Ask Sam Mailbag: Questions on Patrick Williams, NBA free agency, and more

Eldin Nisnisan:

I'm not really sure where the Bulls is going this year and judging from the early power ranking we're in the bottom. If the power ranking is true we're back on the lottery. My question is who do you think is the best fits for the Bulls in the 2021-2022 NBA draft?

Sam Smith:

You do know training camp starts Tuesday. We're (almost) back! So that's it for 2020-21? Giving up already? Though I can understand the response as many fans and media often prefer the next thing, and it does seem as if this is more an analysis/evaluation/squeaky sneakers in the gym season than any threats to the Bucks, Celtics, 76ers, Raptors... But hey, I had enough trouble with the 2020 draft. The guys who do pay attention to that stuff—who get it wrong as much as the rest of us as I guarantee in four years it will be a different top five—say a 6-7 lead guard, Cade Cunningham, from Oklahoma State is some sort of a Ben Simmons with a shot. That sort of player, of course, is exactly what the Bulls could use and the apparent top of a draft class regarded far superior to this draft class. If that's what the Karnisovas/Eversley group is planning and can pull it off, then they're on the way to executives of the year with a little patience this (shorter) season. If you're going to pass on one, this would be the one. Nevertheless, we still have a lot to learn from the narratives of this group and I'm interested after nine months of speculation.

George Wilson:

I guess you're getting the usual arm chair managers freaking out because the Bulls picked someone not in all the mock drafts, but I was skeptical about everyone but Wiseman anyway. With everyone crying about him not being a starter it reminded me of how you got Corey Maggette drafted at No. 6 despite him not starting his freshman year at Duke. They make a 27-5 team sound near criminal because he wasn't starting. I look at him being the guy who came in and played for several starters and finished games. And look how many teams ended up passing on Deni Avdija after the Bulls. I also remember everyone thinking Coby White was going to be a project last year and hardly see the floor. I hope new management doesn't buy in to all the fans that want to trade Zach as well. So many 25 point scorers in the NBA these days ya know. I really believe the new coach and staff will make a very big difference this year. Probably take a couple of months before we start seeing some good consistency. I want to see what a good experienced coach can do with this team before they blow it up. We haven't exactly had one of those in awhile. I always thought the Bulls had a development staff in place and guys that worked with big men individually. Were the Bulls really at a bare minimum for a development staff?

Sam Smith:

I think at least the development people got a bad rap. But when a new management/staff comes in they have the right to remake what they want. But guys did develop. Coby became much better, and quickly. Zach has improved dramatically from barely a starter in Minnesota with an ACL to an All-Star if he had better teammates. Players like Nikola Mirotic improved. Guys like Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaq Harrison went from undrafted to something. And Kris Dunn was rescued from Thibs' dungeon and was becoming the team's closer until a spate of injuries. Nate Loenser was a heck of a development coach and players did respond to Karen Stack's teaching and Shawn Respert's guidance and experience. But I also believe having a professional, experienced, organized and successful NBA coach like Billy Donovan will be a big difference and make a difference for this season.

Actually, I haven't been getting much freaking out. I think there was some mild disappointment, though more about the uneventful free agency compared with teams like the Hawks and even the Hornets. But for the Bulls it's next summer with the payroll they have. I think most fans realize there wasn't a true impact player to acquire with an exception. New management hasn't said or explained anything or even announced any free agent addition. So we have no idea about their thinking or plan. I suspect it's about confidence in Billy Donovan, who I heard was drawn to the Bulls because of the chance to be strongly involved in personnel compared with in Oklahoma City. Adding another high lottery pick next season won't hurt. Even if they're not about to admit that.

As for Maggette, that was one of my out of the box predictions as I had him as No. 1 in an early mock draft in 1999. He went No. 13, and there were a half dozen guys picked ahead who made All-Star teams, like Elton Brand, Steve Francis and Shawn Marion. But Maggette had a 14-year NBA career during which he had a seven-year run averaging about 20 points per game with two seasons above 22 per. You'd take that from most No. 1 picks. The top five picks from this draft should be as successful.

Sven Ruppert:

I'm getting more and more upset with my fellow Bulls fans. I´m hearing Williams is a bust, (the free agent) is washed and the core is still together. Damn it, people even find the time to argue about Felicio. This is how I see it, we have talent on the roster! The kids are ok. Superstars? Most likely not and usually it takes two of those to be a serious contender. Superstars are usually not signing with the Bulls in FA. So you draft them or trade for them. Trading might be difficult, but our best chance is to develop our young guys and grow their value. So it makes sense to give the roster the chance to prove itself with a better coach and a new system. But now we are getting to my second point, do I want to make a move that makes me in the short run better but nowhere near a contender? My answer is no! The next two drafts will be stacked with talent. I am more than happy to see growth next year and be worse than the Hawks. Be a 10th or 11th seed in the East (which would be my assumed worst case for the roster as it is constructed and I think with no fans in the stands ownership will not worry too much about attendance), and get a chance to draft an All Star once more or use the pick and some of our core to get a proven star. I would have been disappointed if we mortgaged our future for Jrue Holiday and a Bojan Bogdanvic sign and trade. So fellow Bulls fans stay patient, stop worrying about Valentine & Felicio and instead root for development.

Sam Smith:

Good advice, Arturas. I mean, Sven. I do think Williams will be a good one. He's on the young side of 19, so consider the Jimmy Butler comparison I often hear. Jimmy was drafted at 22 and didn't average in double figures until 24. Williams should come faster playing for a losing team compared to Jimmy's Rose/Thibodeau Bulls. But at least for now it does seem Karnisovas has adopted something of the Denver Nuggets' organic game plan of building a team less from free agency and trade than the draft, development and discriminating trades. Though development isn't a panacea, either. It's often somewhat overstated as a path to success. I believe players mostly develop on their own, whether through off season training or their personal commitment. After all, they have more time away from the team than with the team.

What the new Bulls have to figure out, obviously, is whether previous judgments on Carter, Markkanen, Hutchison and Gafford were accurate. I think they know regarding Coby and Zach, though for them it's more fit than feature. Though it's not mentioned much, I think one huge potential problem for Donovan is playing time regarding Porter, Young and Satoransky. None are fully guaranteed after this season, and all would be valuable veterans for playoff teams. So all will be trying out for 2021 free agency. They're all good guys and serious players, but you don't sacrifice for team when that team isn't a serious contender. No one is going to be satisfied sitting around watching to see if Williams, Carter and Markkanen can play. So perhaps there are trades to come. That's, again, the problem with having not played in Orlando. Out of sight, out of trade talk. Where even undrafted players like Duncan Robinson became something. Suddenly rookie Tyler Herro probably is considered more valuable than Markkanen, though a lesser talent, after playing in an enclosed environment with no fans and no road games. We finally get to hear from these Bulls players Tuesday, if not see them, for the first time in almost nine months. Other than that relatively meaningless local bubble thing they did in late September. Despite the lack of major change, that alone makes it interesting because we really have no idea what we'll see and who they are. I'm intrigued. Local NBA again, finally!

Luis Gadpaille:

Why do so many people dislike Zach LaVine? I see an athletic guy who averages over 25 points and more than 4 rebounds and assists. Those are good stats. That the team is not winning? Well, it doesn't depend on one guy. It depends on the team, coaches and something many people forgets, the culture of the organization (which I think many people know was not good). I'm seeing many people stating to trade LaVine. Who is going to provide those 25 points per game? We still do not have enough data on Coby for that. Who else? Years ago, I saw what happened to Derrick Rose, now everybody wants him back. I see some similarities with what is going on with Zach with Derrick's situation. That Zach doesn't play defense? Well... guest what, Derrick doesn't, neither Harden nor a huge number of stars. What I think Zach is missing is a good sidekick and I believe Coby is the one. The rest, we need pretty good role players.

Sam Smith:

It is a function of success, but the Rose situation also is a good comparison. You don't always want to measure the outside pressure. It can lead you to do something you regret. The big example of this I recall is those wonderfully entertaining Suns/D'Antoni/Nash/Stoudemire teams. They'd come East and just blow through the conference, putting up routine 30 and 40-point wins with ease with that shooting and spacing game that became the model for the championship Warriors. But they'd run up against Duncan and the Spurs and didn't have quite enough. And even when they seemed to there was that awful decision of suspensions in the playoffs that basically favored the Spurs despite Robert Horry's attack on Nash. Anyway, the Suns were right there and good enough. But the Phoenix community tired of 60-win teams without a title and management fell victim to the then conventional wisdom you needed a big man. They folded and traded for Shaq, which blew up the entire formula and they rarely even made the playoffs since. Ah, but I digress again. I assume the new management/coaching staff get a good look at Zach with the group they have. But I agree it's not easy to find 25-point scorers in the NBA who are that athletic, can get to the basket and make and take clutch shots. Remember Charlotte. Who does that? It seems easy to dismiss if you are winning 25 games, as if saying we could win 22 games without him, so what's the problem. That was the old Cubs thing with Andre Dawson when he was MVP and they finished last and didn't want to pay him. What, we couldn't finish last without him? I get the logic. But you can improve. Too often teams make the mistake of asking players to do what the team needs rather than what the player can do, to be what they need rather than who the player is. Zach is never going to be that two-way guy everyone talks about. But as you note, neither was Derrick or is Harden. I'd be wary about walking away too quickly from someone who can score so easily.

Rob Robinson:

I researched Patrick Williams and came away with the following assessment: It has been reported that Patrick can guard 1 through 5. To which I say are we getting Kenneth Faried or Tyrus Thomas? My recollection is they too were drafted and dubbed with that acclaim. In Faried's case it was true, but Thomas? The fact that Williams was selected the 2020 6th Man of the year in the ACC is a bit underwhelming. Let me be clear "put the kool-aid down", this is not Michael Jordan's ACC? Admittedly the draft is a crapshoot. So I am willing to reserve final judgement. Williams' size and athleticism are intriguing. The fact that he projects to be a big guard is promising. His mid range game appears to be NBA ready. His handle going to his right is strong, going left needs work. His ability to create his own shot and finish at the basket is intoxicating. With all that said if Williams has a Faried career I will applaud the selection. However if he is the second coming of Tyrus Thomas, bad.

Sam Smith:

Thanks for the report. They aren't actual comparisons because, as you know, neither Faried or Tyrus could handle the ball much, especially Faried, and Tyrus couldn't handle society. Faried did have a heck of a run until shooting became required in the NBA and they basically eliminated his position. Karnisovas made a point to say in post draft comments he's not saying what or if Williams' position is. He did make what sounded to me like Scottie Pippen comparisons. Anyway, getting minutes with a really crowded roster will be an issue, and also attitude, though I don't mean personality. Williams seems like a high quality individual. That predraft video of working in his mom's shop was inspiring. Scouts who saw him at Florida State said he didn't look much for offense and preferred to defer, if not on defense. In the NBA, you have to want to score. If you don't, someone else will. All the great ones have a little selfish in them. I'm not projecting Williams with them, and he was coming off the bench at just over 18. The NBA is a big jump from where he was. It's why you often see college kids who go to Europe struggle scoring. It's tough when you're playing again men. A big test for Williams for who he is will be to see how much he demands a place in the offense. One thing about Jimmy even when he wasn't playing, he was always complaining to Thibs he should be and should have the ball.

Scott Star:

Why haven't there been any AD to the Bulls talk. He is a free agent and I hear he wants to come home. He's already won. I know there is a big difference in a reg free agent max and keeping your guy max. But, if you sign a smaller length, say 2 years, we keep the good young core in tact, and we have a hella good deep team to make runs for years. Especially in the East. Kyrie does not play well with others and Milwaukee can keep up with a payroll to be consistent. Then in two years he gets his Supermax deal and we trade and retool if need be.

Sam Smith:

I'm sure you understand the Bulls have basically zero free agent money once they use their exception. I've heard from several fans saying Karnisovas and Eversley should be calling Davis' agent (by the way, LeBron's buddy) every day to show him how much they love him and the plans for the future. And maybe they are. I don't believe Davis wants to come home, as you suggest. He made some vague comments at a Chicago function a year ago that seemed to me more to get the local media off his back. It seems to me he's about to sign a long term deal with the Lakers. Championship team, same agent as LeBron, no winter. Is one title enough? Especially as the Lakers look like they could go on a multi-year run now with perhaps the best offseason. Walk away from that? We'll see.

I know the community often blamed Paxson and Forman for the lack of free agent signings, though I'd often argue there was Ben Wallace, Pau, Wade, Boozer, et al, the latter group leading to back to back best record in the league seasons. Just not LeBron. Free agency is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Who's getting all these game changing free agents? I frankly don't see the 2021 version of LeBron coming, which this time means Giannis or perhaps Kawhi. Next summer is this supposed big free agency like 2010 with LeBron, Kawhi, Giannis, Paul George, Oladipo, Jrue Holiday, Lowry, DeRozan, Gobert. It was supposed to include Gordon Hayward, who already signed for $30 million per in Charlotte. Free agents go to Charlotte? Which may still not elevate the Hornets to the playoffs. Giannis is expected to resign the supermax with the Bucks, and frankly given this virus environment I'd expect most guys to max up as soon as they can. Money talks, so the Bulls will get a free agent or two. But I suspect more in the Gallinari type addition like Atlanta made, a good player to support and complement the players you have. Perhaps sort of like Paul Millsap did for them in Denver. I'd like to be wrong and also see someone like Davis. But I wouldn't be building my hopes around that as so many free agent summers have gone unavailing.

Dan Crews:

Why did the Hawks sign both Dunn and Rondo? They're the same kind of PG, they play good D & are pass first. Also why didn't the Bulls sign Boogie Cousins, and at worse flip him at the trade deadline to a contender for picks/assets?

Sam Smith:

To be smarmy, I guess I could say because both generally play about a half season with injuries. The Hawks probably were the worst defensive team last season, so why not. Some fans wondered to me why the Bulls talked about defense and kept Valentine and let go the two best perimeter defenders. Karnisovas has talked about shooting, and the coaches who left said he mostly talked with them about offense going forward. So we'll also see about that. I'm glad for Dunn because he needed that change of scenery thing, and the Hawks were one of the most active this fall and believe they're a strong playoff team now. Bogdanovic, Gallinari. Tony Snell? Here they come? Let's say you don't want to go against Dunn and Rondo too often. Maybe it's all about revenge for the four-overtime game.

As for Cousins, I doubt his plan on a one-year deal was to be trade bait. The Rockets may be in transition, but they have Harden and Westbrook, and they're not easy to trade. They're still a contender, and if they want to play a center, well Cousins is the only one they have. The Bulls clearly are about giving playing time to the guys they have, not the guys they might want to trade.

Carlos Pinto:

Year after year we have seen the Bulls trying to rebuild with the draft... one could think that this should give us some cap money right? But while the other teams are getting the best free agents, the Bulls always pass from the opportunity of reenforce the team with some good veterans... and when the free agency is over we get stuck with some washed out players that add nothing to the team... so I guess my question is: What's up with that?

Sam Smith:

Did I mention about patience? So not all the fans agree with the plan. It hasn't been an exciting offseason, I agree, but this year was about Karnisovas and Donovan. Next year is about players. Sorry, yes, wait 'til next year.

Frederick Ong:

How much salary cap space do the Bulls have next season? Is it enough for 2 max contracts? It looks like Anthony Davis is going to sign more than a 1 year contract with the Lakers. Besides AD, which free agents would you like for the Bulls next season?

Sam Smith:

I suppose they could have enough for two, though there is the issue of perhaps an extension for Markkanen. A big rarely discussed conundrum. The top guys from his class, which he looked like two years ago, have been signing big extensions. He's obviously not at that level after last season, which again was why bubble-phobe hurt the Bulls. What can Lauri do? The Bulls still need to find out. Was his last season the biggest misuse of talent since De Niro starred in Dirty Grandpa? Or is that who he is? The Reinsdorf organizations, more so the White Sox, often have offered one year too soon deals rather than one year later. They tried with Butler. He held out and did better. They tried with Bobby Portis. He held out and did worse. I always believe you take the money the first time and get your life insurance. You can bet on yourself the next free agency. So most young players do resign with their teams. And especially now after this virus season and uncertainty and the sudden realization the golden goose is a bit backed up. So will the Bulls try to extend Markkanen now? Wait until they get a better view, but then risk free agency? I've never been a big Gobert fan. Mike Conley for stability? But he's been hurt a lot. Lowry for the toughness? I think it will be less big names than big fits, potential two-way players who can handle the ball and shoot. Of course, everyone wants those guys. At least can we play a season first as difficult as that will be these days.

Peter Toluzzi:

I have no qualms with the Patrick Williams pick, even at 4; it is what it is in a seemingly shallow draft. But they didn't pick a distributing point guard. If one of the major tasks of the season is to evaluate Lauri Markannen, we need a playmaking point guard. Apparently Team AK are willing to let Sato and Coby take care of that? I would actually prefer to trade for or sign a competent, somewhat veteran PG, to mentor Coby and really find out how to make Lauri and Zach work together. And one more point: People who are worried that Zach is a ballhog forget that he was actively sharing the ball well till a whole bunch of other Bulls went down, leaving him as the only shot creator on the floor most of that season. I'm certain Zach will be a great team player if the ball starts to whip around more.

Sam Smith:

True, not everyone dislikes Zach. I don't believe you get a rookie point guard at 19—as much as we'll all be watching Charlotte to see if it is a car wreck—to settle down your team and thus help better evaluate your players. Perhaps there's a trade to come since there were those predraft whispers about a point guard.

Mike Wayne:

I saw trade suggestion on one of the basketball websites that suggested the Bulls trade for John Wall. Why would the Bulls trade for Wall and his $40 million plus (per year) contract when we aren't sure of his injury status and the Bulls can get an almost identical game with Rose for $7 million per? Send Ryan, Kornet and a 2nd next year to Detroit for Rose. Rose would be a great mentor on the court for the speedy White and Dotson. I believe a trade with G State (Porter/Young and Sato for Wiggins and the Warriors 1st next year ) is even more valuable to G State now with the loss of Thompson. Curry, Dray, Oubre, Porter, Young, Sato, Wiseman and Paschall is a formidable unit in the West. Chicago needs to highlight Porter, Sato and Young early to build their value and then strike a deal. Rose, LaVine, Wiggins, Williams and WCJ with White, Lauri, Denzel, Hutch and Gafford coming off the bench is a very exciting team.

Sam Smith:

Whew, that's a lot of stuff. And why you can't pay much attention to anything but the Bulls web site. Ok, maybe a few others. No one is trading for Wall except perhaps one of those the-guy-I-hate for the-guy-you-hate deals. Wall supposedly wanting to be dealt with being out two years and that contract is the latest, what! That is what makes the NBA the greatest league. Our guys will say anything. Really, where else does that happen? I am down to about three trade for Rose suggestions per week now, which I don't expect given his primarily offensive game and his own desire to be with a better team if he were traded. I get the sense the Warriors prefer to keep Wiggins for now.

Mike Kauffmann:

Do you know which teams will be included in the lottery next year? I'm curious about what happens to the teams that get eliminated from the play-in tournament. Good arguments can be made on both sides of whether or not those teams should be included in the lottery, and who knows what us fans will be rooting for the Bulls to do towards the end of next season.

Sam Smith:

You shouldn't worry too much since rooting doesn't affect the standings that much. It is a good question and I suspect the NBA, as it generally does, makes it fair, (other than when they eliminated eight teams from the league last summer). Like this year not letting the bubble results affect the lottery standings. I assume once the teams are in the playoffs after the play-in the order will be determined. It would be unfair to have a playoff team have better odds going into the lottery drawing than a non playoff team. Which might create an interesting dilemma for a team that wants the lottery balls chase versus their players who are playing to win. Uh oh, tanking alert?

Ryan Carpel:

If he hit the weight room he could be the point guard. Antonio Blakeney finished his first year in China averaging a ridiculous 34-8-3. Only four players reached that scoring average and just three paired those points with 4+ rebounds and 3+ assists. And hitting more than 39% of the three-point shots.

Sam Smith:

Thanks for the where are they now. I really liked him and he didn't get much of a chance after wowing the Bulls with his shooting that one summer league. Remember, he was the guy who scored in college to carry Ben Simmons. Though to a losing record. But like with Marbury, sometimes you find a home. That league may be the right place for him. Plus, they basically have no virus anymore, so I assume he's staying.

Rob Berns:

Does anyone else think that Harden and Irving on the same team would be a disaster? Both are ball hogs and I recall Irving being jealous of being on the same team as LeBron? I don't think that would ever work.

Sam Smith:

I'm guessing Nets management doesn't think so, either. Another of the good story lines to unravel. By the way, I'm still getting a lot of Bulls trade-for-Harden suggestions. You can stop.

John Petersen:

This is an experienced group of coaches and around February 1st or so they should have a good understanding and assessment of each player and the team. So what should they "do" with Porter, Young and Sato as none of them can be expected to be part fo the team future and they have no trade value? The initial hype was that the team was better than they performed but why even focus on the playoffs vs. player development including Williams? The Bulls were wandering in the wilderness with Boylen and implementing the new system with a hard assessment of the longer term potential of the young players should dominate the direction.

Sam Smith:

I do think part of the season is about getting everyone up and running and competing, and perhaps there are trades or transactions to be made. As I stated above, I think their playing time could be an issue, which is why there's a possibility of a move by the time the season begins. There has been speculation about the need for a playmaking point guard, and there's the absence of a true big man. Though the Bulls have yet to make official their free agency addition/additions other than two-way player Devon Dotson. The G-league seems in flux with the pandemic and certainly without fans, also, and perhaps limited travel the way they travel commercial. I'm not sure what that means for the high level prep players who opted into the new G-league financial system instead of playing in college. Dotson, born in Chicago, is a speedy, fearless guard a bit on the small side with a limited shot. But with enough potential to make him a worthwhile risk and a nice story. Trade deadline whenever that is could be relevant time this season.

Alejandro Yegros:

I like Denzel, but why did the Bulls extend a qualifying offer? I'm fairly certain they could have had him for a cheaper.

Sam Smith:

He's also been injured a lot, and though that September local bubble seemed inadequate, I think Denzel being healthy impressed with his shooting and passing, elements Karnisovas said appeal to him in the way his Nuggets liked to play. Denzel's certainly worth a look given the roster makeup. And no Bulls has made a season winning shot since him in the 2016 Summer League.

Joe Pidany:

It appears every other team in the league has been wheeling and dealing to overhaul and/or improve their roster... except the Chicago Bulls! So far, they have received disappointing grades from the Draft, minimal free agent acquisitions have been made and they are currently bringing back the majority of the players who disappointed us last season. Please tell me there is a plan in place to add some hope and excitement to this upcoming season.

Sam Smith:

There is a plan in place to add some hope and excitement to this upcoming season. Seriously, as Karnisovas said from the beginning, he prides himself on being exceptionally deliberate (four months to make a judgment on Boylen, after all). Hiring Donovan showed that he's about pursuing excellence and results. I believe they were limited this offseason because they were excluded from the bubble where their underachieving players might have had a breakout like even Cameron Payne did, they only had a cap exception once Porter opted in and what was the point in bringing in a veteran like, say Gallinari, when they still haven't had a chance to see Markkanen, Carter and the rest play even one game. I think that's the plan. And if they get toward the top of the lottery again even if Karnisovas said he didn't expect to be that high again, well, it is considered a strong draft.

Stian Nordvik:

After spending the summer watching Draft Day and Moneyball several times and having read every column you have written about the draft, I felt ready and prepared, and then The Chicago Bulls with its fourth pick... Who? Signing undrafted player Who? Agreed a contract with free agent Who? Not the players I have been hoping for. So now it`s down to trusting management knowing what they are doing. As we did with the former management albeit we lost faith some time (seasons) ago. But I really liked the interview with Patrick Williams; not everyone can be born to be the No. 1 in the draft like Ball per own statement was. But it will be a couple of years for him before he will be a reliable squad member being so young and all. Meanwhile the other teams in the east like Hawks and Charlotte are better than last season, and I do not see any of the teams who made playoffs last year being any weaker either. Will the Bulls with the current changes to the squad be good enough to make the playoffs?

Sam Smith:

Depends on what you consider the playoffs. It's now 10. Sort of. It seems like the NBA is going to have that play-in tournament for the 7-10 teams. Sure, it's sort of unfair if the No. 7 team is 10 games ahead of the No. 10 team, like the Nets were this season and maybe don't make the playoffs. Tough, being No. 7 isn't an honor. Do better! We're going by faith with the Bulls. And organization and coaching. I was convinced the last two seasons the Bulls were a playoff team. So I'll refrain from making too many predictions. We've heard it all, injuries, underachieving, coaching; did anyone mention injuries? Anyway, I still do believe—Arturas says so, too—there's more talent there than meets the standings, if not the eye. The gamblers, who do a lot of advertising now I notice, have the Bulls for between 26 and 29 wins, which translates to a 32-win regular season and perhaps not enough for a playin with the Hawks clearly better and Charlotte maybe so (it's going to take me a month to figure out what the Pistons have done). And there's Thibs. But I still do believe there's playoff level talent there, especially with Porter likely motivated going into free agency and Markkanen being utilized better. They're not as bad as they've been. Really. No, really. Tenth or bust?

Wayne Warner:

I would not trade the Bulls starting 5 of White, LaVine, Porter, Markkanen & Carter plus 3 top reserves for Pacers starters Brogdon, Oladipo, Warren, Sabonis & Turner plus Lamb, Holiday, & Holiday.

Sam Smith:

You had the Bulls making the playoffs too, eh? The Pacers seemed like they were overachieving to the level the Bulls were underachieving, which is why I was surprised they fired Nate McMillan. Nate didn't pursue the analytics three-point game and isn't the most dynamic personality. But sometimes you don't appreciate what you have until it's gone. And I am working on country music lyrics. No one ever pays much attention to the Pacers because they are in Indiana, though it is the crossroads of America, I'm told. They're not exactly title contenders. But there seems to be a lot going on there with all those alleged Oladipo trade demand rumors, the previous Gordon Hayward talk, the other trade rumors with Turner to Boston. You know guys have to be mumbling about it all with an "Am I next?" concern. There's supposedly a locked in Playoff Seven in the East which includes the Pacers, though I'm not so sure. Watch out Hoosiers, here we come?