Ask Sam Mailbag: 02.15.19

I remember growing up, the all-star game was always the most exciting event of the NBA season for a fan, other than the start of the playoffs. Not so much the festivities, but the game! It was always a treat to see star players from their perspective regions come join forces to battle on the court and walk away with bragging rights as to who was a part of the better conference. In years past, that has changed. The game doesn't capture that electricity, that anticipation. Is it because we have an opportunity to watch games coast to coast all year round and it's no longer a special treat to see these players? Has free agency contributed to that, as players are looking to team up all season long? Is it the new format of choosing teams despite of conferences? Anyway, what are some of your favorite memories from years past of the all-star game?

Christopher Billingsley

Michael Jordan participates in All Star contest.

I want a reality check – why are we bringing in role players that can win us 4 more games? Tank or bring in alphas – the only options… We cannot live in a malaise for the next decade! And binging in ‘nice' players will do just that because we don't have a contending core…. You say we cannot recruit alphas. I agree. so the only option is to tank… it makes no sense bringing in Porter, none whatsoever.

Tarun Kalra

The Bulls won the coin toss against the Kings and because of that they ended up with the 7th pick in the 2018 draft. If they had lost, they would have had that #2 pick, which is crazy to me to think that a coin toss decided that they picked 5 spots lower. IF the Bulls had lost that coin toss and ended up with the 2nd pick, who do you think they would have taken? Bagley or Doncic? Interesting to think about.

Justin Swiercz

The 2018 draft class poses for a photo.

Despite the beating this team is taking on the airwaves and in the loss column, I like the current shape of the roster and the direction it is heading. Zach, Otto and Lauri are a formidable perimeter trio in this slash-and-kick era of the NBA. The right complement to this, I think, is a penetrating, pass-first point guard who can play defense. Kris Dunn is not that. He is a scorer, not a distributor, and is fit to anchor the second unit as a first scoring option. I see Kris as a valuable piece in this rebuild- why not exploit his strengths as a 6th man and as a closer? You don't have to start a game to put your signature on it. There are a bevy of veteran, free agent point guards this offseason. The right signing here might offer the synergy this team needs.

Eric Cohen

Kris Dunn setups offense against Charlotte Hornets.

As a huge Bulls fan, the trade of Bobby Portis really hurt me. I thought Gar/Pax again made another fashionably stupid deal by giving away 2 double double a night players even with Parker's bad defense. I really felt like they should have tried to throw Felicio's contract in the deal instead. Given the early returns of Otto Porter, I have been more than impressed after years watching him here in the DC area. The Bulls are using him more than a spot up shooter. With that being said and still not totally happy about it, who are some free agents at the backup power position they could sign this off-season to help kind of make of the void left on the bench. My assumption is that unless they get the #1 pick they will pick the best wing wing player available to develop and resign Arcidiacono as the back up.

Thomas Brackeen

Bobby Portis celebrates play.

Keep seeing this written or hearing it said as if this is obvious, so am curious as to why? "Portis Projects as a Bench Player" What is it about his game, size, athleticism, work ethic and impressive improvement trajectory that makes it clear to folks that sixth man is his destiny and ceiling? How sure should we be that in future matchups between Portis and Markkanen or Carter Jr. that Lauri or Wendell will prevail?

Peter Laundy

Could u imagine if Bulls bring back portis as a free agent! I could see the Bulls sending him an offer for $12 million per year. Then just get vet minimum guys. We would have a legit team.

Ryan Carpel

Thanks for the article about Noah. So life relatable and we know his outside story so well. Total good natured leader and warrior. I always thought has to be the most interesting guy to have a one on one interview or just have dinner with. How cool to bring him and Derrick back next year in supporting roles for a young team with top pick. Maybe a jersey that should be retired?

Jeff Lichtenstein

Derrick Rose and Joakim Noach check into game against Cavaliers.

When is the last time the Bulls starting front line combined for 83 points? Loved your comparison of Lauris stats to Giannis's career arc. Also looks good compared to that of love who is also a stretch 4 and was also a one and done in the pac 10/12 so similar in that respect. We would all be thrilled if Lauri became either Giannis or love, excited to watch him progress and hoping for good health.

Guy Danilowitz

Lauri Markkanen take a jump shot.

Regarding tanking and the draft: Divide the teams into three draft tiers. The first group is the fourteen teams that did not make the playoffs, the so-called lottery teams. The second group is the five through eight seeds. The third group is the one through four seeds. Each group has its own draft lottery to determine selection order, with the same odds for each member of the group. The big difference is that each group does its complete draft before the next group begins its draft. The fourteen non-playoff teams make their first and second round picks. Next, the eight first round road teams make their first and second round picks. Last, the eight first round home teams make their first and second round picks. By giving all the non-playoff teams the same odds of getting the first overall pick the league will eliminate most of the tanking incentive. By giving the league's worst teams essentially two first round picks the league will allow them to improve more rapidly. Also, by allowing the worst teams a better opportunity to assemble a talented nucleus quickly, the league increases the likelihood that nucleus will stay together. I think that will enable small market teams to compete more effectively than they can now.

Michael Murden

If Valentine comes back healthy for 2019/20 season, could / should bulls use him as point guard plus put responsibility on Carter as a point center. Starting Valentine, LaVine, Porter, Markkanen, and Carter gives Bulls length and capability for switching on defense plus all are scorers. Reminds me of years when Harper started; thus no "real" PG for those years with Jordan. Valentine has the three point range. If want to go slightly smaller & faster then can sub in Hutchison for either Carter or Markkanen to give a different look. Then look to sign a free agent high volume scoring small guard for bench scoring.

Wayne Warner

Denzel Valentine and team celebrate from bench.

Why didn't the bulls go after Markelle Fultz? There is a lot of uncertainty at point guard for the bulls. Getting a former talented number 1 pick in Fultz could've solved our point guard situation. Much like what the nets did with D-Russ. I think Fultz is still going to be a great player in this league.
And say the Knicks held on to Porzingis. Wouldn't a trade to the Pelicans for Anthony Davis work for both teams? KP, a couple of first rounders and Tim Hardaway for Anthony Davis. Pelicans get a Star to build around with picks.

Bilal Muhammad

I'm reading comments from Bobby Portis about reassurances he got from Gar Foreman, and yet he was still traded. I actually like Otto Porter so far, and we will surely miss Bobby's energy. What's your take on Bobby's description of the situation?

Anthony Reed

Otto Porter dribbling

The Lakers fell below .500 and the natives are getting restless. Surprisingly though, the Los Angeles Times column wasn't blaming Magic, it was LeBron. The complaints were about all the ‘turmoil' he's caused (trying to get Walton fired, trading away all the kids for AD, etc.) without bringing them on-court success. I guess 27 pts, 9 boards & 8 assists per game on 51% shooting isn't enough. Oh, and he's been hurt too. Can't forgive him for that! The latest poop is that LeBron doesn't care about winning in LA. He made some comment when he came here about having everything he wants and this being "the icing on the cake". LA fans the column points out don't think of the Lakers as "icing". To them, they are the cake. Apparently, LeBron sat on the bench a few chairs away from his teammates during the last game. I'm sure those ‘LeBron's gonna trade you' chants from the stands don't help.
this quote from the column…

"For all his greatness, James is not this team's veteran leader. That role has been taken by Rajon Rondo,
who has become the most respected and trusted figure in the young locker room…"

Art Alenik

Lebron and Rajon Rondo talk courtside during Lakers game.

Watching the Grizzlies game was more fun than most have been, even the last couple of wins. The Bulls looked like a basketball team, running, moving the ball on offense, driving to the basket, and, like you said, playing competent defense. As I watched Zach LaVine last night and over the past month or so, I kept recalling a comment Bill Walton once made about Michael Jordan: "He just moves so much better than anyone else." Not to curse Zach with an MJ comparison, but his movement on the basketball court seems both effortless when he runs and cuts, and other-worldly when he leaps. He has the potential to be special, and I see what you see. I just hope he and his teammates can stay healthy.

Kirk Landers

Do you reckon the Bulls will take a look at the buyout market now that the trade deadline has passed?

Shaun Chalmer

Zach LaVine dribbling against Memphis Grizzlies

This season is one of the worst seasons for a Bulls fan. Lots of expectations for an improved season came short. I still do not understand the change of head coach. As I read comments on social media I get the feeling that the fanbase thinks that the ones to blame are GarPax. The general feeling is that with them no big names will ever chose the Bulls and that with them we are stacked at mediocrity.

Stefanos Panayiotides

Wendell Carter Jr. scores against the Lakers

Additional information has surfaced about the Bulls acquisition of Porter. Apparently Washington had no intention of trading Otto until Wall reinjured his leg and they concluded they would not be a serious contender, making Otto available. The Bulls action was prompt in response and not a panic reaction to the scrambled free agent market. Trading a rotation player at an overstocked position approaching free agency for a starting quality player at a position of need was opportunistic and applause is appropriate.

John Petersen

Otto Porter Jr. scores against Memphis Grizzlies

From reading your mailbags it seems clear a lot of people are frustrated with Gar and Pax and feel they can do nothing right and should be shipped out. At the risk of disrupting the #FireGarPax narrative, there are a few things people should remember:
Since 2008, only two teams have drafted an MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year, and an All-Star who was picked outside of the lottery. One was the Golden State Warriors. The other was the Chicago Bulls (Rose, Noah, and Butler). But, the Bulls apparently can't draft anyone good?
In 2013 the Celtics traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, two future Hall of Famers and recent All-Stars (Pierce was a reserve in 2012, Garnett was a starter in 2013) in a deal with the Nets that netted them multiple lottery picks. Danny Ainge is considered a genius for that move. In 2005 the Bulls made a trade with the Knicks turning Eddy Curry, a solid player but nowhere as accomplished as those two, into two Top 10 lottery picks, one of whom became Joakim Noah. But the Bulls apparently always lose trades? Between 2008 and 2017, the Bulls had the ninth best winning percentage in the NBA, despite Rose's many absences. Yet, the Bulls apparently aren't committed to fielding a winning team?
Oh, but the Bulls didn't sign Lebron James or Kevin Durant as free agents, so they can't sign the major players. Fair enough. You know who else didn't sign them? The San Antonio Spurs or Boston Celtics, who reportedly are two of the top front offices in the NBA. Where's the call for their heads? By the way, Lebron not signing with the Bulls is viewed as a Bulls failure. Maybe it's a Lebron mistake. You can't argue that he made four trips to the NBA finals with Miami and won two titles, but the Bulls had room for two max free agents in 2010. You're telling me if Lebron/Wade or Lebron/Bosh signed in Chicago, with future MVP Rose, with future Defensive Player of the Year Noah, with future all-star Luol Deng, with the opportunity to draft Gibson and Butler based on the fact they were taken at the end of the first round, where the Bulls would most likely be drafting, that team wouldn't have done as well, if not better? I mean, the Bulls got to the Eastern Conference Finals WITHOUT those guys. Are the Bulls to blame because NBA players have the right to make their own choices? Besides that, the Bulls have brought in accomplished All-Stars like Ben Wallace, Pau Gasol, Carlos Boozer, even Dwayne Wade. Think back--who was the most notable free agent acquisition during Jordan's run, before Gar/Pax got in the front office?
But, the Bulls had the second pick in the 2006 draft, could have had LaMarcus Aldridge, but they traded it for Tyrus Thomas. Good GMs don't do that. Except in 2008 Pat Riley, viewed as one of the all-time great GMs, picked #2 and passed over Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love . . . even Serge Ibaka . . . to select Michael Beasley. Do good GMs, let alone all-time great ones with incredible talent evaluation skills, do that?
But, the Bulls don't spend money. Would you prefer they spend it foolishly? Would you like to have John Wall and his $40 million contract eating up your cap space when he can't get his team to the NBA Finals? Do you want to be the Timberwolves, who invested a max deal in Andrew Wiggins that to date hasn't paid off with anything more than one playoff appearance? Do you want to be the Heat, who have one of the top payrolls in the league and are fielding at best a borderline playoff team? When your worst deal is Felicio at around $9 million a season, that's not a bad place to be in. I can think of a lot of teams who would love that problem.
I'm not saying the Bulls are perfect, but the impression they can't do anything right is short sighted, and I don't believe if you make great decisions at one point you suddenly forget how to do that. It seems people have very short memories . . . although considering sports media is obsessing over whether Anthony Davis should just be sat when just a year ago the Bulls were prevented from doing that exact same thing with Lopez and Holiday, maybe everyone has a short memory. OK, I'm done venting.

Chris Feldman