was noticeable when he came into the game how the ball stopped moving when it got to him. The rest of his game was fine, and his stats are impressive, but I'm not sure he was a great fit for this team. And Lillard was really off. I wondered if he was having trouble with the time zone and the bubble conditions. I found sleep almost impossible on my trips to Asia, until Ambien came along. It wasn't as good as a natural night's sleep, but it was better than roaming the halls all night. Zahk, his growth as an all-around player has been amazing--especially his defense and his ability to blend into a team role. I think the Bulls are going to benefit mightily (and us fans, too) from his work on this team. It's obvious the USA's dominance of international basketball has come to an end, and that pleases me. If the face off with France had been a 3- or 5-game series, I don't know who would have won. But I know for sure all of the games would have been worth watching.

Sam Smith:

Good for USA, but especially good for Zach. He doesn't get into that answer critics stuff, but he certainly did as Popovich, no softie, relied on him for defense. Zach wasn't about the empty stats so many accuse him of but winning the game. Just like he always says. Yes, it's about the overall talent because it's a team game. Popovich relied on Zach a lot and let others sit. Though Tatum scored more, he often was awful to watch with his isolation play. I know he's celebrated for his scoring and has big games, but he played selfishly. Boston is not so assured relying on him. So I do see the Bulls passing them. To paraphrase the movie Airplane, Looks like Brad Stevens picked the wrong season to give up pointing to management about the guys they selected. And, by the way, it's time to sell high on Lillard. He was absolutely awful, bad shots, selfish play, looked like he wanted to be anywhere else. Apparently he told a reporter afterward he played through an abdominal injury. If that was the case, he shouldn't have. Tell someone. They had plenty of guys who could have shot 37 percent overall as he did. Look, he's a great talent and it was a tough place to play with the restrictions. But Portland's not going anywhere, he's tried and tried. It's time he gets a chance. They should take the 76ers offer and put Ben Simmons at point power forward where he belongs.


Arturas Karnisovas

Alejandro Yegros:

Everyone complained that previous management was too conservative. Now AK trades two first for 30+ Vuc and another first for 30+ DeRozan, two guys who in their prime are "Damontas Sabonis" level All-Stars.This is like NJ when they got Pierce and KG. I understand this is better than watching Coby and Wendell develop, but wow. This is definitely jumping off with no parachute.

Sam Smith:

But where were they going with Lauri, Wendell, Hutchison, Gafford, et al? Pierce and Garnett were post 35 and several years past their best. Prime for NBA players is generally agreed to be 28-32. Everyone is within that except for the younger guys and Zach just below. It's how you win in the NBA. Check the conference finals each season and see how many third year players are involved. Usually about one. I think it's still OK to say Geronimo, the daring call when soldiers were parachuting during World War II, since it was a military tribute to the great Native American chief. There's still safe landing out there. One other irony here. There's all this analysis of DeRozan costing too much. These are the same analysts always carping that the Bulls are cheap and don't spent enough. And now they're saying the Bulls spend too much? And why do they care? After all, it's not their money. And it's not like ticket prices ever are coming down. Enjoy the improvement in talent.


Noah Vonleh

Louie Marshall:

What are your thoughts on this Noah Vonleh? We had him for a short while this past year till he contracted covid and then the Nets picked him up for the rest of the year. He is a big bodied PF/C that rebounds and is still young at 25.....maybe its the IU in me but he seems to keep getting with teams where he can never show off what he can do. The PF cupboard in free agency is getting pretty bare so could he be someone to spell Patrick Williams off the bench?

Sam Smith:

Third time's a charm? The Bulls probably need some backup size, but not too much. It seems obvious their priority is to play smaller and guard oriented, and they did add what looks like a defensive backup in in Tony Bradley. Billy Donovan made it clear last season he prefers shorter rotations of about nine and maybe 10, and they have that with LaVine, Ball, DeRozan, Williams, Vucevic, Caruso, White, Bradley, probably Javonte Green and perhaps the 6-11 Simonovic. Plus they have a few bigs to look at from the Summer League team. Simi Shittu at 6-10 played well with them before. The 6-8 Omari Spellman on the Summer League team also looks interesting.


Garrett Temple

Pete Zievers:

It looks like they have their distributor in Ball. He can play defense too. Hate to see Garrett Temple go. Those guys are harder to replace than folks think. Not impossible, but tougher than folks want to admit. I haven't seen Ball in a couple of years. Last time I saw his shot looked really hideous. I hear it's more presentable now. Best news though...unless he's a total bust out, LaVine can move off the ball which I think can really do great things for his game. He just never was a natural distributor. He's a finisher. I'm not so sure that Vucevic benefits as much though. Vucevic would do best with an Isiah-type that slashes off the s/r and has a number of ways of scoring. I don't think they want to make a Princeton center out of Vucevic. He strikes me as a bully on the box. I need to see what Ball's 12ft J looks like.

Sam Smith:

That's part of the puzzle, and plenty for us to discuss next season. Which will be another part of the fun. It's OK again to talk Bulls. Sure there appear to be some missing pieces and some edges that don't seem to fit and a lot of staring at things before it becomes clear. But there are so many possibilities now with, as you note, players like Zach in position to be more effective, if not to score as much, and more conundrums for the defense. That's it, more 12 footers!


Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams

Enrique DeAnda:

Ayo dropped in the draft because he is mostly a mid-range type of player. Doesn't shoot many three pointers but is still effective. I can't help but think that DeRozan is the perfect mentor for Ayo!

Sam Smith:

I'm not much into the mentor thing since the best experience is to play. It seems problematic now for Ayo with the offseason guard additions of Ball and Caruso, and Coby White will be back after maybe missing just the start of the season with that shoulder surgery. And Javonte Green is around, another 6-4, 6-5 defensive guy. But it's a long season, guys get hurt, load management, so you never know. Plus, with a second round selection it's usually more about next year or the year after. And with the Bulls without many upcoming draft picks, it would seem more a season of seasoning for Ayo with the Windy City Bulls returning after sitting out the G-league bubble last season.


Paul Millsap

Mike Sutera:

Would Paul Millsap take the vet min to join us?

Sam Smith:

That's just the kind of addition I can see Karnisovas pursuing. I know this calculation never works when we say isn't $200 million (career salary for Millsap) enough? But we have come to understand status and talent also are measured by salary. Not that they can do anything more with the money, but it's also a recognition of your place. Like in most work places. You're good with your salary until the coworker who you know is inferior gets a raise to make more than you do. With his experience Millsap would be eligible for about $2.5 million minimum. Might even be worth traveling around with a good veteran group for a season. And there's per diem. LaMarcus Aldridge out of retirement? Biyombo? Oh no, not Boogie.


Kyle Lowry

John Leichenko:

Not that Lowry is a goon, or any of those guys really, in the way the Riley Knicks where, maybe PJ Tucker. But Riley seems to want to turn the clock back to the 90s and have some 84 to 83 games. I wouldn't mind that, much as I hated it back then, I am interested to see what happens. There is a lot of talent on the Bulls now, and it's up to Donovan to best utilize it all. Defense could be an issue, but Ball defends, and Levine said he wants to defend. I am looking for PW to be the D anchor, as well as start to realize how good he can be all around. He could definitely handle himself with any goons.I think Donovan has his work cut out for him. There are a lot of shots to go around with this much O talent. And then there's defense

Sam Smith:

I believe a part of this roster makeover was that the Bulls seemed to have too many guys somewhat averse to standing up for themselves, as if the officials would always make it fair. Yes, it's an offense-oriented team, but it is also a team with players who have been in these battles before. DeRozan knows Lowry well and isn't going to take anything. Caruso was that stick-his-nose-in-there guy teams love to have, like Garrett Temple but younger. Patrick Williams isn't being pushed around. Someone mentioned it in an email earlier, but there was that game last season when Embiid and Simmons sat out and then with the 76ers Tony Bradley crushed Carter and the Bulls. When Karnisovas came in he talked about being high on players like Carter. It likely was games like that which changed his mind. That Denver team Karnsiovas helped build isn't dirty, but it's tough and physical. He obviously wants players like that. Actually, John Paxson always did, but when they are 19 and highly acclaimed you never know until you have them. That's also why the draft is so difficult now. Who's tough at 19 coming out of AAU ball and a year in college when nobody makes you do anything you don't want to? The East with teams like Miami and Philadelphia is tough. The Bulls finally can match that with size an attitude.


Draymond Green

Peter Laundy:

I'd never heard of this European rule that Draymond Green took advantage of in the Gold game. It does make the foul shot more entertaining for the audience. Do you know its history and reasons for adoption?

Sam Smith:

I don't know the history, but European FIBA basketball always has been that way, that once the ball hits the rim it's live and can be batted away. U.S. players generally forget to do it; tough habit to break. Since Draymond can't do much else, he doesn't have much to think about.


Patrick Williams

Joe Tanner:

It's hard not to get excited about this upcoming season. The Bulls now have 4 starters that are all-star caliber or close to it and an up and coming young player to boot. If Williams makes a jump this season to an average-level player... this team could be a serious threat in the East.

Sam Smith:

Yeah, that's what I was saying.


Lauri Markkanen

Brian Tucker:

Some of the blame has to be on Markkanen since he hasn't stayed healthy. But yes, terrible coaching set him back. I think he's still got all star potential. Kinda disappointing it never happened for us, but at least we got Zach in the Jimmy trade!

Sam Smith:

Lauri will always be a mystery because he sure looked like something. Maybe not super special, but he was close to 20 and 10 as a second year guy, making big plays in Madison Square Garden, with a hard-to-defend driving drop step move and bank shot that seemed like something to develop. He looked like he’d wake up and fall into 20 points. Yes, there were injuries, several the freak kind, but they did keep happening. He did try to play through them or come back early. Despite his bland personality and casual urgency, he did seem like he wanted to compete. We’ll never know the impact of Boylen’s dismissal and poor usage of him and how much he gave up on himself—assuming he did—when he couldn’t gain much traction with Donovan. The soft thing became a self-fulfilling prophesy. Was it mental? Physical? Lost opportunity? There are just too many players who play like him—several Bogdanovics, Bertans—for Lauri not to find success in the NBA. I’m at least curious to watch his progress. I also think he can be productive, if not the All-Star the Bulls imagined a few years ago. If he’s with the Bulls this season it will likely be on the one-year qualifying offer and you assume you get his best if he wants to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. It’s a wise addition for the Bulls to keep him another year given his size and shooting for a reasonable price. There’s need on the front line for now.


Jeff Lichtenstein:

I was reading about all the every other year rules around the Bulls 3 first round picks in trades due to the "Stepien Rule". I briefly remember him as an idiotic owner who traded all the Cavs first round picks and has to be stopped by the league. While he was ahead of his time in Cleveland logo team name changing, his slow pitch softball was renamed the Cleveland Stepien's! Crazy ball drop off a skyscraper injuring a lady, not enough whites on the team and inviting NBA writers over to watch porn (I assume you didn't go). Do you remember anything about him and how the league got rid of him?

Sam Smith:

I know I should have answered when the call was coming from 216. You mean the change to the Karnisovas Rule. But Arturas didn't trade two firsts for Richard Washington and Jerome Whitehead and release Whitehead after three games as Stepien did. Stepien was basketball's Steinbrenner of that era, personally running his team and shopping for names. The draft picks he traded (they were four year college players then) basically built the excellent Mavericks team of the early 80s and got the Lakers James Worthy. Though it was more than just the draft pick trades. He was a bully and a segregationist, erratic and mean. But he also wasn't doing something that unusual for the times. There basically was no outside TV money in that era, so teams needed gate receipts just to stay in business. A half dozen teams including the Cavs might not have, which led to the pioneering salary cap, the first in American pro sports in 1983. It's also why five teams passed on Larry Bird in the 1978 draft. Teams needed players immediately. So Stepien wasn't nuts about that part. But he was so divisive with the players and the community that the NBA sent in its young lawyer/fixer David Stern to broker a sale and get Stepien out of the league. David Stern made things happen. Stern had a passion for the NBA that a parent has for a child. When someone was damaging the NBA, he might not exactly follow proper procedure. But the league would be better. And it was when Gordon Gund bought out Stepien in 1983.


Zion Williamson

Victor Devaldivielso:

So basically... The Bulls signed DeRozan to a 30year contract, which ends when Zion Williamson becomes a free agent. The Pelicans will probably hire 2 more head coaches by then. They already traded Zions great friend Lonzo. After 3 more years of disappointment in NO... Zion will want to reunite with Lonzo in a big market.... Chicago. Great job AK and ME.

Sam Smith:

So that's the plan?

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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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