Ask Sam Mailbag: Questions on Deni Avdija, Tyrese Haliburton, trade ideas, and more

One fan believes the best player in this Draft will be someone other than Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, or LaMelo Ball.
Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

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Chris Grenner:

I'm indifferent about this draft. The only top-3 guy I care about is Wiseman, and he seems to be the least likely to fall, even if one of the top 3 teams goes off script (and why any of them would not take him first is a puzzler to me).

The guy people talked about the most at #4, the Israeli Deni Avdija, has some nice highlights but can he shoot? Avdija has an interesting floor game, but can he defend NBA-level athletes on the wing? No one else even projects to be better than who we already have at our "need" positions of wing forward & center. And, unless you're going to trade one of your backcourt "birds in the hand", we have no space for a starting PG unless he's... someone who's not in this draft.

Would you trade Zach or Coby? I say, trade the pick for a journeyman center to replace Robin (who would've thought we'd miss him so much? Well, I did anyway...), spend '20-21 (or, just 21 I guess) figuring out if Lauri is '19-20 Lauri or '17-18 Lauri, and get ready for The Big Shuffle in the (late) summer of '21.

Sam Smith:

How'd you get Arturas' playbook? He's usually so circumspect.

There was a recent fantasy speculation promoted about the Bulls trading up in this draft, though I tend to think given the general level of the talent (uncertain to scared-to-take-him) and Karnisovas' draft history, the Bulls are more likely to trade down. Karnisovas is actually more Krause-like than it seems, except for the misdirection (some called it prevarication). Karnisovas actually doesn't say anything. But he seemed to give one hint when he said he thought this draft was much deeper than most believed. Which suggested either he just was trying to put a good face on No. 4 since the Bulls moved up, or as many believe someday you will wish you took No. 9 instead of No. 3. Arturas is a good scout at heart, also, like Krause. And while many in the community would be disappointed since we've promoted the top picks, Arturas knows more about this than we do and getting a good player at perhaps No. 10 and then maybe an extra first round pick for next season or an underutilized young player off a roster might be in the Bulls' interest rather than hoping Ball or Edwards or Wiseman or Deni can break through as a teenager and push out more seasoned players like Markkanen, LaVine or White.

And what of Hutchison and you know Otto is playing for a new contract this season. Might just be better to see what you have and hope they enhance their value, which is almost certain given the NBA unfairly, inequitably, unjustly, wrongfully and unreasonably left the Bulls out of the Orlando games (no, I have not forgotten!). And then shuffle that deck and see where the aces were hidden. It's a process, right?


Tyrus Thomas

Clee Thomas:

What ever happen to the 1st round pick that came with the Tyrus Thomas trade I've waited every year for it to happen and no one ever even talks about it?

Sam Smith:

Your long wait is over. Or was in 2014 when the Bulls combined it with their pick to move up to take Doug McDermott at No. 11. Denver with Arturas Karnisovas (hint: this Bulls draft) slid back for the second time and drafted Jusuf Nurkic with the Bulls pick and Gary Harris with the Charlotte pick. In the recent rush to condemn most everything the Bulls did since drafting Michael Jordan, this transaction has been generally likened to when the St. Louis Hawks traded the rights to Bill Russell. A worse transaction is likely when the Hornets quickly signed Thomas to a $40 million contract. McDermott's lottery status didn't stand out (hint again: Don't always count on those picks too much), though he was averaging about 10 points in 24 minutes off the bench and shooting about 38 percent on threes when he was traded in his third season to Billy Donovan's Thunder. And quietly has been one of the league's top shooters since, making almost 50 percent of his threes in Dallas and about 42 percent with Indiana.

I never felt McDermott really got a good chance with the Bulls, who were grading him like in the Finals, analyzing every miss as a failure. Denver moved Nurkic for a backup center and I expect McDermott in the end to have a better all around career than Harris. I can see McDermott developing like J.J Redick, a similarly pure shooter who didn't hit stride and get a regular chance until he was hitting 30. McDermott is 28 and a 6-8 classic catch-and-shoot player. Wonder who can use someone like that?


Denzel Valentine

Paul Giuntoli:

Valentine played point guard at MSU. He's a smart player, excellent passer, good size for a PG, and can shoot. I don't see why he can't play the 1. Boylen seemed to always play him out of position: The 3&D role. "Denzel, you go stand in the corner and shoot 3s when your guy helps." Denzel is more than that. Plus, this would allow White to move to the 2, and Zach to the 3. Zach has the size to play SF, as SG and SF are essentially the same wing positions anyway. White is more scorer than PG as well, more suited for a Wing role. Valentine probably isn't quick enough to guard opposing 1s, but White is, so they can cross match. I suppose none of this matters because I hope they draft Haliburton to be their future PG, if only for the nickname potential of "Big Oil."

Lastly, any rumblings around the league about who the Warriors go after in exchange for their 2nd pick? Beal from Washington? Gordon from Orlando? Oladipo from Indy?

Sam Smith:

If they do draft Haliburton then that probably means the end for Denzel. Like Dunn, he may also need a change of address to get a chance. Though first impressions shouldn't be everything, they tend to mean most in sports and dating. Denzel was hurt and then misused, and so like McDermott never got enough of a chance. Do you get all those shots, say like Tyler Herro in the playoffs, because you earned them or because they asked you to take them? Guys like Doug and Denzel were often told to wait until everyone else (Jimmy, Wade and Rondo for Denzel and Jimmy, Pau and Derrick for Doug) couldn't find a shot, but be sure to make the four we give you with six seconds on the clock. Am I digressing again? Sorry.

We hear a lot of Zach to three because Coby is sort of a two also, and while Denzel can run a team, those three defensively would not be what the coach would want to see. Especially one who seemed to treasure Andre Roberson as he did. Valentine's qualifying offer is reasonable, so I assume he gets a look and maybe another team also will be intrigued.

It is trading season, and Beal is perhaps the hottest name. I assume since the Wizards are stuck with John Wall for a long time and he's supposedly finally healthy, they need to get at least one look at Wall and Beal to see if there's something there before making a major change. Can't see Warriors having enough for such a deal, especially with this draft.


Coby White and Chris Paul

Brodie Larsh:

Looking around the league, I don't see a lot of pre-draft trades for a player that makes much sense. Chris Paul might be the exception. Along with his talent and leadership, he has ties to Donovan and he already has a history of mentoring Coby White. If I was in AK's position, I'd start with an offer Thad, Sato, Felicio, and the 4th pick and see what they say. Maybe throw in a future lottery protected 1st. They get two veteran role players (Thad and Sato may even compete for starting spots), cap relief, and two 1st round picks, for a player that doesn't have a future there anyway.

Sam Smith:

The three most popular trade proposals I get are with the Warriors for Andrew Wiggins, the Pistons for Derrick Rose and this one with Chris Paul. And if the Bulls offered No. 4 and a future No. 1, I'm fairly sure Sam Presti would put Karnisovas in his will. Paul had a great season and perhaps got Billy Donovan the Bulls job with a coach of the year season. But it was a rare healthy season for Paul who'll be 36 by next season's playoffs with three more seasons averaging more than $40 million per year. I'm assuming you regret your suggestion by now. Paul is destined for desperation, which means probably Milwaukee because they have one season to persuade Giannis the brats and cheese life is worth living, or the Knicks because that's what they do.


Victor Oladipo

Mike Queensworth:

In the New York media report it says the Knicks road to respectability starts with acquiring Victor Oladipo. Does it?

Sam Smith:

I actually got a few questions last Spring just after the shutdown when we were Last Dancing about Oladipo being available. I dismissed them on the basis of if he were healthy, I assumed the Pacers would keep him, and if not, why would you want him. He hasn't seemed healthy enough as he seemingly had to be persuaded to play in the Orlando bubble. And since then there have been conflicting reports of him wanting out (or not) and wanting a maximum contract; though who doesn't? Of course, the Knicks are the Eastern Conference version of Daryl Morey, who want your tired and not so poor superstars, those huddled masses of big names yearning to breathe in another market even if it's a wretched shoreline or none at all. Give them liberty which often means career death.

It seems apparent the Pacers are going through a change with the surprising coaching change. Nate McMillan sure got a lot out of that team with reports also they aren't thrilled with Myles Turner so much. Another New York trade possibility? After all, they do collect power forwards. They Pacers have long been an underrated, intelligent organization with that good culture thing that often isn't mentioned because they couldn't beat LeBron. Oladipo did have a breakout, though as we recall after leaving Billy Donovan. Though I'd say that had more to do with playing with Russell Westbrook than for Billy.

Oladipo's fatal flaw—assuming he's healthy, which seems a big assume now—is he's a ball dominant slashing scorer who doesn't shoot that well. For him to be effective he has to run your offense, like a Donovan Mitchell-lite. They throw around big names in New York media, though they'll be more cerebral with Thibs. Oladipo's name seems to be coming up in trade rumors a lot in a smoke-there's-fire thing. Not sure I'd want to link my franchise to his health and shot chart.


James Harden and Russell Westbrook

Mike Sutera:

Rockets owner: Do you just blow it all up? We may not see fans in the stands for awhile. Why not just start shedding all the salary and start the rebuild. You will never win with Harden no matter who you put alongside him. They tried Dwight, CP3, and Russ and have zero rings. Deal Harden before the wheels fall off. Deal Russ. Get picks and expiring deals and try to be some what competitive in five years.

Sam Smith:

It may eventually come to that, though they certainly seem for now committed to Harden. I know Harden was lobbying Jimmy to come there before the traded for Westbrook, and we all assume Harden has seen enough of that. But with Morey now gone, that superstar formula might change. And perhaps they don't worry as much about the fans if they are not able to complain in the arena. It's an interesting scenario now in that it might be a good time with this virus transition to tinker with rebuilding. Though perhaps this draft should disabuse some of that theory. After all, how much is it worth tanking if you have a good chance of merely being able to draft Obi Toppin? Some un-top heavy drafts might do more to discourage tanking than anything the league suggests. Harden would presumably draw a lot of interest, but he is into his 30s, has played 12 years and doesn't look like someone who worries that much about workouts. He's a star, but how much of a difference maker is he anymore? Perhaps that's why the coaching search is taking so long.


Tyrese Haliburton

Dwyane Curry:

I think that 4 years from now Tyrese Haliburton will be considered the best player from this year's draft. The kid can legit play either guard position at an elite level. Can you tell me why or why he will not be in a Bulls uniform next season. I think Wiseman has limited upside, I think Edwards will never be able to defend, and Ball will always be a me-first player. Haliburton just screams draft-me although, I am worried he will not make it past Golden State.

Sam Smith:

You do hear rumors of Warriors interest, which is a good guide because they say they are the smartest franchise and they did make some excellent personnel decisions. Look, they thought all by themselves it was a good idea to sign Kevin Durant. Which also is another reason why I think the Bulls would be more likely to trade down than up. I can't figure out the point guards. Haliburton and Hayes are better shooters than the top promoted point guard, Ball. Is analytics over? With a point guard you really can't tell until they actually are running a team. Marquis Teague looked like Jeff Teague. Scored about the same as freshmen, though Marquis' team won much more. And then they got to the NBA. I don't see Haliburton at No. 2, but there could be a race for him at No. 7.


Demar DeRozan

John Moran:

Free agent DeMar DeRozan? Is he worth the price? Do you see the Bulls trying to lure him here? They have a bunch of young talent and a (somewhat) successful coach. Surround him with the young talent and who knows.

Sam Smith:

He's not a free agent, though I did see a report/rumor that he may want to be traded. Understandable given it's finally the Spurs time to join the five-year road back to the playoffs. He has a player option for $28 million which I am sure he'll exercise in this market.

I saw an amusing report the other day that Andre Drummond is having trouble deciding whether he should pick up his $28 million player option. Me, me, pick me. I know what he'll do. Everyone's picking up those obscene contract options this year, though even next summer or in trade DeRozan doesn't seem like a Bulls fit.

I did read some recent sports of a Miami Heat free agent, Derrick Jones Jr, about whom the Bulls supposedly are interested. I assume that's the Heat personnel office putting that out. Oh, you mean the guy we didn't play in the playoffs? I think he was named winner of the Chicago 2020 dunk contest that Aaron Gordon really won. Jones is a poor three-point shooter who the Heat played a total of nine minutes in the six Finals games. He scored 22 points in the 15 playoff games he appeared. That's a steal?


James Wiseman

Jeff Arnett:

I believe the best player in this draft is James Wiseman and I hope the Bulls get him.

Sam Smith:

I would consider trading up for him to the point of the excitement that it's left me ending sentences with a preposition.


Derrick Rose

Oliver Doc:

I have a 4 team trade that benefits everyone. Then I heard PG might be available. So here it goes:

Keeping in mind that most teams are preparing for FA in 2021 and a team like Detroit can't attract players and has a ton of cap space now. Here's the 4 team trade I propose:

Detroit gets: Wiggins, Thad Young, 4th (from Chi) & 39th (from NO)

NO gets: 7th (from Det), Satoransky, Luke Kennard, 44th (from Chi), 51st from (GSW)

GSW gets: Otto Porter, Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono, 60th (from NO)

CHI gets: Drose, Jrue Holiday, 2nd pick....

Given the PG talk....

LAC gets: 4th pick 2020 draft, Otto Porter, 2022 2nd rd pick.

Bulls: Paul George.

Sam Smith:

These sorts of things make me dizzy, and basically never happen because the GMs get dizzy, too. I know Wiggins is on every fantasy trade, but I think the Warriors like him more than most fans. And Jimmy. I know it's always Derrick back here, but in the new edition of I'll Show You (plug: I was co author), Derrick expresses interest in joining a title team and reasonably soon, though he said he's happy with another season in Detroit (there are Lakers rumors regarding Rose). Plus, my sense is the new administration is committed to Coby and isn't giving Rose his playing time despite what Chicago fans think of Rose. Remember, the new guys don't have our memories of Derrick.

But there are two interesting names in your hodge podge. Many believe Holiday will be on the market as perhaps the league's most underrated defender and a reliable scorer. He has an injury history and two more $25 million seasons. I could see some team close to winning making a move for him. Hey, maybe the Clippers. There were some (joking, I assume) rumors of a Chris Paul return there, though perhaps Holiday makes more sense. It seems Kawhi may be done with Patrick Beverley's starting role, and George seems often to settle into a casual shooting role. Holiday plays defense and scores! Imagine that. George makes about $10 million more, and New Orleans probably doesn't want George taking the shots from all their young forwards. Perhaps a three-way. Ok, Arch, Mokoka and Kornet, the Pelicans need shooting and they need... just kidding.


Zach, Lauri, Wendell, Coby

Brian Tucker:

Your closing to last week's mailbag: I could almost feel the "No" jump off my screen. It was a strong statement that I agree with, and I am comfortable with not being able to fathom the details of what trades may be made. Like all fans, I look forward to see how this plays out.

Though while we are on the topic, I would like to hear you make some bold predictions to back your assertion. If not those 4 along with our draft pick being the core 5, then who? And when will that breakup occur? Or is it simply best left as a statement that some time in the next year or two at least one of them will be traded?

I love Lauri's unique and wonderful talent; he just doesn't seem to have that "it" factor that commands respect and the excellence to win. Still young and could take that step, but a much better complement than foundation. I think Zach knows how to be a great player, but something's missing. I guess it's that drive to win that made Jordan and Kobe elevate their great talent to pure all-around greatness that raises the level of everyone around. I hope their issues were a function of the system and climate and exacerbated by the coaching staff put in place. I hope they can leave that in the past and not be broken because of it. Wendell just needs to stay healthy and be given a primary role, and while he's different than Karl Malone, that's the kind of threat I see he could be in the pick n roll with Coby. Coby is going to be fun to watch grow these next few years. Limitless potential.

Sam Smith:

Coby's a keeper, I agree. I'm not sure who goes and when, but what's been most clear with this new management team is that they are remaking this in their image. I can't recall this level of combined Bulls management and coaching change since the Reinsdorf group purchased the team in 1985. Krause then quickly began talking about addition by subtraction, but it took a few years. In Michael Jordan's rookie season there were what we'd consider today five lottery picks other than Jordan. Within two seasons, all but Jordan were gone. There were some substance issues, which complicates it. But new guys draw their own conclusions and have their own views. It happens more than it doesn't. After all, they were hired to improve on what the previous guys did. Not adopt their philosophy.

That goes with the reality that sports team executives are generally not always the world's smartest people. After all, there's no qualifying test or degree. You know, like being an accountant. You watch a lot of games (lately analyze a lot of flow charts) and then like the rest of us give significant value to what you just saw. Like Jimmy Butler, not even an All-Star in 2019, now is better than Paul George and Russell Westbrook. The last time everyone saw the Bulls they were losing two of every three they played. That's how Arturas saw them. Eversley probably more so since his 76ers regularly demolished the Bulls. In the short term, that makes trading pretty much everyone but Zach and Coby difficult since they had the best seasons.

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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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