Kareem Abdul-Jabar statue

Ask Sam Mailbag: 02.02.18

Sam opens his mailbag and answers readers' questions
Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks after unveiling a statue of himself at Staples Center on November 16, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

Everyone's making a big deal about Tom Brady doing big things at 40. Wasn't Kareem pretty doggone productive at 40? I think his skyhook is still unstoppable at whatever advanced age he may be today.

Tony Reed

Sam: As America's true religion, I'm pleased to be able to start with a Super Bowl question. After all, don't people spend the most time on Sundays with football games? Still, I can't name four players from each team and don't know when a ball is actually caught. Really, how can anyone be more interested in that more than the daily NBA dramas? Kareem was pretty good, for a 40-year-old, as we will hear many times Sunday about Brady. But Brady still appears about as good as anyone is in the NFL today. Another indictment, by the way. Kareem was the fourth or fifth leading scorer on his Lakers teams when he hit 40, though still effective. Though not making the play to potentially win titles, as Brady has to do. Still, I'm much more interested in this week's trading deadline than this last man standing football game.

Jameer Nelson #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans shoots the ball against the Chicago Bulls on January 22, 2018

It looks like a pretty good deal for the Bulls. The Top 5 restriction on the draft choice is very unlikely to apply. The contracts of the two senior citizens expire at the end of the season (if not before.) Nelson can still play somewhat and the Bulls, to put it charitably, are not deep at point guard.

David Thompson

Sam: As plans go, and as I wrote in the analysis on bulls.com after the trade, this is what the Bulls last summer laid out as their plan, and if not exactly following it with the Portis/Mirotic punch, the result was the same, coming into the summer of 2018 with a good feeling about the three players from the Butler trade and two first round picks, one perhaps top five. It's still possible. Everyone always demands a plan. There's one.

What do you think the next move will be by the Bulls? It does appear that we wanted to deal early so that we have another week to try and deal again. The Boogie injury was perfect timing for us to find that suitor in the Pels. I'm reading that we want to waive tony Allen though which puzzles me. Old but still a great defender. I'm sure the Cavs wouldn't mind him with other pieces. A couple of nice pieces we have thought to offer teams. Lopez, Allen, Nelson, Holiday, Grant. Not huge game changes but they bulk up a playoff team. Wonder what the jazz are doing?

What do you think is next?

Andrew Brown

Sam: It was interesting that Paxson seemed to make it clear, especially amidst hanging onto Nelson and Allen after leaks about them being released, that the Bulls would like to make some more moves. Why not? They made it clear with the Mirotic trade it's all about this draft, and while we know I am not a fan of losing games, it seems obvious for now, especially with talk of more playing time for deep bench players. Tough last 30 games for the coach after these last two seasons plowing through those dysfunctional rosters. I had predicted 18 wins for this season, which the Bulls are at now. Lose 35 straight and I'm right on! Without that December aberration, they were on pace for the 18 and seem likely to get back in that lane. The Bulls are open for business for another week, though I don't see other than maybe a future provisional second for what they have to offer. But as Jerry Krause used to say, "get the vig."" The vigorish, the extra that sometimes enables a reluctant team to make a deal you want. Extra stuff always helps for later.

Nikola Mirotic #44 of the Chicago Bulls shoots the ball during the game against the Toronto Raptors on January 3, 2018 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Now that the Mirotic trade is final, where does that leave the Bulls as far as cap space for free Agents this summer ? If the Pelicans make the playoffs, you think the Bulls will sit on the pick until next year or the following year when the pick will be unprotected ?

Randall Sanders

Sam: First of all, picks accrue immediately. So you get them as soon as available.You don't get to wait. If it's not top five this June, the Bulls get the pick. The cap space is more uncertain because of the LaVine contract situation. He's up for an extension and he was a major part of that Butler trade. Of course, since he's got Bird rights the team can go over the cap after signing free agents. There's also that $12.5 trade exception from the Mirotic deal to use for a player. The Bulls look like they're about $25 million or so below the cap after this season. So there are possibilities, though it seems premature for this summer to expect to be adding some top level veteran with all the young players and draft picks coming. Combine draft picks to move up? To combine with a player for a better player. Plenty of Ask Sam questions to come after the season.

Blake Griffin #23 of the Detroit Pistons looks to pass the ball during the fourth quarter of the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Little Caesars Arena on February 1, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan.

I assume part of why the Pistons wanted to acquire Blake Griffin was that he's signed to a long-term contract. Given the Pistons are not the most glamorous free agent destination right now, they get a star player they probably never could have convinced to join them on his own. That said, I wonder if they also saw the relative success that the Pelicans were finally having with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins and figured they'd take their own shot a building a team around two big men when the rest of the league is going small? If so, the flaw in that line of thinking would seem to be that Davis is better than Griffin and Cousins (while sort of crazy) is/was better than Drummond.

Cameron Watkins

Sam: And New Orleans has better food than Detroit. You have it correct. You're the Pistons sitting there with a new arena downtown, which isn't exactly a destination in Detroit, with a very pedestrian team and a team president who probably is losing his cache with the team about to miss the playoffs in a not-so-great Eastern Conference. Free agents don't much aim for Detroit, and if you like to jump over cars, where better? Just have to make it an American model this time as you can also get some small ones. Though they mostly seem to make trucks these days. Guzzle me some gas! The Pistons, meanwhile, have gone through rebuilding too recently and you have to wonder with the owner and new team honcho Arn Tellem from Los Angeles the chance to get Griffin was too much to pass. Plus Arn supposedly is breathing over Stan's shoulder about that job. It's difficult to see a path to a title with that Pistons roster and Drummond and Griffin making some $70 million annually combined in a few years. But no one saw it coming when Ben Wallace was playing with Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton. You keep trying to get better and along the way you never know what may happen to the other guy. I like the deal for the Pistons as well for that reason.

Great trade for the Pistons. You tell me the last big free agent who said i will take my talents to Motown? Ben Gordon? Yeah, the only way for them to get a star was to trade for one. Blake if he can stay healthy will feast in the east and flourish alongside Andre. What did they really give up? Harris? Meh. Bradley? Not the same this season. Boban? Haha. 1st round pick? Pistons are about to make a run in the standings so pick wont be high. I understand why the Clips did it, complete overhaul/reboot. Never going to win out West and time to start the rebuild and hopefully get more pieces for Jordan and Lou. No one is taking fat Danillo.

Mike Sutera

Sam: Yes, the Clippers did make some curious acquisitions after losing Chris Paul. Though the interesting part about their explosion—we have to assume Jordan and Lou Williams could be next despite what Doc Rivers says—is that they were doing pretty well since the bad start and Griffin's return. No one thought they'd win a first round series, but they've been beating good teams and seemed assured of being in the playoffs. But as we see also in baseball these days, losing is more popular than ever. The winner in this may be the Nuggets and the Pelicans (and then thus the Bulls with the Mirotic trade), who with the Clippers going down probably do get to the playoffs. One of the interesting elements was that the Pistons sought top four protection for the pick. The Pelicans top five with the Bulls. Does that suggest it's really a top heavy four or five-player draft with a drop-off after that? Not your sort of 2015 drop-off of Porzingis to Hezonja, but maybe a slight depreciation in class? Maybe Griffin isn't the sort of star who carries a franchise like Durant or LeBron, but he's in the team picture (health concerns aside) and when your path is cloudy and your weather is worse, why not?

Justin Holiday #7 of the Chicago Bulls shoots the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks on January 28, 2018 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Will there be any takers for Justin Holiday before the trade deadline? He's having his best year although his FG% is only 38% as he tends to take too many bad shots. Most importantly, he's clearly not part of this rebuilding plan as this team's future is with Markkanen, Dunn and LaVine. His presence also may slow down Valentine's development as LaVine's minutes grow. After all, this is a rebuilding year so why keep someone around and give him so much playing time when he will not be useful in the future?

Jay Choi

Sam: I'm sure if they had a deal that netted them anything significant they would for any of those three. But trading is not easy as we just saw with Mirotic. To get much, you have to take back contracts with several years, and why give up your free agency possibilities unless its for something significant? It took a major injury to a star for the market to even open for the Bulls leading scorer. Plus, the league still demands you play the games. And people pay for them, so you have to put out some competitive product, even if the Bulls looks less so the rest of the season. And you need some veteran players around your young players to help show them the way in their development, Holiday is just 28, so he could be in a transition period with the team. He's a legitimate NBA player and professional. Young players also need leadership and direction from peers. If the Bulls could get something significant, sure, that's their goal now. In lieu of that, I like seeing Holiday with the team. Plus, he's one of the few guys—all very nice and cooperative—who give long and thoughtful answers to media questions.

Robin Lopez #42 of the Chicago Bulls battles for the ball against Jose Calderon #81 and Channing Frye #8 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 21, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio.

If I'm Cleveland how do I not trade for Robin Lopez? The Cavs are in desperate need of big men after they have lost Kevin Love.
CLE - Lopez, Payne, Portis.
CHI - Shumpert, Frye, Osman, 1st round pick ('18).

Tom Plonowski

Sam: Of course, the Cavs aren't giving up that pick, and as much as we love and admire Robin, he's not of great value these days in the NBA for his lack of perimeter shooting as a big man. Which the Cavs Love to do. I'm sure the Lakers would like to move his better shooting brother and can't. It was hard enough to get a team to pick up that second Mirotic year at less money than Robin makes. I don't believe the Bulls will win many games the rest of the season, but I'd like to see them competitive and not see the young players lose hope. Having a guy like Robin around is important in that aspect. Plus, he's such a wise and generous soul for a comic book fan.

Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls shoots the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers on January 31, 2018 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.

It sure looks like LaVine is forcing up a lot of contested shots. I'm sure part of this is due to the absence of Dunn, but this can't be good for the future of the team who had developed a "team first" attitude prior to his return. With LaVine's ability to drive the middle and open up the court for shooters such as Markkanen, Valentine, and Mirotic, it is disappointing to see the ball stop moving when it gets into his hands. Even when Dunn returns, it will be important for the team to make sure that the ball seeks the open shooter.

William Kochneff

Sam: Again, I'm willing to give him 11 games before declaring him a bust. He scores pretty easily, but I don't think with players coming and going with injury and issues lately and the Mirotic drama we're seeing any semblance of a rotation or stability. I like that LaVine doesn't make excuses and that he plays without any fear from his injury. I think he's been terrific given the difficulty in coming back after a year out with basically an entirely new and constantly changing team.

Deandre Ayton #13 of the Arizona Wildcats attempts a shot over Isaiah Whaley #5 of the Connecticut Huskies during the first half of the college basketball game at McKale Center on December 21, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona.

If picks are suddenly overvalued, then why not trade them?

If the Bulls trade their pick, assume somewhere between 8-12, what could they get for it?

Jeff Lichtenstein

Sam: The rebuilding isn't over that fast. I mentioned how picks tend to be overvalued these days by fans and media clamoring for them in light of the successes of teams starting over like the Cubs and Astros and now the White Sox. The Bulls, especially with the Mirotic trade, have committed themselves to a more deliberate process in which that sort of player you might get by pairing a high draft pick with a player—which you'd have to do—is somewhat ahead of where the Bulls are. And you're not getting an elite star like Curry, Harden, Antetokounmpo, Westbrook or Davis. Could you for the No. 1 pick, whom many believe is the Arizona center Ayton or Duke's Bagley? Not even close. Keep the pick. I'm quite sure the Bulls intend to.

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball during the game against the Golden State Warriors on January 15, 2018 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

Whose next? Marc Gasol?

Bob Ding

Sam: It could still be a very entertaining week? Yes, we heard last week speculation that maybe LeBron, who has a no trade, would be interested in going to the Warriors so that no one's games would matter next season. Why not now? You can see that even with a few wins lately, albeit just barely, the Cavs are in deep trouble with the loss of Kevin Love and LeBron is having to do way, way, way too much to keep them going. Everyone still thinks he's going to L.A. (hello Clippers?), but San Francisco is nice, too. And with an amazing new arena coming. What better place to finish out his career and how many titles can he have playing five or six more years riding it down with Curry, Durant and Thompson? The Cavs must know by now he's not staying, so they're not about to give up that Brooklyn pick for some one year rental and then have LeBron tell them by Twitter he left. So what's worth it for Cleveland? I've always believed that second round pick Jordan Bell is the eventual successor for Draymond Green. Pairing Green with Andre Iguodala would just about match LeBron's salary. Of course, the Cavs want neither. So the Warriors add a pair of young players in Looney and McCaw and then their first round picks (you can't do consecutive) for 2018, 2020 and 2022. Plus, without LeBron, the Cavs will have plenty of top five picks of their own. The Warriors won't need the picks. OK, they're not great ones, but LeBron's leaving in three months. LeBron with that body and those teammates has five good years. Even walking in on a few titles, LeBron walking away with eight makes it Michael Who? You've gotta love the NBA.

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