Ask Sam Mailbag: Questions about LaVine, Patrick Williams, and more trade scenarios

Sam Smith answers a new round of your thoughts and questions in his mailbag
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later
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Mitch Tobin:

Ladies and gentlemen of the hardcourt jury, I submit for your consideration the following player: aA 25-year-old shooting guard, 6'6" and 200 pounds, and is averaging about 28.2 points per game. Coachable, gets along with teammates and the press, and conducts himself with humility. He's consumed with improving and winning. What would you trade to get him on your team? What would you pay to get him in free agency? Wait, he's already on the Bulls? Wait, he's Zach LaVine? When will fans stop writing you proposing that the Bulls trade LaVine and appreciate what we have?

Sam Smith:

It's slowed after the 46, but when he missed late the other night and ended with 39 it bubbled up some. But seriously, I do believe the large majority of fans understand how much LaVine means to the team and how good he is. You become a product of the frustration when you are the best. It's sort of an honor, in a sense. The blind spot fans (OK, media also) have is they generally not only watch, but scrutinize the teams they are most interested in. They analyze every shot their guy misses. They don't know Bradley Beal doesn't shoot nearly as well, that Paul George plays sporadically, that Kyrie Irving pouts half the month, that Ben Simmons doesn't shoot as well as Daniel Gafford and Jayson Tatum's all around rating is lower than Zach's. Something also—or somebody—always sounds better when you are not successful. Let's try something different and see if that works. What have we got to lose? But it's also why sometimes when someone gets married a second tine they're also married a third and fourth time.


Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley

Peter Toluzzi:

For several years we have drafted for talent rather than need. Now we have two starting-level power forwards and shooting guards, all with some star potential... and some serious holes. Do we trade two of them for equivalence in a point guard and small forward? Or risk messing up rookies by playing them out of position and slowing their natural development? Lauri or PWill for Jrue, Coby or Zach for a valuable stretch 3 level talent? We still have a versatile bench, and now we're ready to compete seriously. Which small forward would you target, young and good 3&D? It's a brave move, but AKME are free to do what they like.

Sam Smith:

I know; you're not suggesting Zach be traded. Just wondering, eh? I have not heard anything regarding the Bucks having the slightest interest in trading Holiday, whom they acquired to appease Giannis. And he's really, really good and has been an All-Star. I doubt that was rumor as much as someone who hates the Bucks; no offense to Markkanen. Hey, they've got Portis. I know teams always say they are drafting the best talent available, which really is a canard because there is no consensus talent. The Bulls now in this "positionless" NBA need to fill some positions.


Zach LaVine

Kevin Burns:

If Zach LaVine were traded tomorrow, where would you rank him on the pantheon of all time Bulls?

Sam Smith:

C'mon, I said fans are not asking so much these days. Jordan, Pippen, Rose, Sloan, Walker, Noah, Van Lier, Grant, Love, Butler? Zach's getting close.


Zach LaVine and Coby White

Jon Kueper:

So the Bulls aren't going to shoot like that (Wed. night) often but a lot of these games simply comes down to shooting the ball. But really, for the Bulls, they aren't going to have many games where they are the superior shooting team in general, since the only reliable/consistent one is LaVine. They are going to have to do it with defense and just a little above average shooting. With all these teams breaking records with 3 point attempts and makes, are teams trying to scheme to make stopping the 3 point shot as their main strategy? Is it futile to attempt that, since it is just too hard to slow down these 3 point shooters all over the court? Then you just give up too many easy baskets in the paint? It just seems like if a team had the best strategy to slow down the 3 point shots then they give their team a better chance to win, but how in the world do you do it?

For the Bulls, if they can figure out how to make Coby as comfortable as possible then they have the best shot at winning when he is shooting well. Maybe keep him on the court with Sato/Archie so Coby doesn't need to be the point guard, or somehow find a point guard somewhere to trade for since that seems to be the missing piece?

Sam Smith:

It does seem like a three-point shooting contest all game long. I have advocated balance as I have in baseball, that hitting to the opposite field when no one is there and advancing a runner to get ahead might compensate for ill-timed play. Thus far I've discovered everyone happily ignoring me, which does make me feel like being at home. It's difficult to judge the Bulls again—oh, how many times have we heard that the last three years?—with so many regulars out again. I think they would like to make the playoffs as they judge this, though I suspect the judging takes precedence. So I don't expect many changes until the summer. I like what Billy Donovan is preaching, that if they move and cut to manufacture more shots without reinventing themselves it can compensate for just shootouts. He needs some stable lineups to see if it will work. Coby probably is Lou Williams, which is a very valuable player to have. For now, it probably makes sense to leave him where he is, play it out, see him have a few more games like he did against the Pelicans (hope other teams also don't come out to challenge shots) and allow management to consider longterm how to address some of the obvious deficiencies.


John Collins

Nicholas Hill:

I know the free agent pool has dried up a bit as far as 1st tier players but the Bulls are still going to have to use that money. So, there is somebody who I would be excited about in that 2nd tier of players. John Collins from Atlanta. He's a 20 and 10 player, Atlanta didn't want to pay him the max, signed Gallinari, drafted Okungwu and he's been unhappy with his role. Most importantly, he's been available and consistent. He's young at 23 and I'd definitely offer him a max contract to pry him away from them. Building around he, Zach and Patrick with Coby being a microwave 6th man would be my plan. It's a risk because Atlanta may match and then you could lose Lauri in the process. Then, the backup plan could be that Patrick becomes the starting 4. They'll still have whoever they pick up in the draft (I'm keeping an eye on Sharife Cooper), Simonovic coming over and cap space that they could use to build up that lost depth.

Sam Smith:

Sounds like a reasonable plan. I've also liked Collins and it does seem like he is being squeezed out. Though I believe he supposedly already turned down about $100 million. He's also about 6-9. Max? Hasn't that been part of the issue with some of the "big men" the Bulls have had? Watching Lonzo Ball Wednesday was interesting. He's also rumored in trade these days and you wonder why now that he can shoot. But he's also up for the family's first big pay day, so who knows what's going on. The Bulls could have a lot of contract decisions coming up with Zach's free agency year coming and the lack of full time guarantees with several veterans. Williams has looked more like this era's model stretch four than a playmaking wing player. Still 19, I know, yadda yadda. I think the Bulls are in good shape at two and four. And perhaps six. It's that one, three and five. There's still two thirds to this season to learn more. Isn't Cooper kind of small? But I did like what I saw from Kira Lewis. Maybe that's why the Lonzo rumors.


Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal

Mike Sutera:

You always hear about Zach LaVine, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal and how they are stars. The one thing they have in common is their teams do not win consistently. If you were building a team in what order would you want these guys. For me it would be Booker, Beal, LaVine.

Sam Smith:

I'm reversing that, though it's a good point. They do seem like those next level "stars" who need someone else with them. I see Booker as the weakest being less athletic and more a volume scorer. Beal is more savvy, but I'll take Zach—of course, as you'd expect especially where I am writing (though I don't have to)—with his ease of scoring and athletic ability. If either Beal or Booker were a good defender, that would elevate them. But neither are. Still, that's the point we have been making about Zach. OK, he's not Kawhi, LeBron or Durant. But Beal and Booker have been All-Stars. Zach should be, too. Is that too much to ask?


Lauri Markkanen

Greg Young:

I have been a big Markkanen fan since he was drafted, but should the Bulls look to move on from Lauri? I don't participate in fake trade scenarios but have to wonder if AKME are looking at what could he bring back. I used to think the physicality would come as he matured, but maybe he knows his own body and limitations. He clearly is a talent but his inability to stay on the court is causing him to lose some of his luster. Is he more valuable to another team with in house physical presence? I used to think that he might be a #2 option on a strong team. I am downgrading that to a #3.5. On this Bulls team needing some muscle, maybe a #4 option. Yes, Bulls second leading scorer but have I over thought this?

Sam Smith:

You've probably crystallized why AKME, as you put it, are on the road so much. It's the most difficult question the Bulls have now. It's Ask Sam, but no guaranteed answers. This is a tough one. When Lauri returned from his contact tracing he looked like your guy, consecutive 30-plus games, getting to the basket, opening the court. He hasn't rebounded as much as his first two seasons, but he has been driving the ball this season and providing that offensive balance. You know White will get going since he's streaky, and we've seen he can score. Scorers score. But when you are not playing it's much more difficult to impact the game (yes, that comes to me from decades of viewing the game). Markkanen didn't sign an extension, but the Bulls made an offer. There's obviously interest and Markkanen certainly has value, though because he's not playing until likely March and can become a free agent after this season he's probably not worth as much to anyone now as he is to the Bulls. So we should get to see their decision become that much more difficult. Good we get to comment after they decide and then blame them if it doesn't work.


Mark Curban

Ron Goldberg:

I've attended a lot of sporting events. I don't endorse the mandatory playing of the anthem. I feel the pro American argument is pretty flimsy. For instance, why is the Blackhawks version which is just people screaming over the top of the singer for 2 minutes considered patriotic? In all likelihood no one follows. I think Cuban is taking on this alone. As long as they keep playing it, I concentrate on my deep breath, zoning out the outside world and coming out energized. I stand because it's the best position to breathe deep.

Sam Smith:

I was never sure whether Jerry Krause meant it with pride or frustration, but he liked to say his story would be called, "100,000 national anthems." At least I never believed I'd say this, I feel sorry for Mark Cuban. It seems obvious his intention wasn't to disregard the country. In a lot of respects—though of course the NBA immediately reversed him—I think he was saying he's a proud American and patriotic, but playing the anthem at ballgames and not the theater or rodeos (do they?) has been cause for more division than unity lately. And, after all, that song celebrates the war we lost when the White House was burned down and President Madison barely made it out before being captured. Though as you suggest, it's still not a bad idea to get in a little pregame meditation.


Patrick Williams

Wayne Warner:

What is your take on Williams being a Scottie Pippen "deja vu"... thus no need for White having to develop PG skills with Williams being the primary one to bring ball up floor and initiate the offense. Though, still want the 3-4 assists per game from White, LaVine & Carter. What is trade value of Valentine?...lots of contending teams need 3 point shooting.

Sam Smith:

I have not seen Williams, despite us being told he was a high school point guard like Pippen, being able to do that. He seems most comfortable (unless he is deferring) taking a dribble or two and then shooting. HIs body being so young seems like it will develop more for an inside player. I'm not sure if Valentine can be traded since he's on a one-year deal, and he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season. I'm pleased for him because he has shown you don't need to be a great athlete to be an effective NBA player. Someone will want him if the Bulls don't.


Derrick Rose

Art Alenik:

You & I would've liked to see Derrick Rose get a chance at a ring, maybe because we feel he was worthy and came close before his injury. And I, personally, would've loved to see him back w/ the Bulls with a shot at helping them succeed and a chance to be loved by some fans who were never fair to him. But it's all about what Derrick wants, and I'm very happy for him that he has that. I just wish that we had a PG as good as Rose.

Sam Smith:

I haven't spoken with Derrick about this (I'll wait for the book), but Derrick obviously has been through a lot, gone to the top of some mountains and decided he gets to decide about his apex. Derrick's life is basketball, but considerably after family. We all saw that with his devotion to his mother and brothers even as many condemned him for the latter. But Derrick appropriately stuck with the family, and I admired him for that as easy as it is for many to dismiss that. They were there for him when no one else was because no one knew he could be special for their viewing. There's a pattern. Derrick went to Minnesota where Thibs was with Taj Gibson and Luol Deng. He went to Detroit, where his first agent was now team president. He could have gone to perhaps the Clippers or Nets as the Pistons clearly were not going to trade him unless he agreed, and he chose to rejoin Thibs. It's not that Rose doesn't want to win; he always does. It's what he values most, which are his characteristics, loyalty and family. Executives and coaches like Arn Tellem and Thibs have seemed to me, like surrogates for his family. After all, Rose has endured with the stardom, the heights and depths, the condemnations and returns. What also matters is peace and comfort and being something of a family member to impart values to the next generation of kids. Rose is close with his kids. His popularity world wide probably traces to that. Kids like him. Despite his departure from the ranks of stars—though he's still a high level player—people and especially kids seem to sense his sincerity. Going to the Knicks seems to support that. And he took Jerry Sloan's number 4. So there was a Bulls connection. At least the way we saw it.


Arturas Karnisovas

Brian Tucker:

The new management guys really are in a win-win situation here. If we make the playoffs, it's their coach who got the most out of the previously underachieving talent. If we are back in the lottery, it's another opportunity to draft a top talent and it's the previous guys who couldn't put a talented enough team together. So do the new guys see if the middle 6-12 teams in the east stay about the same through the March restart, and see if WCJ, OPJ, and LM can come back strong and healthy to make a playoff run? Or have the seen enough, decided it's same same for this roster and blow it up for the future? By blow it up, I'm mostly referring to the vets and expiring contracts, bringing in draft picks and young talent.

Sam Smith:

I'm voting stay the course. Donovan has made clear he's seeking wins. And perhaps other than the top few spots, the playoffs or play-in will be available to just about everyone but perhaps Detroit considering the possibilities for Covid absences. And who knows what happens if they do that All-Star game and contests. There's no way they could have seen enough with as little as we've seen of so many. As Red Barber would have said, at least for now they're in her catbird seat. Yes, look him up, also.


DeAngelo Russell and Karl Towns

Omar Dejesus:

I say Bulls blow this team up and start building a around LaVine, Towns, and Russell
Wolves trade:, Towns, Russell
Bulls trade: Porter, Young, Coby, Lauri, Carter

Sam Smith:

I know we don't respect Minnesota and assume because of the weather they are too frozen to object to anything. But it's one of those what ifs, though more for them. Obviously the Jimmy Butler trade didn't work out perfectly. What if they were patient? LaVine, Wiggins and Towns were all averaging more than 20 points per game before Zach got hurt, and they were about to get a draft pick they could have used for Donovan Mitchell or Bam Adebayo. Or Lauri Markkanen. I know, weak second guess. But what if they kept them with Kris Dunn and the pick? Sometimes it requires patience in the face of disappointment.


Michael Jordan in Paris

Michael Mortenson:

Maybe the subject line should read "an old man rants". Can we just say scoring? Drives me crazy when I hear it in broadcasts of games or analysts say score the ball. And today for the first time, I read it in your report.

Sam Smith:

I know I should edit the quotes, but then they aren't, well, quotes. Scoring the ball, like dribbling the ball, or even talking the talk and walking the walk have become popular expressions, none of which has been used by me. Like most everything in the world, it was started by Michael Jordan, who actually was pretty famous for his malaprops. But because he was so beloved they instead often became part of the vernacular. One of my favorites was when we were in Paris and Jordan pretty much stayed in his hotel room because he was Michael Jordan and there were all these crowds. So the French media at one of the media conferences was basically begging him to talk about Paris. He had to see the sights. Where did he go? It was Paris! They were so proud. So Jordan finally says—and I know he didn't—that he went to the museum, you know the luge. Even he got a big laugh out of that. And then the Louvre was asked to change the pronunciation of its name.

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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