Ask Sam Mailbag: "Zachamania", more trade proposals, and NBA logo thoughts

The Bulls have reached the All-Star break as Sam Smith responds to your submitted questions.
by Sam Smith
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Brodie Larsh:

So the interweb is saying the Bulls have an interest in Andre Drummond, but I don't see how that makes any sense. Could the Bulls be trying to facilitate a 3 team trade?

Something like: Cavs get Otto Porter. Nets get Drummond. Bulls get Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie (for next year).

Sam Smith:

That would be nice. I doubt it. Media is a bit different in this era. Interest doesn't mean activity. It's often misunderstood what NBA executives do. They call other executives every day and ask about the rumors they read or hear about. Hey, is LeBron really available? I assume the Bulls have inquired about Drummond the last four weeks since I've been getting almost daily emails from fans about trading for him when the Cavs sent him home. Sure, if the Cavs had space in their trainer's room to treat Porter, make the deal. We all know at the least the Bulls need a backup center. Yes, maybe a starter, but Wendell Carter deserves a full look after being injured and also along side Markkanen. I assume from what Arturas Karnisovas said this week that remains their priority coming out of the All-Star break. We all know, especially Thad Young, that Thad Young down the stretch against Embiid and Jokic isn't a plan. Drummond would be a great pickup for nothing much, which it would have to be for the Bulls since he's an unrestricted free agent probably looking for lots of money.

If I were the Bulls, I wouldn't be spending big money on a center. I've speculated that Drummond goes the buyout route. After all, if you are a free agent seeking a big contract it's most beneficial to be with a team at least projected to be in the conference finals. Remember, there's no school or degree to be a GM. They're not coming from MIT. So like you, they watch the playoffs, see a guy do great stuff and then don't understand why they can't do that great stuff for their team. Oh, right, which doesn't happen to have Curry, Durant or LeBron. You make money performing deep into the playoffs. Not hoping to get into the play-in. Drummond could really help the Bulls. I'm not sure how much the Bulls could really help Drummond. Especially when it seems like the Bulls are appropriately committed to giving Carter a chance to prove himself. Remember, he hasn't even been able to finish one season in his NBA career. I believe the Bulls still want to see what he has.


Zach LaVine

Art Alenik:

It's Zachamania: I think he's finally arrived. I get some of the opponents' feeds on NBA League Pass, and recently their pre-game shows are all about Zach. Shout out to Joel Meyers. Yesterday, a salesman visited and I mentioned that I'm from Chicago .The next words out of his mouth were, "Zach LaVine! That guy is a balls!" That's from a Suns & Lakers fan. They showed highlights from past dunk contests at half-time, and I got to see what Zach did to win. Wow! Took off from the FT line like MJ, but put it around his thigh before dunking. May be on his way to becoming the best scoring 2-guard since you-know-who. A lot of people say that Lauri was the ‘big piece' and that Zach was a throw-in, less valuable than Dunn in the Butler trade. I never agreed with that. Everybody said that Lauri was sure to be a huge star. I never saw that either; figured it was 50-50 at best. No idea what the Bulls wanted or thought. If they preferred Wiggins, they were wrong. Thibs never believed in Zach at all, or he would've started him over Wiggins in the first place. After the ACL, he just assumed Zach was done. Thibs is a good coach, but not a great assessor of talent.

Sam Smith:

The Timberwolves discovered that as well. Which is often life. Because you're great at one thing doesn't mean you're great at everything. Van Gundy, Rivers, all the great coaches, mostly found out they are great coaches. There aren't many like Auerbach or Pat Riley. I understood that in newspapers. When you are good, to get promoted they make you an editor. Most great reporters are horrible editors. I think I worked for many of them. I was fortunate to know my lane. More importantly, I loved my lane. With Zach we don't need to say I-told-you-so, but rather just be glad for Zach. Coaches always say their players are great guys, and occasionally they are. Zach's among them. This weekend will be wonderful for him to get that acknowledgment. It's not that he's selfish, but everyone likes the rewards if they are honest. Who apologizes for getting an Oscar? Individual goals are good. You become better. True competitors chase them. Heck, Michael always said he wanted to be MVP. He still seemed worthy of keeping. I do watch some of those broadcasts and it's true. The Pelicans have a really good team with Joel, and I know he's high on Zach. They raved about Zach on the Rockets broadcast when I watched. When you don't come in with the big hype, you're often a year late. I remember when Steph Curry was the best on the Warriors in 2013 and David Lee was the All-Star, and when Damian Lillard kept getting passed over. Zach's arrived; enjoy. The Bulls were fortunate Zach was injured at the time of the trade because I assume they would have gotten Wiggins instead. As for Markkanen, these next six weeks are his NBA Finals. He did look really special as a rookie. Now he'll have six weeks assuming he's ready after All-Star to prove he belongs. It should benefit the Bulls. If it doesn't, they'll know.


Victor Oladipo

Sam Carter:

To me the only true keepers are Lavine and Williams. It looks like Oladipo is very available and the bulls have some pretty tradeable players. Which team would not accept the trade scenario of Oladipo for Markkanen, Porter and a first? If that were to go through the bulls starting five could look very dangerous with Coby, Lavine, Oladipo, Williams/Young, and Carter.

Sam Smith:

The rumors are Oladipo has a wink/wink with Miami. Not because the sun is shining in his eye. I'm sure Miami hasn't winked since it's not allowed. But Oladipo surely has been eying South Beach from all you hear. So here's the risk for any team: He's an unrestricted free agent and can leave after the season and apparently has his eyes on a specific destination. Of course that could change, but he's already rejected a max extension from Houston. Would you take that risk of giving up a player with potential trade value like Markkanen assuming you didn't want to retain him (after all, he is averaging 19 points and shooting 51 percent) and a first round pick to bet a guy who never has mentioned your city or team will pick you from some 25 or so others? I didn't think so.


Lonzo Ball

Larry Jurkens:

It seemed like the Pelicans (Wednesday) were playing, maybe not "dirty" but surely borderline extra-physical, especially the guards, Bledsoe and Ball just pushing/elbowing Coby out of the way for layups. The refs didn't seem to be calling the game very consistently… just wondered what your thoughts were. Were you at the game or suffering on TV like the rest of us mopes? Do you get to go to any games yet? If not, soon?

Sam Smith:

I'm grounded for the season. While some cities are starting to let spaced out fans (I mean by distance rather than substance use) enter, it doesn't seem promising for Chicago. But beyond that the NBA is not allowing any contact with players, coaches or management this season. I still haven't even met Donovan. And he appears to be a former player I can see eye to eye with. So we're all trying to figure it out off a TV screen, and I didn't think they were tough. There was some pushing later in the game it seemed out of frustration, but that's the underachieving team of the season. Stan Van Gundy has been a good coach, in my view, but this group seems to pay little attention. While Lonzo Ball and J.J. Redick have been rumored as trade possibilities, that's a team I'd watch at the deadline for more moves. They seem ready to break for the lottery as they're falling well behind 10th. Maybe if I ever do see Donovan I can ask him about Steven Adams. Other than he can't shoot, is slow, reacts poorly, has no lift and has zero impact on the game, I can see why you'd pay him $25 million. Their starters seem to know they're all perhaps for Zion available. Maybe even Ingram, too, who seemed upset Zion was getting the ball early and then took all the shots later. And while Zion is amazingly athletic, he seems overhyped. He's small and isn't as explosive not on the run. Plus he shoots like Ben Simmons. Oh, right, this is Bulls. com. Ooops. Back to the Bulls.


JaVale McGee

Jessie Kremer:

First off, finally respect being given to Zach Lavine. About time honestly! Thankful for Billy Donovan and the vets, Young & Temple. I know many are bringing up Drummond (or KAT but don't see wolves parting ways) but I feel like JaVale McGee would be great fit. Size and vet with championship experience. The moral to go along with our vet squad. Thoughts on this, what would Cavs want/need on this trade? Also I'm still partial for a Lonzo Ball trade, for Lauri or Otto.

Sam Smith:

I honestly wasn't sure where McGee was. I'm not watching as much Cavs as I should be, I guess. Wow, they have a lot of tall guys, and Kevin Love still is on vacation. But I also like the Dwight Howard/JaVale McGee model to provide a road block at times against the giants. Those guys tend to gravitate toward the top teams as insurance and part time jobs, but I think that's the way to go for limited matchups. McGee also is a free agent. But with "just" a $4 million salary, there are a few possibilities for a deal and certainly wouldn't require a high draft pick. Pretty much everyone in the East (even Detroit?) believes they can at least be in the play-in. By March 25, the Cavs may not. Be worth a look. But beyond this season I like the idea of some more toughness up front and would take a look at Howard, who hasn't been an historical personal favorite. Regarding Lonzo, his body language against the Bulls—and his lack of his body on the court most of the close—suggested there may be something to all the rumors. Free agents, wants a big pay day, hasn't moved the needle much for his team. Things to think about.


Nikokla Vucevic

Sergio Kalet:

See teams are calling the Magic for Nikola Vucevic. Any chance Bulls would go after him. Would love to Vuc with LaVine and White.

Porter, Carter Jr and 2022 1st round pick and this year 2nd round pick for Vuc and Ennis?

Sam Smith:

Well, since he's their best player and an All-Star, like the Jimmy Butler deal, those things usually require two starters and a first round pick. I doubt the Magic is going out of business and there's another season starting later this year. They're down two starters with Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz out. I wouldn't be surprised if they made Aaron Gordon available, though not Vucevic.


Oscar Robertson

Lex Gray:

The NBA has changed a lot since I was a kid and I don't enjoy it as much. Players don't seem as passionate about the game (maybe I'm mistaken?), much of the crowd is on their smartphones during games and isn't paying full attention, players are more soft, defense is soft and everyone is scoring close to 110 a game, players flop, and every team shoots 30-40 threes a game. You're someone who has been following the sport for a long time. Do you enjoy the NBA game as much as you used to?

Sam Smith:

I guess I don't agree since I'm doing the same thing for the last almost 40 years or so. The NBA is different, which for some isn't as pleasing, but everything changes. Generally for the better. Except perhaps aging. The league averaged about 120 points per game in the golden 60s with Wilt, Russell, Oscar and West. The play was faster and the shots shorter. Defense wasn't as sophisticated, and as I recall as a Knicks fan at that time we always complained about no one playing defense. Other than the Celtics. The best of the game is always the story of a team and a season and the NBA does drama and context better than any professional sports league. Their players are the most accessible and worldly among those in pro sports. I'm not sure about soccer, though there is a lot of flopping. As any great collegiate player will tell you, the pros play much harder than any college game they've even been in. But what always brings me back is that each season is a new story, like another great mystery or novel. Who will succeed and how? Who's the bad guy? How does it end? It's what makes the games compelling as well since they are chapters in one continuous story. If you have an issue with the phones, don't blame the NBA.


Wendell Carter Jr

Tom Reedy:

I know Wendell has been taking a lot of heat after getting lit up by a few perennial All-Stars, but I really like what I've seen from him this year. I think he showed some good resistance against the joker despite still getting dominated. But anyone playing against the joker the other night was going to get severely dominated, let alone, an undersized, not fully developed a 21-year-old who just returned from injury. I really liked Wendell‘s comments after the game, addressing the need for him to do a better job of using his leverage to prevent bigger centers from establishing their position. In my opinion, this is the key for him to succeed as a shorter center in the league. If anything, I think he has a body type that portends defensive success in the league, even at the center position for his height. Having a slightly lower center of gravity, that will only get stronger and sturdier will help him hold his position with bigger centers and keep them further away from the basket when they catch the ball.

No real comparison here, but this is how Rodman was so successful playing against much larger guys like Shaq and Malone. Wendell also has one of the longest wingspans (7'5") and standing reaches (9'1") for a player his height, and is on par with your average seven footer. I guess there is probably a marginal difference with being taller, so you can see over other players a bit, but isn't what really matters is being able to hold position and get your hands up high enough to contest shots, which it seems Wendell has the physical attributes to do so.

Sam Smith:

Those are some valid points, and Wendell thanks you. Since he's so hard on himself as he's admitted and Billy Donovan confirmed, you can imagine it hasn't helped with him being traded by most fans. They all say they don't hear or see what's said or written, but in this social media age and the way kids have grown up stuck to phones, you know they know. It's also why I believe management has not made up its mind on Wendell. Like Wendell said, he's likely not growing anymore. But he also ran $25 million big, supposedly tough center Steven Adams out of the game. Not many do well being judged against Jokic and Embiid, now being talked about as top three MVP candidates. I had heard the new management was particularly intrigued by Wendell and believed he'd been underutilized. Perhaps not to the level of Thad Young, but used poorly. His injury this season set back their analysis, and to his credit he returned not 100 percent, as the players like to estimate. He was terrific against the Pelicans and maybe saved the game with his putback. Based on Karnisovas' comments earlier this week, I expect Carter to get a full look the rest of this season. I know everyone enjoys the speculation about additions and subtractions, but I still believe this season remains mostly about analysis and evaluation of the players who started the season.


Lauri Markkanen

Tom Golden:

With the Bulls tied for the lead in 5 point games, how many of those games would we have won with a full compliment of players? Would having Otto and Lauri available this last few weeks, have made a difference between 3 games above as opposed to below 500?

Sam Smith:

No, because most everyone the Bulls have played has been missing key players. Remember, the Bulls got Dallas without Doncic, the Lakers without Davis, the Trailblazers with most everyone out but Lillard and so on. It's what everyone feared about this virus/shortened season, that results would be skewed because of absences. Teams like the Raptors, Grizzlies and Wizards have been decimated. Actually, the Bulls have had full complements more than most teams with their medical staff doing an excellent job. But the league has done well overall as the best teams seem to mostly have emerged.


Patrick Williams

James Dahlin:

I was watching a show a while back that was following NBA rookies around. Yes I know get a life. I remember a scene on the road where they didn't know what city they were in, what day it was. They looked exhausted and seemed like walking zombies. Patrick Williams seems like a grizzled vet. Looks amazingly mature. However he is just 19. I know how we all feel about load management. My feeling is why not have a rookie play 90% of the games at 100% instead of 100% of the games at 80%? Huh? I can feel the collective eye roll of your readers. I know these guys travel with their own plane, stay at the best hotels and are waited on hand and foot. It still has to be difficult to be in 4 different cities in 6/7 days. How do you feel about some load management for rookies only? Also would you comment on what it's like being on the road. I'm sure you used to travel coach back in the day and don't have a lot of sympathy. Seems like basketball and hockey are a real grind. Baseball at least you are in the same city for 4 days. Football you travel every other week and are probably happy to make a road trip.

Sam Smith:

The old guys always roll their eyes, though that's also because we have more involuntary muscle movements as time goes on. I understand everyone's default option is their own experience, so players from prior eras principally because of economics couldn't afford to take rest periods because then someone might replace them when there weren't many guaranteed contacts. Into the 70s, first round picks often didn't even make teams out of of training camps. It's understandably difficult for them to understand today's players since in their era they traveled commercial aircraft. So they had those debilitating early wakeups whereas players now can travel after games when they'd be awake, anyway. I question the rest science that's used. I'm with Thibs on that one. Frankly, I'm shocked so many top players take so much time off. It's another reason to celebrate LaVine. He doesn't; he loves to play. Bulls fans should be grateful. I did travel a lot of four in five nights trips and never napped. But I didn't exert myself much during games except when the concession stand on my level was out of mustard and I had to go upstairs. I'm pleased Williams apparently doesn't share your concern. At 19 years old if you wanted time for rest, I'd wonder about the player I had for my team.


Karl Towns

Raj Sheth:

I'll refrain from the salary matching pieces (as we can come up with many permutation combinations, especially if we involve multiple teams). But let's throw in Lori, Wendall, Otto, 3 first rounders and 2 swaps. That would be hard to turn down, especially if we can sweeten it via a 3rd team. A core of Zach + the PAW + KAT would be pretty amazing

Sam Smith:

Everyone loves to pick around the bones of the dying franchises, so Towns' name has been the subject of speculation, of course. They have a problem with him because he puts up huge numbers but they don't translate because he is, well, sometimes a bit too casual. OK, soft. It often was sort of Embiid's issue in recent seasons until Doc Rivers said something to him. The Timberwolves have a new coach, and while he's no Doc Rivers, he's been around and respected and I'm sure his primary goal to is reinvent Towns. It's been a tough season for Towns with Covid and family death. Their franchise for now depends on reawakening Towns. They've been in way too many lotteries without much success. As generous as you are about the Bulls draft picks, I doubt Towns is in play.


Ja Morant

Mike Sutera:

How come we don't hear so much about Ja Morant anymore. And what's with Jaren Jackson?

Sam Smith:

Morant's been amazing, but amazing in the Western Conference with a team out of the top eight that is in Memphis, is never on national TV and without who was supposed to be his partner (Jackson looked really good, but a torn meniscus and other injures later who knows) takes you out of the conversation. I heard many GMs say before that draft he would be better than Zion, and he looks like he'll contribute more to winning than Zion. You build around Morant. Zion is a piece you use to build around someone else.


Billy Dononvan

Peter Ousley:

The Bulls had their first winning month since 2017. Lauri Markkanen was out. When he returns after the break and has a few weeks of built in (working his way back) excuses behind him) -- what should we expect from him for the final quarter of the season? Or, what should we watch as keys from Coach D. as indicators of what his coach thinks of his game/value?

Sam Smith:

It's easy to be forgotten—out of sight, trade him—when you are not playing. I thought Donovan addressed it correctly when he was asked about being 16-18 heading into the All-Star break. He noted it was a losing record. Who's celebrating? The Bulls could use more good players; not fewer. You want to see what Markkanen can add. Not that they're so good without him. Plus with all the questions regarding Carter, a big question with him is how he plays with Markkanen and a seven footer next to him. Let's see.


Tyrese Haliburton

Brad Magnetta:

The Bulls and the Kings seem to be in similar situations. They both have two young guards with similar strengths; the Kings with facilitators in Fox and Haliburton, and the Bulls with scorers in LaVine and White. Do you think a swap of White and Haliburton would benefit both teams? I really do like White, but a natural playmaker would pair better with LaVine.

Sam Smith:

Not so much regarding White, but the Kings have made some really bad draft picks. It looks like they finally got a good one and something of a coup. There's no chance they give him up. Plus, he plays shooting guard as well with has size. He seemed to be perhaps the most personable and intelligent of all the draft picks who agreed to pre-draft media sessions, and he emphasized repeatedly he saw himself playing both guards positions. The Kings got a good one; they don't get to say that often.


Nikola Jokic

Kevin Burns:

I like Wendell but he's not the answer at the 5. Obvious of late vs Embiid, Jokic and even Ayton, who has the same if not less experience. I think the Bulls need a legit big and to move WCJ to the 4 or bench. Or, do you think Patrick Williams will evolve into providing enough help underneath?

I was really hoping the Bulls would sign Noel in the off-season but he went to the Knicks. Speaking of Jokic, if I were starting a team I might pick him over anybody, I thought that when they beat the Clips in the playoffs and now he's bound for an MVP. He's a one man show. Hopefully Simonovic turns out to be Joker-lite.

Sam Smith:

Now see, just when we were trying to make Wendell feel better. Simonovic doesn't sound much like Jokic to me, though my Adriadic League Pass subscription expired and I'm not sure what he's up to. I've seen numbers, but they never really matter until you see them play against NBA players. I know, Jokic wasn't. I saw Simonovic and he looks really skinny and reminds me more of a Mirotic type player. Noel is an interesting name; I think the Bulls have been hoping that's who Gafford becomes.


Michael Jordan

Jason Kouns:

Two parts here, first if we are going to change the logo. Why not change to the greatest of all time instead of a great player that has never been in the conversation on being the greatest? How about a guy named Jordan?

Sam Smith:

That issue seemed to go away quickly. Though it's one thing I do like about Irving. He does create discussion. The NBA is never changing its logo. First of all, it's not Jerry West. Yes, the original artist used a picture of West as a model. But even from the first day it never was intended to be West as much as a generic basketball player to represent the style and flash and excitement of the game. I know people feeling guilty they are alive when others lost tragically are not often designate memorials. But what happens when Michael dies? Or LeBron? I'm sure it will happen. Russell? Kareem? Zion? The NBA's logo is a worldwide symbol. It likely will outlive all of us. Though I have been wondering if it might not be more appropriate to have it represent someone typing. After all, that's how most of us know about the game.

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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