Ask Sam Mailbag: free agency targets, Bulls draft prospects, and more

Sam Smith gives his thoughts on potential point guard options for the Bulls to explore in this edition of his offseason mailbag.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

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Jo Morrison:

We are limited by not having a first round pick and head scratching who we can afford to have greatest impact at PG. The sooner we can recover our winning ways, the sooner big names will notice with interest.

I personally want to re-sign Daniel Theis and Arch who I feel has proven he is a hard working and scrappy player who can show more if plays more.

I am very intrigued with Cameron Johnson, Pat Connaughton and Luke Kennard who now have playoff experience and affordable. Would love to bring back Rose as well! Then we hear what if's on Russ, Lonzo, Schroder, Rozier, Kyrie, Dinwiddie among others. I'll hang my hat on impactful guys who play nice with others.

Sam Smith:

It's becoming the usual suspects, I agree. Though after watching some USA Basketball lately I have a plan. I don't think it's wise to get in a bidding war to overpay Ball or Schroder, and the latest rumor has Schroder in sign and trades for him to get his money and the Lakers to get a point guard they actually like. Plus, for the Bulls trying to get into a big free agency position at more than $20 million would require basically gutting almost the entire roster. The Bulls are not in position to bid for your trio, though as I always warn: Don't be fooled by a player who makes a shot when everyone is watching. Back to the point. I think it's also best for the Bulls to go the sign-and-trade route with Markkanen, who seems the most likely player to be of interest to another team and worth paying. He still could end up making the team look like it lost the deal, but if you improve you cannot get caught up in what it does for the other team. I'd try to make a sign-and-trade deal with Minnesota for Ricky Rubio, who is out of favor in Minnesota. I liked what I saw of him in the USA game with Spain. He's hardly the ultimate answer, but he's certainly a pass first player, which the Bulls need, who can handle pressure and make plays and a good defender. He's a better shooter, if still not very good, and has one year left on his deal. I like that because it also allows the Bulls to be patient over the next year as players—point guards—become more available on trade, or because a team drafted someone they like better.

There are all sorts of possibilities. So the Bulls get a point guard without having to scrap their roster and depth strength. Then use the taxpayer exception of about $10 million for Derrick Rose. I finally give in, too. Rose has shown he's not 2011 Derrick Rose, but he is a reliable scorer and closer. He can come off the bench, get in 65 to 70 games to keep him healthy and finish games, if needed. Let Rubio start and play 24 minutes and then play Rose and you can add in Coby White and LaVine, who are at least competent playmakers. Plus, Thad Young and Nikola Vucevic pass well. I believe Rose still wants to finish his career in Chicago. He's made it clear he has no problem coming off the bench. And not having to carry a team should enable him to sustain while he continues to produce. For all the negative media assaults on his play, Rose the last three seasons has averaged mostly coming off the bench 18.0 for Minnesota in 2019, 18.1 for Detroit in 2020 and 14.7 for New York and Detroit in 2021. He played in 70 percent of the games those three seasons and in two of those three seasons shot at least 37 percent on threes, including 41 percent for the Knicks last season. Rose led the Knicks in scoring in the playoffs at 19.4, in assists and in three-point shooting. That seems like a heck of a point guard platoon, and a worthy welcome back homecoming for a team in the current environment that finally seems to have a chance with the right moves.


Lonzo Ball

Victor Devaldivielso:

The only certainty this offseason is Thibodeau won't trade for a rookie. Oh, and the Bulls need a PG. I wish it was Ball but I don't see that happening. This is the Ball brothers first chance to play together. I just can't see them passing that up. Hornets will have cap space and they won't need Graham if they have Lonzo and LaMelo, so he's probably gone too. I see the Hornets getting Lonzo. Jordan likes making money and having the 3 Ball brothers is good business.

Sam Smith:

And then a franchise to endorse Ball jars? I hadn't thought of that one, but it does sound intriguing given that family. The general thinking has been they'd want to have, at least Lonzo to start, back in a major market. But three brothers playing together with LiAngelo, whom I know nothing about but is a free agent, would at least get them back on TNT. I'm not sure what sort of team they'd have with those three guards and at least now with Zeller and Biyombo free agents (though I have nominated Biyombo for worst regular player in the NBA). But they'd also have enough money to buy a big man. And they do have Washington and Bridges still cheap; yeah why not.


Giannis with the NBA Finals trophies

Ryan Carpel:

Nice to see the Bucks won. Going to be hard for the Bulls to build a team to beat them. I think the only way is to bring in another star.

Sam Smith:

You mean like Jrue Holiday, a one time All-Star? The Bucks were two inches of Kevin Durant's shoe from being out of the playoffs in the second round, which would have been a premature exit for the third straight year against a team basically without two of its three best players. Their coach then certainly would have been fired, Bobby Portis declining his player option and opting out, the bench basically being in shambles and perhaps Giannis being publicly condemned for a third early ouster despite his two MVPs suggesting he may need to be elsewhere with better talent in order to finally achieve some playoff success. We like to compute backwards assuming what occurred was destined to occur, that the Bucks are the champions because they were the best team. They did win, so they deserve the rewards. And they were good. There's not much that can change all of that. Maybe ask the losing team, the Suns, who hadn't even been in the playoffs for a decade. One thing this playoffs should have done more than anything is give teams like the Bulls confidence. You mean those two teams, perennial losers and disappointing chokers, were playing for the championship?


Chris Paul defended by Zach LaVine

Mike Sutera:

This was CP3's last title shot. If he opts out, (owner Robert) Sarver should say farewell. If he really wants a title he should not prioritize money over winning.

Sam Smith:

Mr. State Farm? Not likely. He has a $44 million option for next season that most believe he'll opt out of…not to play for minimum for the Lakers. After all, he got close enough with the Suns making $40 million. Is there that much better chance with the aging LeBron and fragile Anthony Davis? The Knicks could make that three-year offer, which would be so Knicks for a 36-year-old point guard whom few believed would finish this contract. That he can and has done it as well as he has and helped the Suns as much as he did has been one of the biggest stories and perhaps surprises in the NBA. He's made a difference, first for the Thunder and then certainly for the Suns. He has had a great career. All the Knicks guards except basically Quickly are free agents and they have the salary cap room for huge deals. Though with Paul, Randle and Barrett that hardly seems like the ultimate formula other than good press conference coverage for awhile. The Suns decision is the tough one. I assume Paul will want to stay and have two years added on. It's something no one would have said a few years ago, but it seemed like the Suns erred in not playing Cameron Payne enough those last few games. The West is tough and this seemed like the Suns window. With a young team, if Paul opts out I'd also pass and try to get myself a young point guard or two to fit with Booker. If Paul wants a chance to compete and $44 million doesn't seem that insulting with his commercial running every three minutes, he should opt in with the Suns. The decision should demonstrate what he's about.


Tomas Satoransky and Thad Young

Brodie Larsh:

Rockets get Thad, Sato, and Aminu and this year's 2nd round pick.

Bulls get John Wall and Kevin Porter Jr.

Wall is still an above average PG when healthy, averaged 20 pts and 7 ast this year. Kevin Porter is showing a lot of potential. Huge price tag though. Do you think this could be viewed as a backup plan if they strike out on free agent PG's?

Sam Smith:

Yes, trading and wild speculation season is upon us, and nowhere is it better than in the NBA. Baseball's "hot stove" has a cooler name, but it's drama is long gone. Basketball is where it happens. But John Wall! It hasn't sounded like Bradley Beal misses him too much. He did come back and has been relatively productive, and most doubted that would ever occur. But let me count the ways: Owed $90 million the next two seasons, a poor shooter who played about half the games last season who's known for his selfish play. I assume you were just testing me.


Damian Lillard

Bruce Roberts:

Damian Lillard? Once a player wants to be traded equality of value can go out the window. On the surface the Bulls are not a likely trade partner for Lillard. However trade demands put the team the player is traded from in a terrible bind. The James Harden trade gives me hope. If you remember Cleveland was the third party. There are many variables at play, from Lillard's preferences to the visions of a new Portland coach, possibly new GM and new owner. AK appears savvy and Portland's situation is in possible turmoil. This could have a surprise ending.

Sam Smith:

Yes, we can only hope? Though watching USA Basketball, albeit just exhibitions, he doesn't seem to play that well with LaVine. Nothing onerous or obvious, but they play more like Lillard and, you know, McCollum. My turn; OK, now you. Though, yes, Zach is better than CJ. The Lillard speculation can up just after last week's Ask Sam went up, so I didn't get into it much. It's faded some with Lillard saying he expects to be in Portland this season (p.s., we didn't believe him). He's not being disloyal. He's been there nine years. He's tried. They seem to be going in that other (not so positive) direction with a new rookie coach to break in, and it probably is time for both them and Dame to move on. That's what Dame Time means now. The Bulls, to me, don't have the stuff without any first round draft picks to throw in until 2025. NBA rules don't allow a team to not have consecutive No. 1 picks, and the Bulls 2023 pick is owed to Orlando and still conditional top four protected, so the Bulls cannot build up a trade with picks. Portland probably still wants to make a run at competing, but also pack away some futures. So where? Golden State makes the most sense as they have a pair of lottery picks this season to offer and can include James Wiseman from last year's lottery and have Portland take Wiggins for salary. They need to run out Curry/Thompson/Green as long as they can. As with their title teams, then all the Warriors need is a role playing big. The 76ers also because they are all about now because they can't assume Embiid will hold up long. They obviously have Simmons to trade, and you can build with him. Heck, if Giannis can make some free throws, Simmons has better form. The 76ers also have young players to add like Maxey. I doubt the Trailblazers would punish Lillard by sending him to New Orleans. But they have the package with a Lonzo sign and trade, perhaps Ingram and some picks. Denver with Porter and extras as they have to try something? Murray? The rumors mill isn't done with Dame.


Reggie Jackson

Lawrence Fields:

I would like to see the Clippers point guard, Reggie Jackson here in Chicago. Do you think they would sign and trade Lauri for Reggie?? Or could we sign Reggie straight out since he is a free agent?

Sam Smith:

I assume you're one of the few. Jackson did seemingly resurrect his career in the playoffs from being on the verge of next stop China and playing off a minimum deal. He's a scorer and shot the ball well, but is hardly a point guard and has a difficult history regarding playing nice with others.


Texas center Jericho Sims

Art Alenik:

Not ‘hooked' on Jericho Sims; just heard a rumor. You have to admit that 6'10" w/ a 44.5" vertical is intriguing. That would tie Shannon Brown for the 6th best ever in the NBA.

  1. Spud Webb: 46 inches.
  2. James White: 46 inches.
  3. Jason Richardson: 46 inches.
  4. Darrell Griffith: 48 inches.
  5. Michael Jordan: 48 inches.

Nobody expects much from 2nd round picks... but you know, Jokic. Not saying he'll be a star, but could be a helpful rotation guy; Maybe better than Gafford. But if you get anyone decent in the 2nd round, it's a coup.

Sam Smith:

I'll admit I've paid less attention to this draft than perhaps anytime since the championship years when the Bulls always tried to get rid of their draft pick. Because the Bulls don't have a first round pick with it going to Orlando in the Vucevic trade—though there are several available with several teams having multiple picks so they could get one—and the team's priority seeming at this time to be adding veterans. But the Bulls do have No. 38, the eighth pick in the second round, and Sims seems from the mock drafts to be in that company. He's actually the kind of player I'd lean to if I were the Bulls. You assume in trade or free agency they'll be adding a point guard and perhaps a wing as a priority. The other largest need, I believe, is athletic size at the basket with shot blocking and rim protection. Yes, Gafford, but Brown and Theis were headed the Bulls way in that deal, which seemed reasonable. If that were the Bulls only pick and they got Sims it would seem to be a plus.


Sam Hauser

Ben Arrieta:

Sam Hauser is a player to consider after making an in depth search for the best possible shooter in this year's NBA draft. He stands 6'8" and plays forward. He shoots 48.3% from the 2 pt. range and 43.9% from the deep compared to Kris Middleton who makes 47.6% and 41.4% from the 3 pt. range.. AKME should look into this possibility of acquiring him for the 38th pick if he passes the criteria.

Sam Smith:

Everyone, and especially the Bulls, can use some catch and shoot help, and while he seems like a fine shooter, he doesn't seem to have the speed and maneuverability to stay on the court and defend. He reminds me a bit of Jason Kapono, who was an amazing shooter and got himself a free agent deal, but couldn't get much playing time as a free way opponents used straight to the basket.


Zach LaVine

Chris Granner:

Zach had a "protocol scare." I have questions.
How do the protocols account for vaccines?
Does Zach having a "protocol scare" indicate that he's not vaccinated?
Do you happen to know if he is?
What about the other players, or the NBA player community in general?
Zach was sidelined those 11 games in April...if he had been vaccinated then, would he still have missed those games?

Sam Smith:

Me, too. It is very confusing and very arbitrary, it seems. I'm not sure what USA Basketball is doing and then with the complications of the concerns of Japan it becomes sort of a Star Chamber court. They seem to be making up "rules" as they go. The NBA did some of that as well, assigning monitors to decide who was in contact and who wasn't in what seemed completely arbitrary. But none of us knew what to do having missing the 1919 pandemic. After all, if Beal tested positive, wasn't the entire team team next to him? I thought Zach from my understanding was vaccinated, though tested positive for Covid just as the players were becoming eligible for the vaccine. That he was back within a day or two suggested there couldn't have been anything wrong except for just excessive caution or perhaps to please and reassure the sponsors and hosts. This Olympics could be a mess. Though they thought Rio would be, too.


Eric Bledsoe

Valente Gonzalez:

If we miss out on Ball, Murray, and Dennis. And since we need a PG. Would you want Eric Bledsoe as our PG? Pelicans are trying to move him and Steven Adams, to sign Kyle Lowry.

Bledsoe is a 31 year old vet, with 11 years experience. Knows the Bucks offense since he was there for 2 seasons. He was a all defensive first team in 2019, defensive second team in 2020. His best year was 2017, with 21 points. He had a down year last year with NO with 12 points and 4 assists a game. His contract only has 2 more years on it. 18 mil this year, and 19 mil next year. I think Lauri and Sato should be enough to get him.

Sam Smith:

Well, that is a guy who is available, I agree. Though his references aren't great as the Bucks credited a lot of their success to getting rid of him and the Pelicans even seemingly about to lose Lonzo Ball don't want him around. And making close to $20 million a year for two more years. He's another of those guys whose business card says point guard—though he played off the ball this season—but is really is scoring guard. He is physical and a good defender, but not enough of what the Bulls need as a facilitator and offensive conductor.


Lauri Markkanen

Bob Bradley:

I'm baffled by the apparent enthusiasm among your readers to show Lauri Markenen the quickest road out of town. 7-footers who can shoot 3's and are good teammates are tough to find. As soon as he's gone, we'll be looking for a player like him. I agree that he hasn't been Dirk (although he's closer to a young Dirk than many realize). Obviously, Lauri hasn't turned into Dirk. You can also argue that the standards for sweet shooting big men are higher that they were when Dirk arrived (he was a unicorn, Lauri is another in a line). Why get rid of him now?

Sam Smith:

Lauri was uncomfortable with all the Dirk comparisons a few years ago. He doesn't have to worry anymore. I don't believe it's so much the fans want him out, but more a realization that with Patrick Williams and Vucevic and the new management invoking their own vision for the team Markkanen doesn't seem like a big part of that. So get something for him! It is a recognition he has value, but you can't keep everyone. And it is Lauri's turn to be paid.


Zach LaVine and Kevin Durant

Len Artick:

I'd say the USA team played well enough to win in the last two exhibitions, but not their best effort in any of the 4. It's a strange roster with no PG and not much size. Couldn't they get any decent PG to sign up? Doesn't have to be a big star, just a competent playmaker. Draymond will be helpful on defense, or should be. But they could still use a real ‘big'. Bam is closer to that. No doubt, they're going to shoot a lot of 3s and outscore everybody. We'll see how that works out. 1st game is Sunday morning v. France. That should tell us something.

Sam Smith:

There's going to be a Darwinian element in this Olympics as it was the NBA playoffs that the healthiest survive. What we really don't know about the roster is who they wanted and how many turned them down. And with everything going on in Tokyo now how many are wishing they did. And now what will the guys coming out of the Finals give them. In the best shape of everyone? Too worn out and either giddy or disappointed? There does seem too many individual scoring players. It does look like a team because it's shooting so many threes that if it has a bad shooting game can be in a lot of trouble against so many other teams who have long experience playing together and more comfortable with one another. I don't see them as the favorite.


Khris Middleton defended by Patrick Williams

Jim Fromm:

I grew up a Bucks fan, mainly because there is no local NBA team where I grew up and I naturally picked a good team to follow. Oscar, Lew/Kareem, Bobby Dandridge, Lucius Allen, McGlocklin - those were the guys I grew up idolizing. I was just a kid and my memory might be off here, but to me Dandridge and Middleton are very similar players. Both lower draft picks, both in a support role for stars but capable of taking over a game, both good for 20 ppg... From my recollection Middleton is Bobby Dandridge reincarnated. What do you think of the Dandridge/Middleton comp?

Sam Smith:

Not bad. It's tough to be underrated in this era with so much media and instant commentary, so Middleton isn't. Dandridge took 40 years to get in the Hall of Fame because he was great but playing with Kareem and Oscar and then Hayes and Unseld. But when those teams needed big baskets and big stops, Dandridge made them. He was one of the greatest most unappreciated (except by fellow players) players of his era. Thanks for giving him a mention. Dandridge was a better defender, but it's a good comparison of secondary players who outperformed their expectations.


Zach LaVine in a crowd of Bucks defenders

Brian Tucker:

I'm starting to think size does matter after all with these Finals. Nobody really deserves blame, more like the Bucks just won it. So I may be back to Patrick as a big wing, and then get another big to play in the starting lineup with him, Zach, Vuc, and whichever point guard they end up with.

Sam Smith:

I did believe the Bucks were the better team, but began to have some doubts with everyone else early in the series when they weren't using that size advantage. Great skill is important. Great skill and size is even more important. I won't fault the Suns—and I join the crowd in believing they'd be out in the first round—but they played Giannis wrong. The problem is as small as they were, losing their backup center and that Ayton isn't a physical player, it looked like they ignored the Giannis blueprint that worked in previous series. You build that defensive wall. But outside the paint. The Suns were coming late to double and often with smaller players, allowing Giannis too much room inside. It wasn't a good scheme. Taking nothing away from Giannis, who played with that never stops Energizer attitude. The broadcasters constantly mentioned how worn out he looked, and then he played harder than anyone. Perhaps with Milwaukee and Phoenix and without a must watch star other than Giannis The Finals wasn't the ratings bonanza for TV. But it was great for the NBA where it can't be said you can't win in a small market and stars won't stay there (San Antonio and now Milwaukee). It should help bring back a bit of the 80s mentality of guys being disappointed, but saying they can do it where they are. Perhaps not all the time as we'll probably see with Damian Lillard, but there's hope for an era when a dozen teams each season can believe they have a chance to win a title.

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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