Ask Sam Mailbag: Questions about Coby White, the MVP race, Devon Dotson, and more

Sam responds to your questions and thoughts as the Bulls enter the home stretch of their 2021-22 regular season
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later
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Mark Schweihs:

The play of Nikola Jokic tells me that Tom Boerwinkle played in the wrong era. Who would you nominate for the Norm Van Lier Award (presented to the scrappiest player)?

Sam Smith:

Tom couldn't shoot like that. Maybe Jerry Lucas. But that's a good idea for the Van Lier award. Obviously, Arcidiacono is scrappy. But he hardly plays enough to make the impact. I'd select Thad Young. I rarely seen anyone retrieve his own team's turnovers as often, though unfortunately many of his own. I doubt there's a good statistic for that. Young is amazing the way he can get back in transition and retrieve his own—or others'—mistakes. Also, the way he can find rebounds in the middle of three taller guys, though it helps that players today seem to believe boxing out is a foul. He also is uncanny keeping balls alive; those things you don't see in the box score stats. Which makes me wonder some about his fate. It seems for now the Bulls have a Core Four in LaVine, Vucevic, White and Williams. And the next lottery pick if they get lucky and then free agency. I'm guessing Karnisovas wants to be a major player in free agency given the way he pursued Vucevic. There's really no more development, as well, the way players like Garrett Temple played so much. Neither Young nor Satoransky is fully guaranteed for next season; so they could be sacrificed in the name of cap room for a free agent. Remember, beloved captain Kirk Hinrich once was. There are plenty of decisions to make with Lauri Markkanen a restricted free agent and possibly stretching of contracts. So there's no way to even really guess for now. The notion is a team like the Lakers or Nets needs a player like Young. And even if the Bulls are not them next season, I don't believe they are going to be what they've been. Having a savvy veteran player like Young is valuable. I'd hope they can figure out a way to keep him. And maybe even get him that first Norm award.


Thad Young defending Nikola Jokic

Paulie Giuntoli:

Not sure if you noticed the mini Twitter frenzy (Twenzy?) last week, but Nick Wright (FS1) claimed that if Jokic wins MVP, he'll go down as the worst MVP in the last 35 years. There's a bit more context there, but his point was that when Jokic's career is eventually completed, it will be the least accomplished compared to the careers of the previous 35 years' worth of MVPs. Though he's wrong, I'd like to expand the question to you on a more historical level. If you're a betting man, do you put your money on Jokic's career success (subjective, I know) ultimately surpassing which previous MVP winners? I mean, he's not touching guys like MJ, LeBron, Wilt, Kareem, Russell, Magic, Duncan, Kobe, Oscar, Bird, Moses, Hakeem, Shaq, Steph, and KD obviously. And he has next to zero chance of matching guys like the Admiral, Barkley, Malone, KG, Nash, Pettit, Giannis, Cousy, and Dirk. But do you think he might have an outside shot of reaching the levels of some of the remaining guys, like Rose, AI, Russ, Harden, Cowens, Walton, McAdoo, Cowens, Willis Reed and Unseld?

Sam Smith:

A twitter frenzy? I thought Trump was off that. I understand media today is often about someone saying (or writing) something zany and then having everyone debate and comment about it. Jokic will be a deserving MVP because he's been the combination of best/most impactful this season with good attendance. There's always this Hall of Fame debate about Derrick Rose. I believe he deserves to get in because it's a combination of all your accomplishments and not just the NBA (college title runner up, USA Basketball gold medals, prep titles in a major market) with multiple All-Star appearances and at least a conference finals. These rankings are, of course, arbitrary. I could contest Nash because his play was exaggerated because of D'Antoni's high scoring system. Dirk was a one-trick pony type whose defense was so poor his own coach called him Irk. You know, no D in him. If it were a two-way player award, no Nash also and likely no Curry. Probably no Barkley. McAdoo always is the low standard because Rick Barry should have gotten it then, but no one liked him. That's when players also voted. It's irrelevant to rank their careers because it's a one-year award. Walton may have become better than Kareem if he remained heathy. Jokic could have an amazing career because he's obviously not at risk of losing athleticism. By the way, what's FS1? Is that a streaming service?


Lauri Markkanen

Tapani Kivini:

These are my last Lauri comments for the season. I am just wondering why Donovan is really having Patrick at start up. His training has really cost the Bulls ending season. Having that same trust on Markkanen he would have made triple of the points easily. They have lost nearly every game already in the first 4-8 minutes. Then they claim that "we have had good 4th period when we nearly won the match. But that is just fooling yourself. Opponents are just giving a little up and when Bulls are close they start to play seriously again and win nearly every time. I just wish all the best for the Bulls next season and I really hope that Markkanen will have a better team to join. Bulls will not be that team, unfortunately.

Sam Smith:

It doesn't seem like it for Markkanen as his role has continued to diminish. It seems apparent in the organization that one of the priorities for this season was to get Williams as much playing time and experience as possible. So Lauri has suffered. Then came the trade and the addition of Theis, also a power forward. Probably that Lauri didn't fight back was part of the problem. Yes, he was being a good teammate. But if it were someone else they might have started ripping Williams, Theis and management to make a bid for their position. Maybe they wanted Markkanen to do that. So his value probably decreased, which may make a sign and trade more difficult. But then because his market value diminished maybe he'll take a qualifying offer to return. But maybe he or they don't want to. It does seem like the end here for Markkanen, but you never say never in the NBA.


Russell Westbrook

Christopher Billingsley:

This week, the league acknowledged and celebrated Russell Westbrook on breaking Oscar Robertson's all-time triple double record that stood the test of time. Personally, I'm having a hard time accepting the feat because it feels "unauthentic." In the old NBA, players had to box out and position themselves for rebounds. With 5 guys spaced out on the three point line, a missed shot falls right into your lap. To credit an assist, your teammate scores directly from the pass. Now, an assist counts after the pass and the receiving player makes a move (including dribble.) Westbrook is a phenomenal player and person, taking nothing away. The current gameplay promotes stat inflation.

Sam Smith:

Ah, the good ol' days. You are correct, especially about the assists. But others will counter there were more missed shots back then and chances for rebounds. The assist scoring has changed. As I also recall, if the receiving player put the ball down it wasn't an assist. The other factor was no one was much counting stats back then like now. Other than points. And that was all Wilt. Triple double wasn't even a thing. If you ask Oscar—and I once did—if he knew it would matter would he get more, he said sure he could have. Heck, they never even counted blocks during the careers of Wilt and Russell. Oscar might have averaged 20 assists with today's scoring. And as great a rebounder as Westbrook is—and credit him for going for them when most stand around watching shots—little guys trying to get rebounds then mostly found themselves staring up on their backs. But times change and you're best to accept them and at least you have your memories.


Coby White

Brodie Larsh:

With the way Coby has been playing along Zach and Vooch, do you still see a new starting PG as the biggest offseason need? What available PG's would you have them pursue? Lonzo seems like the only free agent PG that's definitely worthy of starting over Coby, and even that's questionable. Coby might play off Zack and Vooch better than Lonzo, who is most effective when he's controlling the ball. I'd rather they sign sign TJ McConnell for half the price, maybe D-Rose, resign Theis, or another defensive big, and add another wing player. Kyle Lowry?

Sam Smith:

Coby has solidified his future with the team, I believe, but I still believe point guard is their offseason priority. Donovan has done some good things to enhance White recently in limiting his dribbling and decision making. The spacing pairing with Vucevic has likewise worked well for Coby's shooting. So he's been in a catch-and-shoot position or head down going to the rim. Those are his strengths, and those are good and valuable things. If you'll remember, the much guarded Karnisovas let slip last draft about the need for a point guard. Williams, apparently, became too good to pass up. But the Bulls still need someone, as coaches say, to organize the offense. Make plays for others, get the ball out of the hands of guys who aren't great at it, and have scoring as their third priority. I liked Mike Conley for that a few years ago, and still do, though most believe he'll opt to stay in Utah. But he is injured often and thus risky. He's from Indianapolis; maybe he want to be closer to home. Lonzo has been the big speculation, but New Orleans can match. And they play him a lot for a guy they'd let go. I like Lowry. He's been out hurt a lot also, but you can't tell if that's been the team tanking for the draft. He's not the classic facilitator/scorer you'd want, but more scorer/facilitator. Which would be OK if he's healthy. He's one of the toughest guys in the league, and the Bulls need someone with that edge. Coby as sixth man and combo guard with the reserves is a significant role. It would be great to retain Theis. I assume the Celtics now feel the same way. Maybe the Bulls get lucky and get into the lottery and get their point that way. It just seems the point this summer is about that point guard.


Mark Tatum

Martin Skelly:

Looks like the Bulls are all but out of the play in race. If they get lucky in the draft and get somewhere in the top 4 could you see a possible trade that would help the team to win now rather than adding another teenager which it seems like you are against? For example out of the top 4 projected I am assuming the Bulls wouldnt want to draft Evan Mobley given the trade for Vucevic so could they trade the pick again or is that against NBA rules? If they would be allowed to trade the pick what do you think a suitable trade could be?

Sam Smith:

Not yet. And the Raptors in full absence have passed the Bulls in potential lottery odds if the Bulls don't make the playoffs. Hey, stuff happens. The Bulls are now eighth with about a one in four chance for a top four pick. Point forward Cade Cunningham is the consensus No. 1 and point guard Jalen Suggs is close. I'd rather trade, also, but you usually don't get enough offered while teams with the pick always fear the guy becoming the next LeBron. So they ask for too much. If the Bulls get top four, I assume they use the pick for Cunningham or Suggs if they get the chance in probably the top three. I wouldn't be opposed to Mobley, either, as the Bulls don't quite have a championship eight deep quite yet. You can always use more talent.


Devon Dotson

Rob Berns:

What are the possibilities of Devon Dotson getting more action on the Bulls? He was thought of as a "steal" in the draft but has not seen much action. Is he too small?

Sam Smith:

The Bulls have been playing it out more than development, and they still are. So it seems unlikely. I can't tell yet what kind of player he is as little as I've seen him. He looks in those glimpses like a small scoring guard first. Very quick with some possibilities. The NBA looks like they are resuming Summer League in August, so if he stays with the Bulls I assume we get a look then.


Garrett Temple defending Jayson Tatum

Tom Golden:

Five years ago I thought Boston was on the verge of another Dynasty. Talk about a train wreck. How did they screw that up? More and more I'm thinking the greatest thing a champion has have going for them is luck.

Sam Smith:

It is the magic ingredient. Maybe Theis gets an MVP vote the way things have gone there. It also seems like Tatum might have suffered some aftereffects of having Covid—they were hit badly by it and it shows how amazing Zach has been—since Tatum has displayed little energy in so many games. Especially those losses to the Bulls. He was a walking statue. Remember they basically lost Kyrie, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford and didn't get anything in return. You need luck and then take advantage when you get it, like with the pile of draft picks they got from the Nets. They didn't get quite lucky enough, though Tatum was a great pick. And it also seems ownership has limited them some financially. So make it the end of another Celtics era with fewer banners this time. Hey, that's almost as good as a 40-year Knicks drought.


Mike Sutera:

This is getting ridiculous. Six of the nine winning teams last night scored 130+ points, none of them in overtime. Two losers did, too.

Sam Smith:

It's why for all the talk of two-way players and defense—and no one is opposed to that—you have to score in today's NBA to be successful. Serious defense (we'll see if that changes for the playoffs) basically has been legislated out of the game with the lack of perimeter contact, favoring the offense when shooters jump into defenders or just flop around. Sure, there's the Knicks, who do have the trick of shooting late in possessions and slowing the game. If you want to seriously compete in this NBA, you need to score. Perhaps this changes as there's been talk about your objections and somehow eliminating the easy corner three. Which is another reason I like the Vucevic trade. He's not regarded for his defense, but you don't endure that way in this NBA. Which is why the Nets are the favorites, why the Suns are coming fast. How have the Jazz gotten better? Shooting threes and playing faster. So for the Bulls, a scoring point guard and a shooting wing. And then unleash the beast!

Got a question for Sam?

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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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