Ask Sam Mailbag 01.15.21

Sam answers questions on the Nets' trade for James Harden, Zach LaVine, Bol Bol and more
LaVine Dribbles
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later
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Tim Flynn:

When talking about best pure scorers - not shooters - and nothing else regarding their strengths and weaknesses, say among top 10 or 12 points per game leaders, shouldn't the single most important stat be PPS, Points Per Shot?

It should not matter what combination of 2 PT, 3PT or FTs give you your points, the productivity of how many points you score per shot taken seems clearly to be the most telling factor.

With Zach at 4th in scoring right now, his PPS is better than McCollum, just about exactly the same as Steph and just a tad below Beal.

I say that if he stays in that vicinity with those guys, he should be hailed as an elite scorer who is at least solid to decent in most other areas, with the exceptions of TOs, which he does need to work on. All Bulls fans who think that he should be traded, should think again.

Sam Smith:

I believe Zach is starting to get more credit and at least a grudging pause from Bulls readers to allow him to stay with the team a bit longer. He's been more efficient using mid range shots, which were discouraged last season. He's fourth in scoring and sixth in field goal attempts, as you note, and averaging just below 20 shots a game. Of course, Michael Jordan didn't shoot the three like LaVine does and had a higher shooting percentage, but he averaged fewer than 20 attempts just once in his Bulls career. LaVine is hovering around 50 percent overall shooting this season, by far his career best. Though too often people don't appreciate what they have until they don't. If he misses a game winner this weekend I assume I get the trade emails again. Though the advanced stats are nice to make various cases, you should also know Adrian Dantley, Alex English, Charles Barkley and Marques Johnson were among a number of players with better point per shot averages than Jordan. LeBron isn't even close. Nyaah, nyaah, nyaah, Jordan is better, see.


LaVine attempts to drive

Guy Danilowitz:

I take back everything I said about blowing up this team, they look like fighters now! And can we finally put an end to the trade Lavine chorus in the mailbag? He is obviously part of the solution not the problem. If anything he needs to be more aggressive and shoot more...

The Bulls win against the Lakers if anyone would have had enough guts to call a foul on LeBron, but hey I remember MJ getting away with a foul or two because he was MJ; so I'm not complaining about that.

With this type of effort, team D and ball movement the wins will come.

Sam Smith:

I don't think Arturas is a reader so your earlier suggestion is safe with me. Good MJ perspective by the way. The greatest get some great breaks; it's why you always want a great one. But it's a chicken and egg thing also: Do they get the calls because they are great or because they are so good, so fast, so ahead of others that others are reacting more slowly and just fouling them? Or do they eat more chicken and egg sandwiches? I remember all the lamenting around the league about favoritism for Jordan. Jealousy? Resentment? Adidas wearers? Michael was always consistent when he knew he got away with one. He'd say if the official didn't make a call, there wasn't a foul. You'll enjoy the game more if you watch with that in mind. The NBA is different than football or baseball and certainly soccer in that you have plenty of time to make up for an incorrect call because there are so many scoring possessions. Very rarely do officials' calls determine the true winner. Plus they generally make fewer mistakes in a game than the players and the coach. The Bulls were almost good enough against the Lakers and Clippers. So they need to be a little bit better as Donovan appropriately has pointed out. Don't make so many second quarter turnovers and maybe you don't have to rely on the official with 40 seconds to go. Life and basketball are about taking responsibility. Lecture over, class dismissed.


James Harden layup

Jeffrey Pierce:

This is why the NBA is great. The three biggest ball hogs are all on the same team. I wish I was a Nets fan. All those draft picks are a little risky though. It's funny history repeating itself. Also, the players should have all the power, people don't pay to see the coach, GM or billionaire owners. NFL players need to figure out how to get more power. How do you see the Nets working out? One of those 3 players is gonna have to play some defense. On the other hand they have the 3 best one on one players in the league, so they might out score everybody.

Sam Smith:

Before I get to trade analysis, this is not good for the intellectual abilities of people from my home town. It was the same franchise with the same kind of future negating deal, though last time with Pierce and Garnett we were able to blame the Russians. I do have one issue with player power, which I am unequivocally for. Unlike many, I liked Kevin Durant's move to the Warriors. He played out his obligations and made his choice. Why aren't journalists condemned for going to the New York Times or Wall Street Journal or lawyers to the richest law firms or doctors to the Mayo Clinic? Or Matt to the Bachelor? Well, maybe they are.

There have long been players who have pushed their way out of teams for whatever reason, though Harden's putsch I believe was bad for the players. It's like with unions, which were a desperate need to balance the imbalance of the Gilded Age and the Robber Barons. Until the unions became too powerful and menaces on their own with corruptive practices.

I fear NBA players are pushing this independence too far in an irresponsible manner like the way Harden did the infant's version of holding his breath (refusing to score) until they did something. Seriously, how egregious does your behavior have to be to offend DeMarcus Cousins? I don't believe the Nets thing will work, but I understand and don't disagree with what they did. Sure with Harden and Kyrie they have two incurable ball dominators, though I believe Harden will be more amenable this time because of the way he forced himself out. Three "great" players often doesn't work unless they also fit, like in Golden State where Steph and Klay weren't selfish. Scottie fit Michael like a gear locking in place. The Nets did give up a remarkably high number of picks and exchanges, though I can understand and might have done the same. I don't believe their title window is long with Irving's erratic nature and Durant's injury history. Achilles is a bad one. Having invested in them, they have to run it out now and try to get at least one title or the trip to the Finals. Stars win in the playoffs. But also teams as Golden State needed Iguodala and Shaun Livingston and sundry others for ultimate playoff success. The Nets bench, especially with Dinwiddie also lost to injury, is not the stuff of success. You figure they'll refill with veteran buyouts. They're all on the clock now. Management can't have done more for them.


Derrick Rose layup

Victor Devaldivielso:

Do you still get emails about Derrick coming back to the Bulls? If not... Here's one! I know Karnisovas/Eversley don't have a history with Derrick but what are the chances of him coming back? I would hate to see him come back at the end of his career. How about a trade built around Porter Jr for D Rose? Williams and Hutch could get all the minutes at SF while D Rose can help mentor White and Dotson... Plus, Derrick can still play! I wouldn't mind watching Lavine and Rose in the same backcourt!

Sam Smith:

Yes and None. The Rose Return emails have slowed given that the Bulls do have a nice veteran mentor guard in Garrett Temple, and if Satoransky gets past the spell someone put on him he was playing very well. Actually, I can see Derrick as a buyout candidate for the Nets. Derrick always has said he wants another taste of being deep in the playoffs and the Nets decimated their depth with the Harden trade. Derrick's contract is modest, though who knows the way this NBA season has gone with the Covid absences what will happen regarding buyout or trade deadline dates. There's been speculation of Rose going to the Lakers, but I don't see that as much as the Nets, where you also never know if Kyrie will be around. The Nets also could use more size, and with Jarrett Allen going to Cleveland in that deal, perhaps Andre Drummond becomes a buyout candidate in his free agent season. The Cavs certainly don't need him and are doing their own rebuild. Though Drummond hasn't always been the most motivated, and may just hang around, as Rasheed Wallace used to say, to CTC, Cut the Check.


Victor Oladipo goes up

Mike Sutera:

Regarding the Harden trade: 1. All three head cases have an opt out after the 21-22 season. They better win either this season or next season because the rebuild is going to take twenty years with 4 first rounders gone and 4 first round swaps. They have no bigs now except an aging DJ and an unproven and hurt second year guy in Claxton. The bench is so thin that they will have to play Jeff Green at center at times. Rockets got no players besides a damaged Oladipo and Exum. Let him walk at the end of the season. I rather have had Levert. Great deal for Indy. Cavs getting Allen means they will let Drummond walk. Has anyone had as much bad luck as Exum has had? Crazy he is only 25. Honestly Nets should give Noah a call. Sean Marks may be the next Billy King in a few years.

Sam Smith:

The Indiana part also is interesting. We'd all been hearing a lot of stuff about trading Oladipo and were wondering what that was all about other than a slow return from injury and reluctantly playing last summer. He apparently must have told them he was leaving and the rumor is he intends to sign with Miami. I hope Miami knows. The Pacers are a very stable organization, and when you hear something like that with Oladipo you figured there was something going on. Similarly with Turner, though it seemed they really wanted Haywood and that might have been the price. Though we don't know exactly. If Boston could have gotten Turner in a Haywood sign and trade rather than letting him go it's surprising they didn't. Unless Haywood figured like in Boston there were just too many other scores like him in Indiana. This not being at games is damaging my rumor and trade speculation business. Noah Nets; yeah, I can see that, also.


Coby White

Michael Mortenson:

I can't get this out of my mind: One of the headlines in my news feed was about "rumors" of possible trades of Coby to Philadelphia. Tell me the article was the start and finish of those rumors. I have rooted for the Bulls since their first season. I have seen them play in the Coliseum.

I believe Coby is going to have a HOF career and cannot think of any player or players in Philly I would rather have.

Sam Smith:

Embiid? No, White isn't going anywhere, though your problem is your news feed. Humor me a bit here. Let me get this straight with all the specious fake news talk of recent years and assaults on journalism. The only people you can believe are credible journalists from traditional organizations, newspapers you know the name of, TV networks. Not blogs and podcasts and news feeds. Because of accountability. Not the president, not the Speaker of the House, not the majority or minority leader in the Senate. Maybe your doctor, I hope. Because they can lie and not lose their job. You make up a story at the Chicago Tribune or Sun Times or Daily Herald or New York Times or Wall Street Journal and you're fired immediately (yes, bulls.com, also). And not only that you never—ever—get to work in the profession again. I'm fairly sure you didn't read that in a responsible publication. You can relax, though there are some 76ers I wouldn't mind having.


Knicks vs Nets

Mike Worth:

The honeymoon is over in NY. Knicks looks putrid. They had a good 3 game run.

Sam Smith:

It's always reassuring in the world these days that you can count on something.


George Hill

Luke Gault:

I know you just love all the trade proposals you get from fans that have no idea what they're talking about, so I thought I'd give you another.

I've always liked George Hill's game--solid career 3 point shooting (around 38%, multiple seasons over 40%), decent defense, solid playmaking. He would give us a true, veteran point guard off the bench (he has lower career averages in assists than Sato, but also a good amount lower turnovers, and almost double the points) along with a lot more experience than Sato. I think Hill would be good for Coby White to learn from as well.

What would you think of trading Sato for Hill? The caveat is obviously that Hill is 5 years older than Sato. Also, just a throw in, Thad for Ariza? Similar salary, better shooter, more true SF, and could clear some of the log jam in the front court.

I know this season is more about observing what we have than making any actual moves, but it's always fun to play the hypotheticals.

Sam Smith:

This season, in case you didn't know, is more about observing what we have than making any actual moves. Oh, right, you heard that. I do appreciate the effort, though I tend to sound like Michael Jordan's media appointments secretary: No! I prefer Satoransky even being one of the unluckiest men in the NBA Covid world, and since Oklahoma City is more rebuild than the Bulls you can be sure they'd be demanding draft picks for anyone. Hill seems like another buyout candidate with only a potential partial guarantee for next season. If the Bulls were to do any trades, I assume it would have to be less for veteran advice—they have that better than most teams with Temple and Young—than someone who fits in for the future long term. Ariza actually may be retired for all we know. I recall him opting out last summer for personal reasons and don't believe he's played this season. You hope he's OK. Try again.


James Harden

Andrew Brown:

Well it's happened again, a team is forced into submission by a player and the team come out with a big fat nothing! Yes it's the NBA of today and I hate it! I wrote to you earlier that the Bulls should have made a move and the media are always banging on that 'well you need to mortgage everything to get him'. Ummm no you don't!

Seriously I don't know what on earth Houston actually got from this deal. About 4 future draft picks, not guaranteed 1st rounders and from who, the Nets, who are going to now be in the conference finals for the next 3 years so looking at a 27+ round pick for the next 3 years. Good luck with those draft picks to rebuild on.I hate Harden, always have, based on his style of play and now his antics to get traded. We didn't have to package up Otto, Carter, Lauri, Sato and 2 first rounders. We could have served up the same ordinary package of picks that the Nets did and could have gotten him. Not that I like or wanted Harden, I clearly don't but what I'm trying to point out is that the Bulls need to put themselves at the table for the next star on the market.

Sam Smith:

I get it, though there seems to be some contradiction there since you didn't want Harden. Maybe the Bulls didn't, either. Plus, you're really not in position for these kinds of deals—seriously, it was four first and four swaps, meaning you don't control your pick for eight years; that's not a lot?—unless you are on the verge with stars. You send a guy who is making $40 million per year and is furious about it—Harden's the guy who invests in stock but says he'll only buy the ones that go up—and are going to add him to a team that didn't even get invited to the bubble? The Bulls are making good progress, but until they are in the mix competing at a higher level, there's no point pursuing a player like, say, Bradley Beal.


Bradley Beal

Tom Reedy:

I'm excited for the new era back court pairing of Coby and Zach, and definitely think they will be able to score. I'm not even as worried about Coby as a playmaker, as I don't view the modern NBA as needing a true PG in the traditional sense. Since the big names are mostly off the board for 2021 free agency, you still want to maximize that space, potentially by trading for a star player. I believe you mentioned Bradley Beal as a potential trade candidate, and the more I think about it, I really like the idea. Pairing Beal and Lavine would form an elite backcourt. I actually think the bulls have a ton of tradable assets: cap space, another likely pick in a strong draft, and enough young intriguing talented players to keep those who fit and trade those who don't, but have value to other teams.

Sam Smith:

I knew I had some Beal trade suggestions, too, which is not happening, either. One thing teams have done with players who have been loyal, which Beal has been and has backed the team, is to get them to where they want to go if they are deciding on that famous other direction. You don't see many stars being traded to Minneapolis or Utah. So Brad, we may not be a playoff team even though we have a former MVP in Russell Westbrook; maybe you should go to the Bulls, who don't have anyone on the roster who ever has been an All-Star. How do you think that conversation would go? It is always good to dream. If Houston got eight potential draft picks for Harden, what do you think Washington could be thinking about Beal, who is leading the league in scoring and is a great teammate, if things don't turn around there?


Ben Simmons drives

Michael Eens:

I read this report Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers made an offer to the Houston Rockets for James Harden that included Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle and some form of draft compensation. While it had been widely believed that the Rockets sought a young franchise cornerstone in a trade for Harden with Simmons fitting the bill, Houston instead went with a package from the Brooklyn Nets that included four future first round picks and four pick swaps. Harden had long preferred a trade to either the Nets or 76ers.

Sam Smith:

That's interesting and if true suggests the Rockets weren't dealing with Daryl Morey, which isn't difficult to believe. I get it that the picks were a lot, and picks sound great, but when Boston made that deal with the Nets the first time and got all those picks it didn't amount to nearly as much as they believed it would. Simmons is a young star point guard; I'm not so sure I wouldn't rather have had him with a pick or two. I doubt Morey and the 76ers end up with any draft picks, anyway, in his tenure. It will be one of those I-told-you-sos we can get to in about five years.


Bol Bol shoots

Greg Miller:

After this week's massive trade, I was imagining the Bulls going big before the trade deadline. This trade could give them a good core and financial flexibility going forward. There's probably a little work to do around the edges for the cap guys.

Three team deal.

Bulls Get: Bol Bol (DEN), Gary Harris (DEN), David Wiseman (GS), Andrew Wiggins (GS)
Nuggets Get: Lauri Markanenen (CHI) Satoransky (CHI) Damion Lee (GS)
Warriors Get: Zach Lavine (CHI), Wendell Carter Jr (CHI) Daniel Gafford (CHI) Arcidiacono (CHI), Christian Feliciano (CHI)

OK, maybe I just want to get Bol Bol on the Bulls.

Sam Smith:

Thought I'd publish this one if only to show some of the cumulative emotional effects self quarantining is having on some people. Way too much time on your hands. Read a book. So the core of Gary Harris, Coby White, James Wiseman, Andrew Wiggins and Patrick Williams? By the way, Bol Bol is not an NBA player.


Zach Lavine layup

Leon Vee:

This has (was a) successful west coast trip. Not only were they able to steal one in Portland, but the Bulls played against the champs and were competitive.

The defense is not anything to write home about, but I figured that will take time. The offense, on the other hand, has been purring. Best offense I've seen in the past 5 years for the Bulls.

It seems the players have bought into the system (maybe more on the offense side) and that is good. But, how do we get from being competitive to stringing some W's together? Where do we go from here?

Sam Smith:

Oklahoma City? I know, lame. It's 11 games, it's a process, yadda, yadda. Everyone wants to win games, including the teams the Bulls are playing against. If this season is about development and improvement and analysis, it seems to me the Bulls are exactly on form to do what they said they would this time. Because of the virus absences and wild roster and schedule changes the Bulls could be a playoff team. No one is promising that, but for now they are interesting and often exciting to watch. That seems to be a major development. And after all, with some 200 possessions in the game they've been basically one or two away from winning several of those games recently. I'm going with the better bounce or two for now, though I've seen this team as an offensive oriented team that wants to play faster because of its talent. Thus I don't see any substantial defensive improvement, which is OK to me. I'm still a believer if defense is not your strength, go with what is and 135-130 still wins. Defense becomes a factor in the playoffs. You know, worry about it then.

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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