Ask Sam Mailbag: 02.01.19
Sam opens his mailbag and answers your questions about trade rumors, the Bulls, and other stories around the NBA
Anthony Davis has requested a trade. We need to go all in on him and build a team around him. Maybe we sign D Rose and we trade for Anthony Davis. D rose, J parker and A Davis.
Sam: Trade deadline special. And away we go! You may be onto something there. Maybe add Patrick Beverley, Evan Turner and Jahlil Okafor, the latter who is looking pretty good finally getting a chance to play. Of course, it's been with Davis out and apparently on the way out, so it's equalling nothing but losses for the Pelicans.
None of us like the nature of these franchise holdups, but it's the way it is, and really, nothing new. These franchise hostage situations have gone on with stars throughout most of the history of the NBA, which is also why the Pelicans ought to take the high road, accept that Davis gave them a good portion of his career, they couldn't advance and improve enough, they're heading toward rebuilding no matter what they do, so let him go. No need for them to hold him hostage, too. Perhaps other free agents will look more kindly on that and come to New Orleans. Davis surely is going to the Lakers. That can't be more clear with hiring LeBron's agent—wink, wink, LeBron kind of owns the agency, which everyone has to look the other way about—and suddenly showing up at dinners with LeBron, and the week timed pre-trade deadline trade request.
The complication for Davis is that he is not technically a free agent until after next season. So if I were a team not doing so well (maybe one that rhymes with full, pull and wool), I might figure what the heck: Maybe I've got a top five lottery draft pick because of my season and several top young players. Gather them all or most for Davis, and then figure it out with free agents figuring at least I have one top All-Star, and right now I have none. Then say: "Hey AD, old pal, you want to name the coach? Done. Here's the chance for you to build your own team and not join some 35-year-old guy who's done well. You want your guys. Done. Pick the free agents you want. We've got cap room. Got any family members who can play? Can't beat that package anywhere."
I might take a run at that, and then if he leaves after next season, well at least you took a shot like the Thunder did with Paul George and the Raptors are with Kawhi Leonard. If you have a superstar—and Davis is better than anyone in this draft—you have a better chance of doing something than if you don't. From the Pelicans standpoint, they already have Julius Randle. Get a draft pick or two, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Deal. The Lakers can't afford to wait with LeBron aging faster than Tom Brady. Suddenly all those Boston picks are not looking so great with the Kings and Clippers better. Unless Davis commits to a long term deal, the Pelicans aren't getting everybody's everything, anyway. And on the New Orleans side, once a player takes that stance, things with the fans grow uncomfortable and awkward with media questions every day. Already we've seen that with Davis even removed from team literature. Seriously? The distraction is not worth the inevitable. This isn't going to last long. I would not be surprised if Davis is in Los Angeles by next week.
This Anthony Davis situation the NBA finds itself saddens me. And with some soul searching I realize why. It's because I'm selfish. You me and everyone else were waiting for Anthony Davis to become the best player in the NBA and in the discussion for where in the top ten all time he would fit. Instead what we have is a top 5-10 player today and top 25-50 all time. Still a great player and a pleasure to watch and have in today's NBA but definitely not what I was ultimately hoping for.
Sam: Which tells you how difficult it is to build a great team anymore. Even Davis admits he a two.
Do you see any way the Bulls get involved in a Lakers - Pelicans trade? Not that I like the idea of helping LeBron get what he wants, but I don't see the Lakers having enough to get Davis alone. Maybe the Bulls could get Carmelo to the Lakers ( they would have room now ) and some then a young player to the Pelicans while getting back a draft pick or two?
Sam: I believe the Bulls do try to get involved since everyone else likely is for there can be opportunities when these things come up. Say the Celtics want to get involved—Davis has been a fantasy of the Boston fans for awhile now with all the assets that are not as valuable anymore—but Boston cannot pair Davis with Kyrie Irving because of a collective bargaining agreement clause. A lot of teams would be willing to take Kyrie off their hands, though the latest speculation is Kyrie may want to rejoin LeBron after finding out the sea food isn't as good in Boston as advertised and you have to drive up to Maine. Or maybe go to New York with a buddy now that they have money for two free agents after trading the only good player they had on the roster.
How sweet is it that the Knicks are going to be bad for the next decade also?
Kyrie also can be a free agent, so he is also a risk if you take him. I'm one of those who likes Lonzo Ball now that the father has moved on to other family members, but I'd expect he would be the prize in any Davis package for New Orleans. Actually, Ball has said in LA media that if he has to be dealt he'd rather a third team like Chicago or New York be involved for him. Maybe that's where the Bulls could get involved. So there may be opportunities for other teams with all these moving parts. Perhaps the larger point to the Pelicans just moving on is they're not getting anything better from anyone else.
The history of these transactions, and they have gone on since the 1960s, is when you trade the superstar you're taking several giant steps backward and starting again. Perhaps the best ever of these trade demands was in 1975 when Kareem wanted out of Milwaukee. And only to Los Angeles or New York. The Bucks got a great package of Brian Winters, Elmore Smith, Junior Bridgman and Dave Meyers and then after making the Finals twice and the conference finals in another of the previous five seasons, it was eight years before the Bucks were back in the conference finals. When the Lakers traded for Wilt and finally got Jerry West a championship, the 76ers got Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrell Imhoff and within a few years had the worst record in NBA history. When Charles Barkley demanded to be traded and went to the Suns, they went to the Finals and the 76ers missed the playoffs the next seven years after making it six of the previous seven. And when Kevin Garnett left Minnesota, they went from the conference finals to missing the playoffs 10 straight years to Boston winning the title.
The Pelicans will be starting again no matter who they get, so they should move on from Davis sooner rather than later. After all, don't you feel a little sorry for LeBron outside the playoffs at this point.
We can only hope the Bulls do not get involved in a trade for Davis prior to 2-7. I'd be fine if there was some cap space use or say a Dunn exodus but it's far too speculative to try for Davis as he wants a contender. Regardless, the next week should be interesting even for the Bulls in their quest for assets with Parker, Lopez and even Carmelo. Unless a max contract is offered a player is disrespected? NBA salaries are just nuts, out of control. The everyday fan is accepting of players making say $15-20 million per year and achieving generational wealth but there should be some pushback when certain "stars" make irrational demands.
A review of team payrolls will surface an amazing list of overpaid failures. Yes, NBA owners are just stupid with salaries and yes it is a free market. Baseball did a reboot on salaries within the past few years and it seems appropriate for the NBA. Meanwhile, initial reports on the Knicks trade was that the motivation was to clear cap space. If both the Bulls and Knicks have space for one top FA, why would anyone prefer the Knicks with Smith and nothing but a high pick vs. the Bulls with Lauri, LaVine, Carter and a similar pick? Knicks actually might win more games this season and benefit the Bulls pick.
Sam: The Knicks should have money for two and synergy seems to be the formula, though the Knicks are putting everything in the pot for this summer. It also suggests they don't know what else to do. On the money, the owners and players agreed to this formula in which the players receive half of the basketball related revenue to be divided as the teams see fit. Someone has to make a lot of money. It's really on the teams how it is balanced; don't blame the players. They are taking what they are offered and what the league must pay them as a whole. Supporters of a player like Michael Jordan, and now LeBron, say they were and are underpaid because they are the ones everyone comes to see. That's true; everyone wants to see the special players. But team play eventually adds up to wins if done right. With a salary cap, to which the players agreed, the players are not being overpaid because they are receiving their share of the agreed upon revenues. It's surely a lot of money, but the business draws those revenues. The performers deserve it just as performers in movies and theater do as well. Don't hate the playa.
Just when you think, you have hit rock bottom as a Bulls fan...AD asks for a trade, which more or less destroys all whatever unrealistic dreams of acquiring him in the summer and to put the icing on the cake, the Knicks create cap space for two max guys in the summer, which means not only will they have equal odds at Zion but they can offer KD to bring a friend to play at the Big Apple. If we do not get the number one pick this summer, we might be in for a rebuild that looks like it will cap out at a top 4 seed in the East 3 years from now.
But to get back to AD. One thing rubs me the wrong way. The NBA is talking about competitive balance all the time. To my mind the thing screwing up competitive balance at this day and age most is players forming their own superteams. Granted AD has yet to say he only wants to go to the Lakers to play with Rich Paul's best buddy King James (though it is much reported), but everyone knows and this will limit what the Pelicans will receive in any package. This might even lead to the team leaving town.
To me the solution is simple, you do two things, as soon as you demand a trade and there is the slightest reason to believe you want to push towards a certain team or teams, the league office steps in and blocks any trade to one of the teams. Trade the player anywhere but there. The second thing you do, in the next cba you make sure, three players together can not account for more than 65% of the cap. Might be bad for 25 players (not the top 25, they will still get the max, but numbers 25-50)but good for the 435 other players outside the top 50.
Sam: Spoken like a true socialist, which isn't actually that bad, though it's a dirty word in the U.S. where there remains a 1950s connection to communism, that seems pretty murky now. But you also don't want Americans trying to figure out what the isms mean. I'm a player advocate on this one. It's within the rules, so I don't see why players should not be able to do that. After all, teams can accumulate all the players they want. Why let the Warriors have Steph and Klay? But you essentially are describing a government dominated system for the paternalistic good of the masses. Of course, so did our famous Founding Fathers, who wouldn't let poor people vote because they basically believed they were idiots. They did let them fight, which suggests we haven't come that far.
Anyway, back to important stuff. I happen to be a fan of government; well, most of it. But still, I wouldn't fly in a plane, eat out, or cross the street without government being involved. I'm not thrilled being on Medicare because, well, it means I qualified for Medicare, but it's sure easier to get medical treatment than trying to explain to the insurance company why a sucking chest wound isn't natural. And forget the Chris Paul trade rejection to the Lakers. The league owned New Orleans at the time. It was a horrible trade for New Orleans. And Dell Demps still runs New Orleans. The players fought hard to gain rights that every worker has and there's no reason to restrain them from doing what any other worker—or league official—might want to do in work with their friends. It's enough the NBA has a draft, which the players agreed to, which determines where they work for five years without their permission. I'm guessing as a Bulls fan you didn't feel this way in the 1990s.
They want to be as competitive as possible... without winning, so they can snag one more prime draft pick? I'm sure that wasn't the plan in November. But after all of the injuries and no big turn-around under Boylen, what else can they get out of this season? I guess the answer is some development of their current roster.
So they try to play competitively (and, at times, look pretty decent) but not close out. There have been 'good losses' from the lottery point-of-view. Could've won, but nah. I'll put it this way; If that's not the plan, they're doing a pretty good job of it anyway, consistently snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Sam: They really expected to be the Pistons or Hornets or Magic, and I was sure they would be, steaming toward 37 wins but with the hey mate chance of more. Look at the Nets. But the injuries did decimate the season as much as no one wants to accept that, and it's clear Markkanen came back uncertain and treating December like training camp. So now, unfortunately, comes this death march of every win is a loss and every loss is a reason to throw up your hands in despair. What again is the fun in rebuilding through the draft?
I wanted to share my thoughts on the Anthony Davis drama: I really feel for the franchise owners/GM's when it comes to building a contender. Draft or sign a marquee player, bring in a supporting cast while balancing the contracts, deciding to go all in for the current season or set up for the future, keep your franchise relevant in the NBA and the community, corporate partnerships, etc. Davis is a dynamic player and person, someone who could easily advance to a few Conference Finals and eventually win it all with the right players. I would rather see someone of his talent and caliber blaze his own trail and become forever a God in the Big Easy. Follow your own agenda, don't get easily influenced by buddies around the league. LeBron is good, but he's not a career role model. No one has the independence or patience to build anymore. Many stars of the past were knocking on 30 before winning a ring. The writing was on the wall when Davis dropped his agent to sign with Clutch Sports Agency. Sad to say, the Pelicans franchise will falter greatly and eventually will have to move. You're welcome Seattle.
Sam: So you sympathize with Paxson and Forman? I had to come to grips with the public mostly ignoring my profession and moving on to concentrate on puppy and kitten pictures and "news" from people they know who agree with them. This is the NBA now. Ratings and attention are at all time highs. So what do we know?
If I'm Gar/Pax, then I definitely make the trade of Carmelo and our second round pick (highly protected) for Anthony Davis. Davis sits out the rest of the season with a fabricated injury and we end up with the 1st pick – Zion. But even with this highly probable scenario, I still don't see the Bulls as the best in the East next year, much less able to take out the Western candidates. Rebuilding is no fun. Thankfully I lived through Jordan (and Thibs teams) so I have plenty of good will for the team stored up.
Sam: Sarcasm, right?
Im sure you're getting a lot of these this week, but figured I'd submit a few ideas.
What SF's if any could you see the Bulls pursing before the deadline?
Pheonix has a few that that seem available. Bobby Portis for Josh Jackson? Jabari and Portis for Ryan Anderson and Bridges?
Michael Kidd Gilchrist would be a great fit between Lavine and Markannan. Jabari, RoLo and Hitchinson for Batum and MKG?
Or would they be better putting together their expiring contracts, and players not named LaVine or Markannan, to take on an expensive player like Wiggens, Otto Porter, Drummand, or even Wall?
Do you think GarPax will get any of these deals done?
Wow Selden is a baller. Need to keep playing him. He reminds me of D Rose. He's got the same dreadlocks. I liked Kilpatrick too though.
Sam: Oh, you mean Sean Kil-draft pick? OK, maybe he won two games. Actually, Selden is pretty good. I think he's better than Justin Holiday. See, real trade. OK, not quite what everyone had in mind. Since starting for Chandler Hutchison he's averaging 13.7 points and shooting seven for 12 on threes. He can make a clutch shot, he's a very good post passer, a lost art, and has a nice slashing drive and defends. Not an NBA starter, however, and those are important.
I am not especially good at basketball, but I don't see how the team which ends up at #1 can pass on Zion based on the principle that if there is a freak of nature man among boys available you take him damn the always existent probability he'll be a bust or a later. Like with Greg Oden I am looking forward to seeing how Z does in the NBA no matter what team he's on. Even Oden had flashes of brilliance - that game when he destroyed Noah who was at or near his prime - before injuries derailed his career. Let's hope the Zman has better luck - and that it's in Chicago! Would be tough to see him go to Cleveland. He would be interesting in Phoenix with Booker and Ayton.
Sam: Lots of GMs are thrilled about the point guard from Murray State, Ja. No one's passing on Zion.
I have an opinion that needs to be known and spread to management. We have a superstar in our bulls roster by the name of Kris Dunn. I have followed his career path and he needs to be freed from being a facilitator to a closer. If you play Providence's old tape where Kris was given the freedom to be the go to guy. My point is Kris needs to be the go to guy and take the shots. Once he gets that confidence he will and has gone on streaks of made FGs. Zach LaVine in my humble opinion has been a detriment to Kris Dunn's growth. Dunn has more talent and a better competitor than LaVine. This last game in Miami is just a tip of the iceberg.
Please tell management to trade LaVine and find a catch and shoot player and have the offense run through Dunn's playmaking ability. Tell Dunn he is our captain and I promise you he will deliver. The moment he becomes a distributor (his current role) is when his closer mentality shuts down. He's got a killer instinct and that needs to be tapped a la Dragon Ball Z. Not Zach's fault directly but indirectly. Zach has to get shots and that hinders Dunn's shooting prowess.
Sam: I have heard this theory in a form in that the Bulls have a better record this season when Zach doesn't play.
While I try to figure out the Dragon Ball Z reference, which could take some time, it still seems to me that Dunn has the ball. I've heard it said they don't mesh well, but if that's the case it seems to me Dunn is the one who can do something about it because the ball almost always starts in his hands. And we've seen him actually try to finish less this season than last season. Zach's not the one defending him, by the way.
This year's trade deadline/buyout festival is imminent and from all reports the Bulls are shopping Lopez and Parker to varying degrees in the hopes of picking up an asset or two.
I struggle with this notion. I understood the Holiday deal from the standpoint of giving Hutch significant run, a decision which has been fruitful, but two second-rounders don't excite me. When I hear the Bulls want to find good, veteran players in the offseason who can provide leadership, I have no idea why they would want to trade or buy out RoLo. Unless he objects to backing up Carter or wants more money that can be slotted for same, he's perfect for that role going forward.
As for Jabari, there is no way I'm trading him or buying him out right now. He may have defensive issues (which have diminished a bit under Boylen), but so do 80% of the players in the league. On the flipside, he's only 23, can score inside and out, runs the floor well and is a willing passer. Those attributes are hard to find, and he's shown enough to believe he can find his footing with this team before (regrettably) doing so with another. Relying on free agency -- or even the draft beyond the top five or ten players -- to fulfill needs or replace holes is a highly speculative endeavor for a team in the Bulls' position.
Sam: I think it's more of the look toward the future with players who are not likely to remain and maybe now, as difficult as it is to accept, it may be better to have that draft position. The Bulls, I know, hate that thinking, and I agree with them that losing creates losing habits that can be difficult to break. My sense at this time it's less the return.
Initially I wasn't very excited about Jabari Parker over the first few games of the season, but towards the end of Hoiberg's time as coach I thought he was really rounding into form and started making sense with what we were trying to do. Then when Boylen took over I didn't understand the benching. I was disappointed the experiment didn't work out and was ready for the Bulls to trade him. Since Boylen started playing him again he's looked good and focused, averaging around a point per minute. It still seems like the Bulls are dead set on moving on from Jabari. Should we be? Since this season has gone so wrong shouldn't we hold on to any players who look like real assets (he's only 23!)? Do you think Bulls management will come around on him? I know the front court is crowded with Lauri and Carter and Bobby, but depending on what we decide about Portis, Parker could be a good option for us going forward.
Sam: There are a lot of cliches to use on this one like the ship having sailed, the bird has flown, Elvis has left the building, he's jumped the shark. I rest my case. I don't think that bell can be unsung or that toothpaste put back in the tube. Though I do believe genies go back in the bottle.
Kris Dunn kind of reminds me of Kirk Hinrich, at least in terms of the strengths and weaknesses of his game. Good all around player, but with no one skill standing out too much other than defense. Both were/are more than just defensive players. Neither with ideal ball handling or distribution skills for a point guard but still not bad in those areas. Not great shooters but can score enough. Although I still hope both Dunn turns out to be more, I think both ideal as top-notch backup combo guards behind a star starting point, similar the Hinrich's eventual role backing up Rose.
Sam: OK, now where do we find Pooh Two?
You've been a booster of LaVine since the bulls acquired him. This past offseason it seemed matching the Kings offer was necessary as the bulls weren't in a place to let talent go, but is it time to start asking if this team would be better without him?
He's a negative on D. Whenever he's on the floor the opponent winds up with a lot of wide open looks, especially in transition, as he's watching the ball and he's completely lost his man. He's a freak athlete and can score but he doesn't seem to produce in any kind of flow of offense. Mainly when he's feeling it he gets it and keeps it. Nobody moves around when he has it and he winds up taking a lot of contested shots. I'm not sure if he and Dunn fit together. I know its still a small sample size and he seems like a good dude and clearly cares and wants be great but the Bulls are just a collection of parts right now, maybe not all the right ones.
Speaking of Dunn, when will he stop pulling up inside the free throw line every time he attacks? He wasn't doing that last year. He keeps saying "I'm getting to my spots," shouldn't his spot be the rim? He has the strength and speed to get to the basket in the half court set through defenders and finish, or draw a foul, or maybe kick out to a shooter. Last year he really was looking the part of a solid starting point guard who could be a leader on the floor. This year not so much. All I'm certain of is Lauri and Wendell look like foundational building blocks. Everybody else is a question mark. Will GarPax cut bait on any of these guys?
Sam: So much for the backcourt, eh? You're right; I have been an advocate for LaVine because I know you need someone who can make tough shots in the NBA. I agree Zach has flaws, though I still believe he tries on defense and can improve. Makes some questionable passing decisions. But like with the match, you need talent. He's got talent. If the Bulls could find better, OK. Carter and Markkanen are talented, but neither can make those tough shots or play with that athletic ability. Like they say in the NBA, you can teach a lot of stuff, but not hops. I'd rather have a valuable piece of clay to mold than trying to make a masterpiece with paper mache.
It seems many people feel bad for Melo but isn't it his fault he can't fit anywhere this year? His game never changed and he never added anything to his game. Vince Carter is still playing and you never hear of him complaining. It seems every team VC goes to, there are young players who are sad to see him leave. He seems to have embraced the veteran role. People do that in every day jobs. VC is doing it, why can't Melo? I think he's still stuck on who he was and not who he is now.
Sam: What, taking responsibility for your actions when you can blame someone else. It's almost un-American. It is true about Carmelo. I always used to hear personnel people say he'd have a shortened career, like with Tracy McGrady, because they didn't adjust and didn't work out that much, relied mostly on amazing natural ability. I remember Doug Collins telling me one time that the worse thing you can have on your team is a one time legend at the end. Because they can never accept not being who they were. Vince is the exception because he was the rare unique talent who wanted to be one of the guys and not the special talent. Now he is and seems happier than anytime in his career.
My inner GM of the Bulls has recently had a major shift in opinion. (Though if I were more like other Bulls fans, I would be firing myself all the time) Coming into this year I was pretty much allergic to any thought of bringing in veterans to this team. I figured that with a college coach like Hoiberg, we needed to have all early 20 somethings, college aged and ready to grow together on and off the floor. Part of that was optimism for Fred as a coach, given he was thrown to the Wolves of Rondo, Wade, and Butler right off the bat. Turned out Fred simply could not handle a huge task like that; developing a whole team of players on his own, without a strong leader in the locker-room or a few experienced players. to be fair, not many can.
After this absolutely lovely season is more than half way done, it occurs to me that we are in desperate need of at least a few veteran players, to supplement what the coach is doing, or attempting to do. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but even having Melo as an artifact, riding the bench, sounds like not a bad idea, if not for the sheer purpose of taking LaVine and Lauri under his wing and at least giving them pointers about playing at a superstar level. Then another, more defensive minded vet can tell them all the things they shouldn't actually do from Melo's advice. Younger players seem to do better when directed by older, more successful teammates, rather than an older, more authoritarian figure like a coach. Do you think the Bulls bring in a few Keith Bogansesque players this offseason, to pair with another crop of rookies?
Sam: The 'melo part? Bad idea and it doesn't work that way. Guys like Anthony, as I mentioned, believe they still are who they are, and Anthony was notorious for actually doing the opposite of pushing away young players so he could get his. I agree the Bulls need veterans, and I believe they believe they need veterans, and need them starting next season. Seen enough kids now. But you have to have veterans who are playing, who are involved, who are good.
Guys don't listen to Keith Bogans. It's like every one of us. Who listens to the old timer at work unless they still can be a threat too your job? I expect the Bulls to be in the market for veterans who can start, and if they can beat out some of the starters they have, all the better. That's how your young players really improve. You get better players than them and then forget you had them.
So this is a season of injuries, coaching change, lineup confusion, player role questions and many close losses. My biggest concern is how are the main core feeling about their future in Chicago? Are they going to still be as enthusiastic as they seemed before the season began and before the Markkanen injury? Are Lavine, Markkanen and Dunn still excited about playing for the Bulls? Let's pull out a Seinfeld quote, "Do you really wanna have fun or are you just saying you want to have fun?"
Sam: They really want to have fun. As an aside, that was my favorite episode and I actually did used to go down to Rockaway (nearby Riis Park, to be exact) and hit golf balls into the ocean before we realized most anything we do that is fun will make someone else mad. Anyway, that fun thing, or lack of it, is real. Basketball is a game (well paid, sure), and games need to be fun. Losing is not fun, so it's difficult to have that much fun losing all the time. So I'll accept the lack of enthusiasm you see with the Bulls compared with teams like the Warriors. The Bulls had a lot of fun in the 90s, as I recall. So did the fans. We'll see when stability and winning reoccur, though I will say it's not a depressed group of people. I think all being young helps in that regard as they haven't given up hope as a team of veterans would.
Went to the game in Miami. Who is Sampson and who is Selden? Did we really win? How has Miami won 24 games?
Sam: I suspect the Heat owner is wondering, too, with the highest payroll in the NBA.
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