Ask Sam Mailbag: Buyout candidates, Coby White's potential and more

Sam answers your questions about Coby White's potential, future buyout candidates and more.
by Sam Smith
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Jake Henry:

I have a couple hundred since first week of the season to win on Miles Bridges as Most Improved Player of the Year. And he probably is front runner now. Coby White is not going to get many votes here, but he went from one of the worst players in the league to effort on defense and efficient microwave scoring on offense.

Cutting his turnovers down, playing within the flow of the offense. His numbers don't support it, but Coby is the true most improved player.....I hope his recognition picks up and he finishes second.

Sam Smith:

I think you and Coby may be disappointed the way it's going, though Bridges was an inspired preseason pick. The way the Grizzlies have been the league surprise gives their players an edge if they stay in there. Ja Morant already is drawing comparisons to Derrick Rose and Desmond Bane is the next Jimmy Butler, last pick in the first round to maybe All-Star. It's a tough post season award to predict and perhaps the most arbitrary of them all.

Bridges seems right there for now with Dejounte Murray and Darius Garland. I suspect Coby's award preference will be to just stay with the Bulls.


Coby White

Ryan Carpel:

I read a report that said rival executives believe the Bulls are more likely to trade Coby White than Patrick Williams. White is producing now. I am not sure Patrick Williams is as great as we thought originally.

I'd almost just trade Williams straight up for Marvin Bagley. If we can get a young proven PF we have nothing to lose by trading Williams. Keep Coby White.

Sam Smith:

I've previously made cases for White, but I can see why those around the league might think otherwise. By the way, they have no idea. Teams don't tell other teams what they are going to do. You know, they're the competition. And if they did, that team certainly would not be revealing the Bulls offered them White. Because if you do that, then no one wants to deal with you anymore because you'll leak stuff and get them in trouble with their players. But it is a reasonable assumption, which executives do trade in, because the Bulls have an excess of guards. And the way the guard/swing guys have been going down trying to defend up front, the Bulls might be in the market for the bigger guy fans have been calling for all season.

Donovan has used rookie Ayo Dosunmu extensively, so I assume the league thinking has been Alex Caruso comes back and they've got Lonzo and Zach, and if they're using Caruso so much, White has more trade value than Dosunmu. That's too many guys to play. I don't see the Bulls giving up on Williams at his age, after just one season, and him being new management's first draft pick. And a power forward whom they believed from the beginning would take a few years to develop.

Unless there's an All-Star deal to get (Damontas Sabonis) and I doubt being hurt and unproved Williams is enough for most teams. I can see Coby being in discussions, but for now my suspicion remains they mostly ride it out with the current nucleus and wait for the injured guys to return or dip into buyouts.


Derrick Jones Jr.

Byron DeBord:

I was going to ask this question before he got hurt, but I'll ask it anyway. Do you think the Bulls plan to offer Derrick Jones Jr. a contract next year? Or, will he likely get a better offer from another team?

Sam Smith:

How's that Willie Nelson song go, Mama, don't let your children grow up to be undersized power forwards. And another one bites the dust.

You never know what will happen at the end of a season, especially one with the playoffs, which we even after Wednesday I can say confidently the Bulls will again be part of (notice I'm not mentioning the name of that other team). You make a big play, have a big game in the playoffs, your team advances, your fate changes. John Paxson is an example. During that 1990-91 season, the Bulls weren't even sure they'd re-sign him. Then he basically wins the clinching game bailing out Michael Jordan leading the Finals in shooting and he's getting paid double the Bulls previous final offer. The issue for Jones is his contract is expiring.

The Bulls have one other rotation player contract expiring, Zach LaVine's. Uh oh. They're paying Zach. And it's perhaps not a complete title roster yet. So other things await.

It seemed like Portland gave the Bulls their first round pick (this year if they make the playoffs and rolling over every year until 2028) to take Jones' salary so Portland could get Larry Nance Jr. in that Lauri Markkanen three-way deal.

That hasn't exactly worked out for Portland with Nance near career-low numbers across the board, the GM who made the deal gone and the Trailblazers with Lillard now probably out for the rest of the season with surgery likely missing the playoffs. And Nance supposedly available in trade. Hey, backup power forward, anyone?

Though Portland probably is not interested in Jones, who now is out about a month with his knee injury.


Billy Donovan and DeMar DeRozan

Coby White at Media Day.

Ben Arrieta:

Basketball is a thinking game and a player who is addicted to individual plays and driving in front of a phalanx of guards is susceptible to interception. The Bulls were out-rebounded by the Mavericks 48 to 39 and poor defense in the shaded area where a rim protector and shot blocker is direly needed.

Lack of consistency in shooting and ball movement added to their woes and unless Donovan can address these issues, they will be facing a tough task ahead when they face the teams with an over .500 record.

Sam Smith:

And this message came in before the Wednesday game. It is a valid point and some of that was on display in the second loss in three games (haven't said that much). Actually, it is one element with DeRozan that understandably gets overlooked because of how productive he has been. Not that he won't pass, and he was a high assist player with the Spurs the last three seasons and still close to four with the Bulls. But even more than Zach when DeRozan goes for his shot he seems less likely to move the ball.

Actually, I'm good with that.

He's a confident shooter and my preference is more Jordan-like. Sure, you can "play the (supposed) right way" and pass, but I'd rather see DeRozan with a tougher shot (and not many of his are) than perhaps Jones or Dosunmu or Green or White with an easier one. Because DeRozan isn't a bad shot taker. When he begins moving to his spot, there's a pretty good chance he's getting off a good shot.

I've noticed teams have started at times to send someone later into his dribble and coming off the top instead of the corners. Vucevic pops out there, but he's been inconsistent, and often DeRozan has played with more second unit guys. Donovan switched that up some Wednesday with the deficit.

Those second All-Star returns are in and DeRozan is a runaway leader among East guards. There don't seem to be many objections to the way he's playing.


Alex Caruso

Alex Caruso steals the ball against Denver.

Mark Kollar:

We have a significantly better bench than recent years led by Alex Caruso and Coby White. How do you rate them compared to past benches. The Bobby Weiss and Clifford Ray bench from the 70's, Will perdue BJ Armstrong in the first three-peat, Tony Kukoc Bill Wennington of the 2nd three-peat, The Turkish Hammer and Taj Gibson bench Mob.

Sam Smith:

I'm sure they appreciate your confidence, but the Bulls this season have been in the bottom five in bench scoring. A big part, obviously, was Coby White was out most of the season after surgery and bench players had to move up when Patrick Williams went down.

Plus, Donovan tends to use reserves more for defensive purposes and, after all, you have two of the top 10 scorers starting and them taking turns with the reserves. Toni Kukoc and Ben Gordon were Sixth Man award winners, so those were obviously good.

Perhaps as good as any was the depth the Bulls put together when they couldn't get LeBron and Wade in 2010. They weren't scorers, but it was a tough group with size and attitude that swept Miami that regular season winning 62 games, and...Oh, well. What coulda been.


Coby White

Coby White drives for a layup in Orlando

Peter Millburg:

Coby White is tough. Mentally tough, physically tough - to go through what he's endured in his first few years in the league and play at this level? He's turning into a man in a basketball sense - one of those players that every team wants because of his productivity and his approach to the game.

I know he has a relatively small body of work thus far, but he seems like he could last a long time in the Association because of how he adapts to different roles He seems to understand that starting or coming off the bench is kinda the same thing now if you're a talented player.

Sam Smith:

I've mentioned the joy many of these guys play with, and you see it especially off the court—the little we get to see anymore—with White. Great attitude for having to sacrifice perhaps more than anyone, high draft pick who was told he was a passing point guard. So he tried that. Then he showed just before the pandemic broke what a scorer he can be. Then amidst the college of coaches he went back to the bench to supposedly accommodate more facilitating, and then started again and told to score, no pass, no score. And then gets the first major injury of his life, and never seeming to lose the enthusiasm for the game and the team. By the way, back to the bench.

You hope they don't trade guys like that.


DeMarcus Cousins

Reggie Lockett:

Why won't the Bulls pick up DeMarcus Cousins for a reserve big man? They let him slip by before and Milwaukee Bucks picked him up. My opinion is what ever his defaults are his play will overcome it. I haven't heard bad things about him recently in the locker room. So why not?

Luck only last for so long this is the over the top piece the Bulls need. Big man with height and weight and skills as a backup center plus has playoff experience

Sam Smith:

Let's say Cousins isn't doing much for those pick-and-roll issues the Bulls had in Dallas. Cousins also long as been a disruptive force in locker rooms with his anger and temper. Maybe he's changed with the injuries and realization the big contract is gone. But then the Bucks without a big man and Lopez maybe lost for the season let Cousins go.

I'd say that wasn't an encouraging sign. The Bulls chemistry and internal relationships and teamwork seem as good as it has been in years. I wouldn't want to risk that.


LeBron James

LeBron James playing defense

Elijah Humble:

I wrote about how LeBron James, who on the one hand deserves a lot of credit for becoming somewhat of a spokesman for the league and social justice and all that, and how at that time declaring yourself an NBA fan was nearly a political statement. He took that responsibility and carried it well up to a point, but I wondered if or when he might stray too far out of his league, as far as trying to go toe-to-toe with politicians or other powerful figures, and how easy it would be for him to make missteps and bring even greater heat upon himself, and thereby weaken these other major, important causes that are now relying on him to set a high standard of behavior.

But just recently he used his platform to basically call for the job of the Wizards announcer who appeared to honestly goof up regarding the Porter kid, which to me is a dangerous line to cross. With great power comes great responsibility, and all that, and he does have the power to get people fired who don't deserve it, or make other kinds of noise, for better or worse. And there's the deal with grabbing his crotch, etc. His behavior has often come across as immature to me but as the whole world knows, he's 37 now, and a lot of powerful people would love to see him fail, and if provides the ammunition himself, even better.

Sam Smith:

That was a really bad one...for LeBron. Seriously, do we have to try to get everyone fired? It seems to have faded, so credit the Wizards for standing by a longtime staffer and lifelong good guy who played professionally, so he knows what he is talking about, and has a strong history of charitable work for poor and underprivileged. How is going after someone like that for an innocent mistake a credit to you?

Heck, I wasn't sure either if the Houston, Porter Jr. was related to the former Bullets player with the same name and not a junior. I've had a lot of admiration for LeBron for speaking out for his causes and standing up for the injustices he's seen and experienced. But, c'mon, the guy's on the air two, three hours a night having to watch the Wizards the last 20 years. No sympathy for that?


James Harden

James Harden passing the ball

Lucien Slatineanu:

If we compare Coby's numbers with James Harden's first 3 seasons, when he was coming off the bench, they're not that different.

What are the chances Coby develops into a Harden-type player? He's already got the beard started. I see a lot of fans wanting to trade him. That might come back to haunt this team, like it did OKC.

Sam Smith:

Well, I don't think I'm going there. I think the Bulls have established that Coby at his best is not going to be dominating the ball like Harden does. I think I'd settle for Ben Gordon.


Patrick Williams

Patrick Williams

John Peterson:

The 6-foot-8 big who might be available in trade or even free agency with a buy-out and may be very appealing is Thad Young. The Spurs are going nowhere, Young's contract is expiring and at 33 years old is not a future building block or limit to Patrick Williams.

Does the $5 million trade exemption apply to shrink the gap with his $13 million salary? Would the Spurs be too embarrassed to gift him to the Bulls as salary relief?

Obviously the acquisition price would be low when compared to other possible options like Jerami Grant or even Sabonis or Harrison Barnes and he seemed to be a very team-orientated player when on the Bulls.

Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley are amazing and he may have an even better big solution up his sleeve with about a month before the trade deadline.

Sam Smith:

Just as a refresher since I still get suggestions about Young despite previous explanations (you mean you don't read everything!), he cannot play for the Bulls until after the end of this season because of the sign-and-trade deal.

He had a great season with the Bulls last year primarily because he had the ball so much, and he's an intelligent player. Hey, high IQ. Where do we hear that a lot?

It happens in the NBA.

The Spurs are going in that different direction, but it's still been shocking that he basically never plays. He'd be a huge buyout pickup for someone (not the Bulls), but it could also be his final season in the NBA at 34 years of age in June after 15 seasons.

He makes about $14 million, so why give up much? He's been wisely investing in and getting involved in businesses during his career, so he has a professional life to transition to. Karnisovas never reveals much about his sleeves.


Kyrie Irving and Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball and Kyrie Irving

Alejandro Yegros:

Now that Kyrie Irving is back, the other Bulls fans I know are very worried about them. Me: not so much. I worry about the Bucks and the Heat and even the Sixers more than them.

I think it's possible that the Nets team become a juggernaut, I just think the likelihood is not that high.

First, Kyrie hasn't had a good playoff run in four or five years. I'd take any bet where I'm betting in favor of him not getting through this one either. And as for Harden: his numbers look really good, but he's become even more free throw-dependent than ever. His shooting isn't great, and I think that'll bite him in the playoffs against disciplined defenses.

I think they're the best matchup for Bulls between PHI/MIA/MIL.

Sam Smith:

Well, not so much Wednesday when the Bulls lost by a lot. There's something about Kyrie I haven't heard asked of Steve Nash. At some point the way this is going and Irving seemingly locked into bad science, will the Nets start to intentionally lose some games for a playoff matchup that gets the Nets a seventh game on the road so Irving can play?

Apparently, they weren't employing that strategy yet this week. Miami is interesting because of Jimmy Butler. He always got hurt more than most realized, perhaps because of those workout regimens. And there were all those 48-minute Thibs games. You wonder if it's now having a cumulative effect.

Jimmy's been terrific when he's played, but he's missed about half this season with various injuries that seem unrelated. Once he became an All-Star with the Bulls, he averaged missing about 15 games per season. Then he missed 23 when he went to Minnesota and last season missed another 20.

They'll be tough if he gets it together. As for the Bucks, does Draymond Green mean that much? Wow, they dominated the Warriors Thursday like few have seen in the last decade. My veteran observation: Giannis still good.


Cam Reddish

Mike Sutera:

How about the Knicks? Great deal for Cam Reddish. Cam has a Terrence Ross-vibe. Hawks got nothing really, the first round pick they received won't convey (top-18 in 2022) it looks like.

Sam Smith:

Either this is the start of something big for an Atlanta Hawks overhaul, or a bad day in Atlanta.

Wasn't that the guy they picked with that extra draft pick they got for letting Dallas jump pass them to take Luka?

Maybe they knew Luka would eventually apparently have some diet issues. I didn't think the Hawks were a playoff team...last season. Ooops; OK, took me a year to get it right.

I never quite saw the mix there, kind of a finesse-oriented group of shooters. They had that run late last season, but they seem buried this time. Another mid-season coach firing? Hey, it worked before.

I heard what seemed like their suggestion of moving John Collins for Ben Simmons. Pretty sure the 76ers laughed about that, though the hook was the 76ers would offload salaries for a short term Hawks renaissance and then get James Harden to drop his $47 million option for next season and sign as a free agent and reunite Harden with Daryl Morey.

I actually can see the 76ers thinking like that the way they've hung out Simmons all season. Why not? Give up a season to combine Embiid with a true shooter/facilitator? Now that's something.


Bulls team photo

Bulls team photo

Jim Freeman:

I agree with you that I don't see a need for the Bulls to make a big splash with a trade. I think they're a championship contender right now as currently constituted. So I think they can do what contenders do, which is to prepare for particular matchups in the playoffs.

There's only one I'm particularly worried about, and that's Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Without Patrick Williams, they don't have anyone to match up with him physically. Neither does anyone else, so I'll focus solely on tweaks that are feasible.

Do you think they should explore the acquisition of that type of big wing-type off the bench, Jae Crowder-like options? Or do they try and muddle through with a combination of Javonte Green, Alfonzo McKinnie, Williams if he returns, and others?

Sam Smith:

I saw with the New York Knicks trade and they released Ryan Arcidiacono. Didn't I recall him guarding Giannis one game a few years back?

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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