Ask Sam mailbag: Playoff thoughts, Ayo's development, Thad Young, and more

Sam Smith responds to readers to give his two cents on Warriors-Grizzlies, Joel Embiid's post-elimination comments, and more in this offseason edition of his Friday mailbag.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later
FanDuel

Body

Larry Jurkens:

Is it my imagination or does near every single player on every team complain about every foul?

Sam Smith:

Let's put it this way. I heard the NBA, to better represent the look of the league, is planning to change the logo from the image of a fast break dribble thought to be associated with Jerry West to either LeBron, James Harden or Luka Doncic with both arms raised, looking pained at an official and then walking back on defense. You know if you give the kids ice cream at every meal they come to expect it.

I understand the NBA doesn't want to begin punishing its stars, who drive the game and the attention. But they are the biggest offenders. Unfortunately, the NBA has let it come to this with the companion of so much falling down every time you take a shot. Maybe it's just slippery floors. Or sneakers. The NBA cracked down on flopping a few years back for a few months, but that's long gone. It is time for something. Players always say all they want to know is how the game will be called and they'll adjust. And they do. This is what I'd do on foul complaining. After all, it's a game in which contact technically is not allowed, but a game in which contact is desired. So quit blaming the officials!

You can't change in the playoffs, but starting next season as soon as Luka or LeBron or Kyrie or Jokic or Chris Paul or DeRozan complains, I'd give him a technical foul. And then another. After an ejection, they'll get it. The officials used to do that with Rodman and it worked well. Pretty much whatever he did, they'd call a technical foul two minutes into the game. Then he wouldn't start going nuts until late in the game unless it wasn't close. Rodman was smart. He always knew what he was doing. It was a lot more calculated than it seemed. The NBA has the power. It's whether they believe it's an issue. It's not a great look. After all, could they be wrong every time? And then did that ever lead to a change in the call?


Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. celebrate their Game 5 victory over Golden State.

Mike Worth:

The Warriors gave Game 4 to the Grizzlies but they politely refused. Bane and Brooks were awful that game. Then they came back.

Sam Smith:

That game, or at least part of the post mortem, raised some issues for a rant from me now that it appears the NBA really is not going to give the Bulls a bye into the conference finals for the injury issues. Without Morant you figured the Grizzlies had little chance, but then there was that 20-5 record without Morant; so OK we'll wait. Memphis is a great watch, by the way, especially with Morant, who I suspect the way he plays at his size could have some issues. Too bad. It still is a big person's game, for the most part.

Anyway, Memphis is right there in Game 4 and a big part is poor Golden State shooting (great defense? ah, not so much). But it seemed the Grizzlies should have won easily with their size and Mike Brown coaching (joking). It has seemed like it's been a wonderful coaching job this season by whoever is coach there, though the Grizzlies have been making the fundamental mistake you make against the Warriors. You can't beat them small. I know, almost did. And then they did in Game 5. That is a very good and tough Grizzlies team even without Morant. Meanwhile, Golden State basically invented and popularized small ball. And Golden State has Jaren Jackson and Steven Adams. But Memphis kept shooting. And then still leading with a minute to go they take arguably three of the worst shots in postseason history. Maybe a slight exaggeration, though not much as the Warriors run to the rim and win.

Just one game and all that, but this next part is the part for the rant. Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins—hey, I remembered—immediately afterward for the interviews says how proud he was of his team for the way they competed. I'm not sure how responses works here, but raise your hand if your boss ever said he was proud of you when you didn't reach your goal. I know mine always said: Why didn't you get that story? But it's also why they can take shots like that at the end and no one says anything. And why it's often so difficult to coach in the NBA these days. Forget accountability. Better not hurt anyone's feelings. It's hardly just Jenkins. I hear this all the time of how proud the coach is for how hard they played or the way they competed or the effort they put in. What I remember best is when I screwed up and was told (forcefully) about it. Those closing shots were a selfish, stupid, abomination. For a basketball game, anyway. Yet the coach is there showering them with praise for trying. Participation trophies, anyone?


Coby White

Wayne Warner:

Which player/position do you hope that the Bulls add using the non-tax payer mid-level exception? Did well using it last year to add Caruso. Seems that Bulls enter offseason two deep at every position. My hope is add a free agent veteran forward using exception and draft the best available player to develop for 23/24. Maybe also a sign & trade addition by using the Theis exemption.

My hope is offseason player development is such that White perfects his Reggie Miller "catch & shoot" 3 point shooting, Ayo surprises us all with his PG play, Bulls sign Hartenstein to be their rim protecting player

Sam Smith:

Playoffs are the goal, but they also expose your flaws. We saw them for the Bulls. Did you mention shooting? Catch and shoot is badly needed. I'm not sure that is Coby since he seems to be more comfortable off the dribble. Actually, it could be Ayo. He also to me didn't look like a point guard, but I believe he could develop into a 3-D catch-and-shoot kind of guy. Which the Bulls need. Dosunmu seems to play better from the corners and with his reach can defend. He doesn't handle the ball well, but his biggest problem seems to be a reluctance to shoot under pressure and then a deliberate shot when he does. He can improve that. I'd say maybe 1,000 shots per day with someone in his face. The Bulls just in case could use another someone like that, though they also need to be taller, which is more difficult to teach, and tougher, which also isn't as much taught as earned. Should be another challenging summer.


Arturas Karnisovas

Ateeq Ahmed:

AK finished tied for 2nd place in Executive of Year voting correct? That's pretty darn good if you ask me.

Sam Smith:

Me, too. Though I agreed with the rest of the voting results that didn't have any Bulls in serious contention. Karnisovas basically was in a four-way tie for second behind Memphis' Zach Kleiman, who isn't as old as some of my sweaters. Miami and Phoenix were a vote behind Karnisovas and Cleveland and Karnisovas was actually fifth in first place votes (by fellow GMs). Memphis really has put together something that could be great there, though I wince watching Morant in the air so much thinking of Derrick Rose and how vulnerable that makes you, and Rose was much stronger and more physical than Ja. I'm not close with and barely know Karnisovas as he keeps a lower profile than even Jerry Krause did, so this isn't required for the web site. But I do believe Karnisovas did the most for his team for this season with last summer's sleight of hand (and cap) without that much cap room. It was impressive and creative. I don't see that anyone did more in one season. But I obviously have the requirements wrong as it seems to be a cumulative award. Kid Kleiman put together an impressive group, but most of his best stuff was before last season. I thought it was Executive of the Year; not Years. I guess like MVP; eye of the beholder and all that. This may not be great news, and maybe why he didn't win, but Karnisovas gets another chance because the Bulls have work to do thus summer.


A young Michael Jordan.

William Gordon:

Since the great Bulls teams of the 90's, the Bulls have made little progress in stepping into the elite team brackets. Several times they seemed promising but never had the depth when players were injured or the quality needed to rise to the top. I blame in on the management and coaching. Their draft picks very seldom pan out. Other NBA teams have gone from nothing to great in the last 20 years while the Bulls have remained mediocre at best.

Sam Smith:

Now that's not helping Arturas' Executive of the Year candidacy. I know everyone likes to talk about how hard they work and all that, but it's really more about luck in the NBA because being lucky once can be enough. It doesn't work that way in other sports as Mike Trout would attest.

The Bulls in 1984 were lucky Michael Jordan fell to them in the draft when Portland passed on him and Indiana would have had the pick but traded it a few years before for center Tom Owens because they'd lost James Edwards to free agency. If Jordan weren't available, the Bulls were going to select Sam Perkins. Imagine that run. Remember, the previous seven years before drafting Jordan they'd had top 10 picks every year. And one year lost the coin flip with the Lakers for the No. 1 pick. The Lakers took Magic. The Bulls got David Greenwood. So the Bulls went into lottery land again five years ago, and there's nothing but luck involved there. They had better odds for a higher pick than teams that got Doncic, Morant and Zion. True, they've missed on some, but so do many with Kawhi Leonard and Giannis not even in the lottery. Take a look at the 76ers and their famous "Process." After the 2012 season when they lost in Game 7 of the conference semifinals, they began dismantling their team and moving on from Andre Iguodala and after that Jrue Holiday when he was an All-Star. Could help them win too much. In the 10 years since, they've had multiple coaches and top executives, more than 100 players and still haven't gotten past Game 7 of the conference semifinals. It's a difficult task. At least the Bulls now aren't playing lottery bingo. By the way, they did lead the league in wins in 2011 and 2012, so it's not exactly Sacramento and Minnesota.


Thad Young, Lonzo Ball, and Zach LaVine

Omar Rivera:

Hot take: if the Bulls could have found a way to keep Thad Young last offseason (while still getting Lonzo, Caruso and Demar), we would have finished top 3 in the East and made the 2nd round.

Sam Smith:

Maybe if the Spurs realized he was Jalen Brown they would have played him. Obviously, the Bulls needed Thad's money to pull off the sign and trade for DeRozan, so it's really maybe a little like saying if Giannis got lost on the way home along Lake Michigan and suited up with the Bulls would that be allowed since he's still close to Lake Michigan? OK, maybe that's stretching it. But losing Thad as much as he did for a losing Bulls team and as much as we liked him, was a coup for the sign and trade for DeRozan since the Bulls didn't have cap room. But with DeRozan and Ball it would have been a much different for Young since he basically played point/power forward for the Bulls and had the ball all the time, which is why the Bulls first priority in the summer was a point guard. You saw with the Raptors having ball handlers it was difficult for That to find an effective role with them in the playoffs even with VanVleet out at times. I agree he would have helped the Bulls, particularly with his size and toughness the way the Bulls collapsed against the Bucks. Even if he didn't supply the shooting they needed, he could have guarded and had that incredible knack for scoring inside and on putbacks. But he likely wouldn't have played enough. If he still wants to play as he has numerous business interests, he'd be a free agent I'd consider if I were the Bulls.


Dillon Brooks

Kirk Landers:

Dillon Brooks gets a one-game suspension for deliberately hitting Gary Payton II, out for the series and maybe longer than that. Reminds me a lot of the Milwaukee guy who took Alex Caruso out for a couple of months and got a one-game suspension from the league and adulation from the Bucks and their fans. Am I the only one who thinks it is a profitable avocation in today's NBA? Why not hire a retired boxer or martial arts pro for your 12th man and have him take out the other team's best player? Or the league could institute a rule that held Flagrant 2 players completely responsible for any injury caused by their unnecessary the fouler would be suspended until such time as his victim is able to play again. And, yes, if the foul causes a career-ending injury for the victim, the fouler's career is over, too.

Sam Smith:

Well, that's Biblical. An eye for an eye, eh? I'm guessing defense attorneys are hoping you don't become a judge. Bad things happen to good people, right? There is risk in life and sports and all that? What about Siakam taking out Embiid? Guys fall down all the time in a sport with contact and nothing happens. Sometimes things do and you have to move on. There are inherent risks, especially when "physical play" is considered vital. Unfortunately with smaller bodies they are more vulnerable. Not to blame or shame the victim, and Grayson Allen certainly was at fault and was ejected and suspended as was Dillon Brooks, but did Caruso expose himself unnecessarily for a relatively skinny guy by trying to dunk when a layup counted as much? Maybe from a Milwaukee standpoint it looked like he was trying to show off and show them up and took an unnecessary risk that worked out badly for him? Both events were in the course of a game, albeit excessive and unnecessary. It's the risk of competition. It's unfair, like life. Of course it being the off season I am more mellow.


Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat

Mike McQueen:

It's baffling how the Heat have gone away from Duncan Robinson in these playoffs. They paid the man nearly $90 million.

Sam Smith:

Maybe that's why players like Miami other than the weather and beach. The Heat have a habit of way-overpaying role players—Derrick Jones Jr., Hassan Whiteside—and them moving them on. I don't know how they could do it, but with Robinson making $20 million a year through 2026, I can see Miami wanting to move that contract. And the Lakers need shooting. And risk taking Pat Riley and Russell Westbrook? Who has just one season left. Westbrook makes double, so I'm not sure they could do it. But stuff happens in the NBA. Meanwhile, Max Strus to the rescue! That's a guy I really liked. The DePaul product was undrafted and then beaten out for a spot with the Celtics after Summer League by Javonte Green. The Bulls saw something and gave him a two-way G-league deal, but he tore his ACL and Miami leaped when he recovered. Got to give the Heat that; they identify talent that fits them, which is perimeter shooters. Strus became a starter and in the clinching game Thursday outplayed James Harden. Now that's a feel good story.


Minnesota's Patrick Beverley

Mark Schweihs:

Last season I asked who you would give the Norm Van Lier Award to for scrappiest player. You gave it to Thad. This season it was Alex Caruso for certain but there was plenty of hustle on this Bulls team. Who are your choices league-wide? Pat Beverly comes to mind.

Sam Smith:

The league had a Hustle Award, which I haven't seen since Thad won last year. Beverley would qualify all the time and did win the first one on 2017. Marcus Smart and Montrezl Harrell won after him, which made sense. Caruso fits the profile well, but maybe missed too many games and took a while when he returned to gain his traction. Though Game 2 in Milwaukee was his business card. You could go with any of those wing defensive guys, like Mikal Bridges or Draymond Green, some more personally annoying than others. But how about Jrue Holiday and if not for the regular season, one of the great defensive two minutes in playoff history (Bill Russell likely had many more but there is no film for proof) for the close of that game with the Celtics.


Joel Embiid and James Harden

Mike Sutera:

Ouch and double ouch. "Obviously, since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden, but that's not who he is anymore. He's more of a playmaker... " Joel Embiid on James Harden. Basically Harden is Carmelo at this point in his career. Give Harden 2 yr extension on top of his 1 yr. So basically 3 yr max. Fair. Not much left after this. And Morey hire his guy D'Antoni?

Sam Smith:

You've gotta love Embiid. MVP! MVP! I've noticed the international guys often are the best interviews, the funniest, like Giannis, Manu; even Yao. Talk about being honest after an elimination. That's a new one. I know money talk is big in sports, but Harden already has made more than $250 million in NBA contacts and said after the game he'd opt in for his $47 million. He can get a long extension starting at that amount, which obviously was the 76ers' plan when they waited out Ben Simmons and traded most of their depth. Now with Harden at 33 and your star basically saying he's Ricky Rubio or Malcolm Brogdon? I'd say he's a bit more than Carmelo, but there is concern. D'Antoni? I like Mike, though probably not as much as 76ers exec and former Houston boss Daryl Morey does. But Mike doesn't do much with centers. Hey, Embiid did say after the game anyone including him could be traded. Now we can start some serious rumors. Welcome to the NBA offseason.

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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