Ask Sam Mailbag: Who should the Bulls take at #4, Head Coach candidates, and NBA Playoffs

Friday's are for Sam Smith mailbags
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later
Draft 2020 | AT&T Bulls Draft Coverage

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Ateeq Ahmed:

I'm pretty excited! So, who do we take? We have a lot to look forward to. New management's first decisions, new coach, 4th pick. The offseason will be an exciting time.

Sam Smith:

Ball, Avdija, Haliburton or Toppin? Want to vote?


Obi Toppin

Dan Fitzpatrick:

Tough decision but nice place to be in for the Bulls. I'm a Knicks fan and they are snake bitten. I really love Obi, but you have Porter, Carter etc. ...I would definitely seriously consider Halliburton. Just hope he is more than Dunn with an outside shot, although that combination might be an All-Star. Obi would be incredible, also but I think Bulls have a lot of that skill level already. Deni might be the Dave Debusherre / Biil Bradley missing key to the Bulls equation

Sam Smith:

Sounds like a '70 Knicks fan. It's been a tough half century. I'm looking at Avdija, of course, with the classic American expertise of never having seen him play. I guessed a few months ago with a wink after Arturas was hired that it was now international guys for the Bulls. I'm sure Arturas won't show his cards and we won't know until the draft who's his ace. But without major trades in the picks ahead of the Bulls, it seems like Avdija would be there and could be a nice fit with the Bulls young guys and semi-vet Zach. I'd certainly like to take a look at Coby, Zach. Deni, Lauri and Wendell. That seems like much more than 28-win talent. Though I've said before. Would help to find a Walt Frazier type, though.


Mitchell Robinson

Mike Sutera:

Warriors send #2 to Knicks for 8 and Mitchell? If that's your proposal, hmmm, I think Wiseman as a rookie will be better than Robinson will be in year 3. Robinson is a nice defender but hard to keep on the floor because he fouls too much, also not much of an offensive game besides lobs and putbacks. Toppin? I get Boozer vibes. Been there done that for us.

Sam Smith:

Toppin seems much more active and athletic and more aggressive; after all Boozer was a second round pick. The Warriors centers like JaVale McGee, etc. have been defensive role players. Like Mitchell. Then they get a lottery pick, too. They seem the most likely to try to turn it into two players.


Zach LaVine

Tom Plonowski:

Do you feel that the Knicks would trade a pick and contracts for Lavine considering they are stacking up on young players?

Sam Smith:

There's been that LaVine speculation to New York or Brooklyn. But the Knicks have so little. Now we know the Knicks have No. 8, which is not nearly as good as No. 4. Something they probably know even in the New York public school system. Thibs had Zach, after all, and traded him. Can't see anyone on the roster other than Barrett I'd be remotely interested in for Zach, who, by the way, is better than Barrett.


Kenny Atkinson

Brodie Larsh:

The search is on. What are some key things Bulls management should be looking for in their new coach? Atkinson, Unseld Jr, and Udoka seem to have the best odds. I'm hoping they get a more offensive mind as head coach. Could D'Antoni be a name to watch if he can't agree to an extension with Houston? Whose currently available with head coaching experience? Maybe someone like Alvin Gentry, Dave Joerger, and Mark Jackson.. Joerger would be the most appealing to me from that list. I've seen Ty Lue's name pop up as a candidate, but its hard to judge somebody that won with LeBron

Sam Smith:

Though I hear Lue is going to the Pelicans. That's the job everyone wants with Zion, Ingram and all those picks. Unseld and Udoka are the most popular names for now given they worked with Karnisovas (Unseld) or Eversley (Udoka). Plus Udoka has big Spurs stuff on his resume having played and coached there. It still counts. Maybe until they miss the playoffs twice in a row. Atkinson also is frequently mentioned because he's available and the Nets were viewed as overachievers. Karnisovas has shown he's careful, deliberate and thorough. And the Bulls aren't playing for months. Though there's a camp of sorts in September, I hardly see any urgency to have a coach by then given there's not much players will be doing beyond conditioning and perhaps an occasional scrimmage. There'll be another more serious training camp before the 2020-21 season starts, whenever that may be. Another potential coaching name that might come up and hasn't is Chris Finch. He's known Karnisovas for a long time as a European player and coach and was with him in Houston and Denver, the latter where Finch was Mike Malone's associate coach for offense. He had that role for Alvin Gentry last season in New Orleans. My guess is it's a long list. This does not seem to be a management team that makes hasty decisions.


Mark Jackson

John Keyes:

Whom do you like for HC for the Bulls? For the type of game that's being played now, I feel that Mark Jackson should become our new HC. He helped shelter in this current Warriors team. They've made it to the Playoffs when he was coach there in Golden State. Also too, we should look into Brian Shaw. Run the triangle with this Bulls Team. Or Mike Brown. LBJames 1st Coach?

Sam Smith:

Mark has been a favorite of a lot of fans, and maybe it would get Pete Myers back with the Bulls since he was close with Mark in Golden State. It's an interesting dichotomy with Mark in Golden State. He featured Curry and Thompson when many doubted it would work and they became a 50-win team. Then Steve Kerr in that A to B to C thing took over and they were a 70-win team with essentially the same personnel and a game with more movement. Still, the Bulls are at A. Whatever the Bulls do, it's apparent especially watching games now that offense, movement and wing play have dominated and that's where the Bulls need improvement.


Fred VanVleet

Jake Henry:

Fred VanVleet is my favorite player of all time. He is the most intelligent hard nosed player in the nba. He doesn't gloat. He doesn't disrespect anyone. He's getting paid. My guess is the Bulls go after him. He's a winner. In his whole life, he's risen to the occasion. Does what's needed for the greater good of the team. That's a PG. The NBA is positionless at the highest levels. If you think he goes to a team like the Bulls and doesn't immediately run the team and take them to the playoffs, you don't know basketball.

Sam Smith:

I'll admit VanVleet has surprised me, though apparently a lot of NBA people as well since he wasn't drafted. And college guys, too, since he didn't get any real major college offers. So good for him. He makes about the NBA average salary and having played for a championship Raptors team that remarkably could repeat he's going to be a top free agent. Obviously the Bulls over the cap once Otto Porter opts in aren't involved. I assume he resigns with Toronto as the Bird exception will give most teams their flexibility. But Toronto's payroll could be massive with Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol free agents, also. I have my doubts how much market a six foot combo guard has given VanVleet works so well because the Raptors system of play is so evenly divided. When he started the season fast there was talk he's a $25 million to $30 million annual player. I doubt that. Obviously good for him for a good kid from Rockford. He'll be an intriguing test case in the new NBA economics to come which is going to be a surprise to a lot of players.


Bulls Roster

Jeff Lichtenstein:

I think the bulls have one of the strangest rosters for any Bulls team I remember. No idea if any of these pieces fit together well, who is good or bad, and what they are going to do with it. But whatever the case, thank goodness they made the decision to move on.

Sam Smith:

The sentiment obviously was for change, a familiar theme in sports, business and politics. Karnisovas has insisted the roster is better than its record, and I tend to agree. And not only because I had the Bulls making the playoffs last season. OK, but I didn't the season before. There are some significant job openings, perhaps mostly at point guard. Though Portland has looked good with two scoring guards taking turns in the backcourt. And the way Miami plays with Adebayo isn't much different than the way in this era the Bulls can use Carter. And there's no way last season was really Markkanen. I do think Karnisovas' vision is accurate and he gets the Bulls more organized moving and more efficient no matter who is coaching.


Joakim Noah

Longiang Le:

Did you watch the Clippers vs. Mavs? Joakim only played 1 minute. Do you think Joakim still is the defensive athletic where he could've helped guard Porzingis and prevent him from scoring most of those 20-some points?

Sam Smith:

We're still rooting for the Clippers for Jo. He's obviously there for emergency with Harrell out during the seeding games and Doc Rivers enamored with Zubac. But things change quickly when things go badly. Rivers never has been afraid to take chances with personnel and I wouldn't be surprised to see Jo out there if only to give Porzingis a different look with his size. Like the late 90s Bulls, maybe it's time for the three-headed monster.


Embiid and Simmons

Lucas Cupkovic:

I realize there may be some bias here related to the 76ers wobbly playoff performance and what they might do in the future, but it occurs to me that the Bulls are a natural fit as a trade partner should they decide to build their team around Embiid and trade Simmons, especially with Marc Eversley's connections to that organization. Playing around with the trade machine I'm having a hard time seeing a loser in a deal built around Lavine (scorer on a good contract), Thad Young (back-up big + return to PHI) and Otto Porter (3+D and in the last year of his Contract if he opts in) + 2020 1st rd pick for Simmons (Bulls get their *star*) and Horford (Bulls swallow the overpay for Horford for the next 4 yrs). Thoughts on the 76ers current roster and whether this might be something the new FO might be pursuing?

Sam Smith:

They have said they are committed to making the team better, and Simmons certainly would. I know the Bulls never could stop him. I'm sure we'll see plenty of break up Embiid/Simmons stuff once the 76ers are out of the playoffs, but it hardly seems to me two All-Stars (even if Al is a few years removed) for two expiring contract role players and Zach wouldn't exactly thrill a tough fan base. If the 76ers were to move Simmons, they'd want shooting around Embiid. Certainly Embiid would since he told Simmons to shoot more. My guess is they keep them together for another season perhaps with a different coach. There's no hurry to get rid of stars. Zach is good and underappreciated, but probably plays a little too much like Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris for the 76ers to jump on something like that. Better get back to that trade machine.


Lucas Cupkovic:

Bulls get: Simmons, whatever bad contract (Horford)

Sixers get: Lavine, Lauri, pick, and prob Otto's expiring to balance out the money Lauri and Lavine would prob fit with Embiid quite well. Simmons is great. What do you think? Bring back trading Sam. He's a 23-year old two-time all star. you play him like Giannis and surround him with shooters.

Sam Smith:

Now the 76ers would have to think about that. Zach and Lauri for shooting and the No. 4 pick? That is a lot to give up. It's sort of the Jimmy deal in reverse. Can Simmons be your Giannis? The NBA is about stars, and Arturas has acknowledged you're as good as your star, as the Nuggets are with Jokic. Take a chance? Would the Bulls be better? And who are the shooters after getting rid of the two best in LaVine and Markkanen? Simmons, Coby, Otto/Hutchison, Carter and Gafford? I have the draft getting the Bulls Avdija and I like him with what the Bulls have now. Though I do see a lot of trade talk/possibilities/speculation for this draft and Ask Sam. Golden State is one, of course. But say the Cavs want local guy Toppin and he's available to the Bulls. Flip a point guard and an exchange of picks? The Knicks likely want to move up for a point guard. They have a few, like Elfrid Payton, and they're not doing much with Kevin Knox. And maybe Arturas likes someone at eight. He's been creative and daring with the group in Denver with second round picks, chances on players like Michael Porter Jr. and often trading draft picks. And then what if the Bulls grab someone like Toppin? Then they have power forwards who can be attractive in trade. This, after all, may be a more interesting fall than with the games. Which the commissioner indicated in an ESPN interview before the lottery may not occur again until into 2021.


Kenny Atkinson

Lucas Cupkovic:

Kenny Atkinson's name is the one for Bulls coach from the Vegas guys. They get a lot right. Looking back at the articles published when Atkinson was fired, a lot of people were "shocked". You hear more about Kyrie, but I suspect KD was in on it too. I've also read that Atkinson didn't like them any more than they liked him. Interesting that Atkinson is characterized both as 'tough' and 'player friendly'. To me, that translates to a guy who can drive them hard but still keep Their trust & respect... which describes most of the coaches we admire, like Phil, Pop, and both Reds.

Sam Smith:

He seems to be one of the leaders in the proverbial clubhouse, though I suspect that is more speculation than reality since it's been obvious that Karnisovas is crafty, cautious, calculating and canny. I think in the end he chooses someone he knows well. After all, that's really what it is all about when a new management takes over. And understandable. They want their own people. As is appropriate. So someone he (or Eversley) knows well and is comfortable to work with. Karnisovas has a long history with multiple organizations and countries, so some on the list could be unfamiliar. One of the bigger debates/questions to me is whether the Bulls go with training wheels again and someone who never has been an NBA coach or experience. NBA head coaching inexperienced Tim Floyd and Jim Boylen didn't work; Tom Thibodeau did. Experience doesn't guarantee success, either, because it means that guy was fired. Probably more than once. Maybe Arturas needs one of those cool slogans like, Yes We Can or Four More Years. Though perhaps with Change he can say Happy Days are Here Again.

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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