Ask Sam Mailbag: 05.17.2019

Sam opens his mailbag and answers your questions about the draft, trades, and other news and notes around the NBA
by Sam Smith

Body

Ateeq Ahmed:

The last round of the playoffs was so exciting (It really felt like any one could have won the series between Philly/Toronto and Denver/Portland).  Who do you have advancing to the finals?  I can see the Bucks or Toronto winning, and it going 7 games. Can Portland really upset the champs?  How close is Durant to returning?

Sam:

It’s easier to predict now with the Warriors ahead 2-0, though the Bucks winning at home as they did doesn’t say enough about that series. Can Brook LeBron-Lopez carry them all the way? I assume Durant remains out at least this series since that’s not a short injury. Though Portland’s semifinals win was inspiring, especially on the road, that was their title. They lost their starting center for the playoffs and their backup, Kanter, probably wouldn’t be playing if it weren’t the playoffs. We’ll agree the Golden State backcourt is the best even if Portland at times is second. And even without Durant, you’d have to say Golden State’s front court is better, especially with Draymond Green, given you’d be hard pressed to even name the Portland forwards. Good for the Trailblazers. But it’s difficult to see anyone beating the Warriors again. Toronto has been exposed enough and as game as the Bucks are, they really seem no match the way the Warriors are such a smarter and more experienced team even without Durant. Who could be back for the Finals. The close of Game 2 was illustrative with the Trailblazers firing up hope-they-go-in long jumpers one after another and the Warriors winning with layup after layup on sharp cuts, movement, reacting immediately to every mismatch. They’re talented, sure, but they play so much smarter than anyone else in the league. There’s a saying in series that if you lose a game you should have won, like Portland did Thursday, then you have to win five games, and that’s not likely against a defending champion. As for the Bucks or Raptors, if either gets to the Finals that would be like a championship season. The Warriors are the only one left who needs to win. That they are easily the most talented should help.

Malcolm Brogdon #13 of the Milwaukee Bucks dribbles the ball while being guarded by Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors

Matt Ridley:

I think the play that could make sense for the Bulls is for Brogdon.  Given the bucks are already paying big bucks for Bledsoe and also have to consider paying for lopez, middleton, mirotic, etc., they would have a hard time matching for the market value of Brogdon, and I think he would fit in nicely for the bulls – plays good D, shoots efficiently, not too ball dominant (lauri and lavine should get a lot of the shots, not to mention porter). Brogdon fits within the Bulls cap room quite well and to me is the best fit out there.  Plus, he won’t have to move far.

Sam:

Yes, he’s another I could have added to my restricted free agent list from Thursday’s story along with Russell and Rozier. Though I didn’t because I thought he was the most likely to be matched. Especially because the Bucks have a good chance to be in the Finals and—can it be—actually win the NBA title. Really, who even speculated about that? So they seem unlikely to break up part of their core. Plus, they’ll likely let George Hill go since he’s only guaranteed $1 million for next season. My guess is Niko with all his moving around likes it and won’t play too hard to get. They’ll have to pay Lopez more. But Giannis still is a bargain making less than $30 million with no one else more than $16 million. Fear the deer, all right.

Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers gets hyped during the game against the Golden State Warriors during Game Five of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs

Patrick Eastman:

As much as I like Wendell Carter, I would package him and our #1 for the #2 pick and select Ja.  Wendell isn’t a center, and I like Lopez.  At PF you cant take Lauri off the floor... period. I would still get after Beverly, but I don’t know why he would come back.

Sam:

We all love Patrick Beverley. The Bulls had a shot at him about five years ago and should have had him then. Tough Chicago kid who fought his way to the NBA. Someone you admire and root for. He played in Ukraine, Russia, Greece and the G-league. He scares the crap out of NBA players. He’s made Russell Westbrook back off. You want to hug him. But he sometimes can go a half hour in an empty gym without scoring. I know he’s been sort of a flavor of the month free agent with all the toughness thing, and if the Bulls signed him I think he’d be fine. But he’s had several knee surgeries, including microfracture, and will be 31 this summer. It would be tough for me to say that’s a big upgrade over Kris Dunn. I like Wendell as well, and would do that, but the Grizzlies are obviously so certain about picking Morant they basically announced it already, which is almost unprecedented. Teams always say we’ll see what may be offered. It tells you something when 10 minutes after the lottery, the Grizzlies had requested the city council rename Beale Street for Ja. Or at least Graceland. JaLand? They are all shook up already.

Terry Rozier #12 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals

James Heneghan:

I am hearing rumors that the Bulls may be interested in acquiring Terry Rozier through one way or another (I believe he is a restricted free agent). This is a bit concerning, because his career numbers are fairly similar to Kris Dunn's. He has also never shot over 40% for a full season, while being extremely undersized. It feels like a lateral move. I believe it would be in their best interest to look elsewhere. I am not a huge fan of both Rubio or Beverly, but they seem like solid pass first PG's and are currently unrestricted free agents. They also wouldnt break the bank (or at least I wouldn't imagine) Do they make a trade for  veteran PG? If so, who would be available?

Sam:

You shouldn’t look at numbers—though too many do—and should watch the game. It’s the way guys play, who they play with and how. Rozier is a much more aggressive, an attack and scoring guard. He’s not what you’d call a true point, if there is such a thing anymore, but more like Damian Lillard in looking to score. Smaller and not as good. The issue with Dunn has been that he’s been a reluctant scorer and finisher; not particularly dynamic on offense in an era that demands it. If he were, he’d be much better than Rozier because of his size and defensive ability, which is why he was the No. 5 pick. Dunn claimed because he deferred to scoring teammates like Markkanen, LaVine, Parker and then Porter, he didn’t look to score as much. There’s something to that because he was looking like a scorer and finisher in December and January in the 2017-18 season, Fred Hoiberg’s last full season, and then got hurt, and then the team went into youth (losing) mode. Then he got hurt to start this season and never regained the trust under new coach Jim Boylen when he returned. So perhaps Dunn deserves another chance to show who he can be before experimenting with what’s not a very good crop of unrestricted free agents like Darren Collison and Ricky Rubio. Remember also with point guards, they often blossom late, like Chauncey Billups did with his fourth team, and then got traded one more time to become a Finals MVP. It seems to me if the Bulls want to move on from Dunn, which they haven’t said they do, then you ought to upgrade by more than just a little.

 Ja Morant poses for a portrait at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine

Roman Gritsak:

Is it more likely that the Bulls would trade up or down in this draft? With the talent level dropping severely after Zion/Ja, is it possible they trade #7 for a potential 2020 lottery pick and a players?

Sam:

Rarely do teams trade future lottery picks, at least top five unprotected. After that you are just guessing and hoping, though as we have seen if you are lucky/smart you get to find a Giannis/Kawhi/Klay/Jokic. Remember, though, they are the exceptions and 90 percent of the picks outside the lottery become reserves or less. It sure sounds like after two years of suffering with the losing, the Bulls appear to have promised themselves and their fans they are ready to trend up and not seek out more future 
“assets.” And they should. Markkanen is going into his third year and LaVine his sixth; Otto Porter Jr. his seventh. This is not such a young team anymore. I don’t see the Bulls trading down unless it’s to swap their pick and get a veteran. They likely will try to trade up, but there will be plenty of competition for that with the Suns at No. 6 likely trying to get a point guard, also. Teams like the Knicks at No. 3 and Lakers at No. 4 might trade out or down, but they likely will be asking a lot. If I had to guess, it’s either use the pick at No. 7 or trade out of the draft.

Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors celebrates with teammates after sinking a buzzer beater to win Game Seven of the second round

Bruce Roberts:

Game 7, game tied; he wants the ball; he gets the ball; he does not think of passing the ball; with two defenders all over him he finds a way to get the shot off; and my lord it goes in.  Pandemonium!  He plays great defense and is wired to win.  LeBron is great but Kawhi is more like Mike to me.  Your thoughts

Sam:

I’d still take LeBron. Though this is a good example of the last thing anyone saw always being the best. It was a wonderful moment and lucky shot, obviously. I saw a lot more hit the rim like that in Game 1 of the conference finals and bounce off. Then Kawhi kind of ran out of fuel in the fourth quarter when Brook Lopez dominated Game 1. Will we say LeBron is no Brook Lopez? What was remarkable about that Game 7 was not only Leonard’s finish, but the absolute horror of his teammates at the prospect of shooting the ball. It looked like a Bulls regular season game in the 1986-88 years when the Bulls ran Johnny Bach’s Archangel offense; you know, save us Mike. The Bucks should be favored given the season they had, but if Toronto is to have any chance it seems clear they cannot play a seventh game. Though maybe they’ll be less frightened on the road. But one problem with Leonard. Greatest often also is described as being there. It’s difficult to understand how Leonard taking off 22 games this season for load management could be tired now. Is it possible that the concept is a fraud and a ticket holder swindle? Anyone would love to have Leonard, and his game has grown to star class. But he’s never even come close to playing a full season and averages an astounding and almost unprecedented for a top player 23 games missed per season over his career. He is nothing like Mike, who played all 82 games in more than half his NBA seasons. Let’s not be fooled by a good game or shot or three.

Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans stands for the national anthem before the game

Jesse Chrismer:

Bulls should be hoping that AD still wants to leave (hard to cross back over that river after the “That’s All Folks” bridge fire.)  If the Pelicans go full rebuild, the Bulls might be able to get Jrue.  I would gladly give up the 7th pick + someone for him.  It would be pretty interesting to see the Pelicans with #1, #3, and #7.  Could it be that they would draft all Dukies?

Sam:

I agree Holiday is really good and a very underrated defender. Though if it were me in New Orleans I wouldn’t go into that full rebuild thing because for one thing Zion could be so good quickly. You do that when you have projects; he’s not that. Actually, what I hear for now is they may keep Davis into the season to see if he likes playing with Williamson. After all, what’s the hurry? You’re still getting good players for Davis. But even if they trade Davis, they’d get at the least young veterans like Ingram (if healthy) Kuzma, et all, from the Lakers, Tatum from Boston. You keep Holiday because he can run your team help the new guys and keep you in position to make the playoffs. Zion’s going to have a lot of attention; but way more if he’s with a competitive team right away. And on the court, you want Zion playing with some talented players so defenses don’t load up on him constantly. Zion almost needs a player like Holiday to protect himself. As we’ve seen, these rebuilding projects can take years and they can be very ugly years without much payoff in the draft. Which the NBA is talking about making even younger with direct from high school players. It wouldn’t make much sense to cash in Holiday when you have a player as valuable as Zion and to leave him surrounded by a bunch of kids.

An overall view of the stage at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery on May 14, 2019 at the Chicago Hilton in Chicago, Illinois.

Mike Burgher:

Well, another wasted season in the books, and for the second consecutive year, another lottery disappointment (in terms of immediate results). I've been reading a lot on social media about how Tuesday night's shakeup should "end" all future tanking around the NBA, but I could not disagree more for the following reasons:

1) Despite a real location of lottery odds, a team STILL has to land #1 no matter what, and the three teams with the worst respective records still have the best odds to do so.

2) The Lakers, who jumped from the 11th to the 4th slot also tanked at the end of the season, when they benched many of their starters and cut down LeBron James' minutes. This, despite the fact that they were among the better half of teams in the lottery.

3) The Lakers' luck should only incentivize future .500 teams to tank, as opposed to appearing in a quick 1st round playoff exit as an 8th seed facing Golden State. In the past, finishing with the 11th or 12th worst record would virtually guarantee a team the 11th or 12th pick. However now with the new odds, these teams stand an outside shot at actually landing in the top four, as the Lakers demonstrated last night.

 

Although the Bulls only stood a 12.5% chance of winning the #1 pick and were just shy of a 25% chance at either #1 or #2 (I would have happily "settled" for Ja Morant), I, like so many other fans was hopeful for the best. I was realistic in expecting the Bulls land at #4 or #5, their most likely outcome, but to drop three slots at the hands of LeBron's Lakers no less? Well that just adds insult to injury.

Sam:

I know the NBA liked the narrative that maybe teams would stop tanking, though I agree with you, and Adam Silver really does, as well, as he has said this is just a partial fix. Perhaps it won’t be as apparent when there isn’t a franchise player draft like this one. I don’t agree with some who have suggested teams on the edge of making the playoffs will try to lose. Mostly, I doubt owners would ever let them since a minimum of two playoff home games is a lot of gate revenue they don’t have to split, and the competition isn’t so great that if you are seven or eight you cannot conceive of an upset. Or at least a third playoff home game. Sure, there will still be teams that pack it in late in the season once it’s clear they have no chance. Percentages matter some, and especially positioning once the top four are selected. But to me what it did signal was Bulls executive John Paxson pointing it out. It suggested to me that even more than he’s stated he wants the team done with the losing/tanking/draft positioning by embracing the narrative it doesn’t work. They tried for two years and look where it got them. The point is with most of these rebuilds by purposely losing, like the 76ers did, you have to commit to five or six lotteries in order to hit the right picks once or twice. Look at the Kings, the Timberwolves, even the Warriors, who missed the playoffs 17 of 18 years before the current run. OK, you say you’d give up 17 losing seasons for that. Maybe, but it’s still not guaranteed. Check the Clippers of the 80s and 90s. Sometimes decades can go by if you’re not paying attention.

Cameron Watkins:

Let me start by saying I do not believe anything to do with the lottery is fixed or manipulated in any way.  That said, if Adam Silver hired me out of the blue to fix the lottery in a way that's beneficial to the NBA, I would have orchestrated the outcome to be pretty much exactly what we saw last night. The NBA presumably wanted the lottery to be compelling to watch and pay attention to.  The results certainly were more interesting to follow than in previous years. Not only did several teams move drastically from where their odds originally put them, New York and Los Angeles made it to the final four. The final four were not revealed until after a commercial break and having those teams still in the hunt undoubtedly kept more people tuned in. Many lottery conspiracies often focus on how the NBA would want the best young stars in the biggest markets.  Therefore, people are saying that New Orleans and Memphis getting the top two picks proves the fix wasn't in.  Again, I don't believe anything was fixed, but I'd argue the NBA would prefer the best rookies go to the smallest markets.  Stars are going to end up in Los Angeles and New York later in their careers when they are free agents or force trades.  Those teams don't need young stars.  But Anthony Davis publicly said he wants out of New Orleans. No big-time free agent is going there with Davis gone. They desperately need a Zion Williamson to be there for five years at least on a rookie deal.  Memphis is a team in decline that also won't be attracting any notable free agents.  Morant will keep them afloat.  Unless the NBA were to contract to 10 teams that are either in the biggest markets or by the beach, they need the small market teams to be interesting.  This year's lottery helped with that.

Sam:

And then you made a case for a conspiracy. Which, of course, there can never be. First of all, has anyone ever heard of any secret ever having been kept in the NBA for more than 15 minutes? I’m not sure about the law, but the NBA sounds like interstate commerce. So manipulating something like that might even be illegal. So you’re telling me Adam Silver or someone is going to manipulate things so Jim Dolan can become wealthier and more successful? Or successful? Or the wacky Buss family? People do love conspiracy theories, and they sell a lot of books and TV shows. But if you believe them Bernie Madoff has a hot tip for you.

Dennis Schroder #17 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives to the basket during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers

Brodie Larsh:

What trades could you see the Bulls pursuing with the 7th pick? Lonzo has been mentioned a lot, but im not sold on him. However, he might be a better fit for this roster than drafting a teenager like Coby White. One name I haven't seen mentioned that I feel would make sense is Dennis Schroder. Something like the 7th pick, Dunn, maybe throw in Hitchenson, for Schroder and the 21st pick? Or are they more likely to just take somebody like Reddish or Hayes and go all in for Rubio or Beverely via free agency?

Sam:

Decisions, decisions. I do like Schroder. Tough guy who looked awfully good against the Bulls when he was with Atlanta. I haven’t heard any talk that the Thunder want to move him, and with Westbrook having had so many knee procedures, you’d think they’d want him around anyway. The Bulls had a shot at him last summer with everyone else and apparently passed. I did a mock draft Friday and will do some more. And this year I may be like those football guru guys on ESPN who do a mock draft every week for two months before the draft and change the order of picks and No. 1 just about every week even though nothing has happened. See, then you have to be right one time. I had both secondary point guards, Garland and White, going before the Bulls selected. But I do think one, more likely White, could be there at No. 7. If the Bulls don’t make a trade, which they’ve indicated they would try, and White still is there it would make sense to take a chance. After all, if they retain Kris Dunn they still don’t have a high level backup for him.

Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls looks on with Lauri Markkanen #24 of the Chicago Bulls during the game against the LA Clippers on March 15, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.

Jordan Cordero:

I was wondering about placing Markkanen at the SF position and LaVine at the PG position in the pre-season. It seems to me like the traditional shooting guard position died at some point in the 2010's, and teams (consequently?) are now replacing the position with the use of an additional SF.  So, I can see the Bulls using Otto Porter in this capacity, allowing for an opening at the more traditional SF position.  If Markkanen were placed in this position, do you think he'd be fast enough in today's NBA (where basketball talent/IQ, I believe, is generally eschewed for speed/athleticism)? Having watched a lot of Pac-10 (and Pac-12) basketball, I can say LaVine reminds me of Harden and Westbrook in his ability to be a "combo-guard".  Those two were very good SG's in college and have grown to become top-level PG's in the league. If these moves would work, I think Wendell Carter could thrive at PF.  This leaves the C position up for grabs, something I think the Bulls could either address in the draft (by means of taking Bol Bol) or via free agency. While I would be excited to see a free agent like Kemba, Middleton, or Kyrie come to the Bulls, I think we have the pieces in-house to address each starting position, except for the center position.

Sam:

And then Bol Bol (is he too skinny?) or Jaxson Hayes. I don’t think Markkanen would prosper playing on the perimeter that way, at least defensively, but you can switch up. And in this era we are told it is a more position less game. I do think the Bulls traditionally have been conservative the way they’ve approached the game. But I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them doing some experimenting like that. Jim Boylen talked last season amidst the losing of having several different players advance the ball out of the backcourt. I like that, but then they’d get stagnant with a simple high screen/roll and then that guy shoots. There has to be more ball movement and player movement than there has been, though you cannot judge by last season given the injuries, personnel turnover and coaching change. Now with a full season we should see. If the Bulls don’t acquire a high level veteran point guard, I could see LaVine doing that some. Perhaps Markkanen if he became more aggressive. Porter should be able to, also, but it would require more spacing and movement than we’ve seen. It’s certainly worth a look. The Bulls do have several versatile athletes who should be able to at least give it a try.

Cam Reddish speaks with the media during Day One of the NBA Draft Combine at Quest MultiSport Complex on May 16, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.

Guy Danilowitz:

Lucky number 7 again?  I would still take a flyer on Reddish if he’s there given the value of 3pt shooters and the bulls lack of them.

Sam:

To me he’s the most intriguing prospect after the top five. He might have the most star potential after the top five, but also the biggest bust out possibility among that group. Taking a chance?

Hal Malen:

I have seen Reddish play in Durham, watched him on TV, and the answer is No!  35% FG percentage at the college level is an indicator of failure at the NBA level.  Being a seemingly good athlete does not translate or mean that he is going to succeed at the NBA level.  This is a guy who needed to stay for at least one more year, or more, at the collegiate level.  My opinion, second round at best.  There has to be better than him as a lottery pick.

Sam:

See, you never can please everyone. Which is why when you are in sports—or really anything—you are judged on success and not all the things we pretend we care about like hard work and hustle and commitment and values and knowledge and teamwork. It’s about results, and everyone will let you know afterward whether you did the right thing. It’s not what you intend to do with the best efforts and information; it’s whether it worked.

Coby White #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels handles the ball against the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament

Sunny Shah:

Calm Down. Dear Bulls fans: Lebron, KD, Giannis, Kawhi, Curry, Harden. Universally viewed as the top 6 in the NBA currently. Only Lebron was a number 1 pick and only him and KD were top 3. Relax, we probably end up with Coby White or maybe Darius Garland to fill a positional need and mesh the young core together. A 30-35 win season is coming, and probably another top 10 pick. Bulls will make a big jump in 2021 as many of the other teams fall off. This is a rebuild and the Lakers and Pelicans are proof the new system works. You shouldn’t try to actively lose. Let this be a lesson for all franchises.

Sam:

That’s also what Paxson meant.

Jalen Rose #5 of the Chicago Bulls drives to the hoop during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on November 21, 2003 in Los Angeles, California.

Jeff Lichenstein:

The 2 big mistakes the Bulls have made was  (1) The Jalen Rose trade. Trading for a 29 year old was too much of a knee jerk reaction. If they stuck with the course they would have had Brad Miller for his prime which was decent but more importantly, ping pong balls in the 2003 draft. The one year you needed them. LeBron or Wade would have changed everything. Of course they could have picked Darko and played him with Ron Artest.
(2) Resigning Mirotic. Last year was a blatant tank. That signing cost them a few slots at minimum and maybe that HOF chance difference maker.  Looking back do you agree?

Sam:

I do not agree because nobody in the media lobbied more for the Jalen trade than I did. Ooops? Nah. It was the right thing to do that turned out wrong; not actually unlike Jerry Krause’s Curry/Chandler thing. And now I’m on a similar page with someone like Mike Conley. So maybe history says it won’t work. But the point is you have to try to succeed. The problem with the Jalen move—and maybe Conley would feel that way, though I doubt it with the likes of Porter and LaVine, which could make the Bulls an instant playoff contender for whatever that’s worth—was Jalen got here and looked around the locker room, saw babies and checked out. It’s also why it’s laughable to hear these guys on TV condemn players for not working hard when you saw guys like Jalen, Tracy McGrady and Barkley and Pippen, too, give up on teams late in their careers when things didn’t look so good. But back then Jalen made sense (certainly to me) because the Bulls had decided to commit to Curry and Chandler. So Brad wasn’t going to play. And if he did, it meant drafting those players was a mistake, which the Bulls at the time weren’t going to let happen. Plus, we knew Artest was combustible and would explode, and we all were right about that to want him out as soon as possible. It did take a year, but it took the Pacers a decade to recover. The point is when you have prospects and talented kids, like the Bulls have now, you need a veteran who isn’t afraid of the moment to score and make plays. Take the pressure off them as well. Imagine where Toronto would be without Kawhi. The youngsters almost always run away from the big moment until they are ready. Pippen and Grant did for several years, carried by Jordan from ’87 until they grew up in ’91. It takes time. Porter will help the Bulls, but he’s not a closer. Someone like Conley can be to take the pressure off players who can eventually be like LaVine and Markkanen. It’s why veterans who can score transcend their statistics and age. Jalen was a big time scorer who made big shots to close playoff games. He made sense. Then he came and decided he didn’t care anymore. You never know that until you try. As for Niko, what more could the Bulls have done? They got Portis to keep him out two months (OK, they didn’t, but Portis did) and then they traded him as quickly as they could. As for ’03, you can’t really have expected the Bulls to blow off five straight seasons. And then after building for five years still have the worse record in the league? Krause wasn’t a bad talent evaluator.

Tom Plonowski:

Calm I agree about the Lakers package includes more talent. I read the latest rumors that the Pelicans aren't interested in dealing with L.A. and view the Knicks as a more lucrative offer. I'm thinking the Knicks and Pelicans make a deal.  The Knicks' package includes the opportunity to pair up Williamson with R.J which I think the two would like. I was impressed with some of the plays that Mitchell Robinson made for the Knicks in limited play. Knox has a lot of potential, just as much as Brandon Ingram in my opinion. The Knicks can also offer either Dennis Smith or Frank Ntilikina.

Sam:

I don’t believe the new general manager, David Griffin, would eliminate the Lakers for spite. He’s a practical guy and would go for the best talent. He needs to help the Pelicans, not hurt the Lakers. One Lakers problem—actually Ingram’s—is that Ingram had a blot clot and who knows about his future. If he’s out of any deal it limits the Lakers severely and then they’d have to start accumulating players, which is why the rumors have come up about trading Lonzo Ball. Still, I don’t see much on the Knicks roster even if Zion likes Barrett. The Celtics will go all in and have way more with Tatum, three firsts this year and Memphis’s next year. Again, there also remain indications the Pelicans are in no hurry to deal since they believe good offers will be there into next season.

Darius Garland poses for a portrait at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine on May 14, 2019 at the Chicago Hilton in Chicago, Illinois.

Zach Peker:

I have a hard time believing the Cavs would take Darius Garland since they have a promising young, ball dominant point guard in Collin Sexton. I would rather see them take Deandre hunter, Jarret Culver, or any other player not named Darius Garland.

Sam:

I was joking about Sexton, who is pretty good. We’d all rather see the Cavs take someone other than a point guard. It’s just that the point guard may be more talented, and when you are bad you don’t draft to position. Garland has been a fast riser, and unless he red flags for his knee, he’ll likely be gone in the top five if only for his trade value. The Bulls issue if they want to pursue a point guard is the Suns are committed to taking a point guard, and they are at No. 6 and willing to move up also. Having once been an accountant by training, if not a very good one, I still recall six being more valuable than seven, if not always inevitably.

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 9, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California

Zach Peker:

"Where will Lebron James play game 1 of the 2019-2020 NBA season?" is a live wager is on a gambling website.  The Bulls are one of seven teams with odds listed.  My question is, can you let your contacts in Las Vegas know that GarPax learned their lesson with D-Wade and would never consider a trade for Lebron?

LAL (-600), NYK (+700),
LAC (+700),
CLE (+1000),
MIA (+1000),
Bulls (+1500),
IND (+1800)

Sam:

No, they didn’t and they would take LeBron in a second. But could anyone imagine the future effect for going after free agents if after LeBron asked to sign because he wanted to spend the rest of his career in Los Angeles they traded him? The journalism world, if you can call it that, is driven these days more by crazy statements to get attention—Hey, Zion is going back to Duke!—than responsibility. See, you got me and I repeated it.

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors during Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on May 10, 2019 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

Gorav Raheja:

Do you think it's fair the playoffs determine legacies of players?  Should it be that way?  A guy like Harden could of had a great 82 game season but people will only remember him for not coming up big in the most important games in the playoffs.  Is that how he should be remembered? 

Sam:

Well, yes. That’s basically how it works since sports is in large part about making plays at the right time. We always remember the great shots. I’ve gotten a lot more mail about Kawhi lately. What else could the Rockets owner say—and you never say never—but it would seem unlikely to win with Harden. Mostly because it’s not an exception. Sure, guys can have a bad series or playoffs. Or two. Harden always does. At Arizona State in the NCAAs he was horrible. With Oklahoma City when they went to the Finals, he was horrible; so much so it was one reason they were not that concerned about trading him. The closing games between the Rockets and Warriors after Durant was hurt were so disappointing and almost ruined one of the best second rounds ever because of the incredible lack of urgency and desire the Rockets played with mostly because of Harden. It was shocking to watch him lope out of the backcourt with the ball even as Game 6 began to get away from the Rockets as if it were January in Memphis. That last Toronto/76ers game wasn’t particularly well played if exciting with the finish. But the players competed intently, rigorously and constantly, something you rarely saw with the Rockets with Harden dribbling around. It didn’t even resemble the offenses Mike D’Antoni ran in Phoenix, New York and Los Angeles, and what an embarrassment it would be if Harden wins MVP again.

Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors reacts during their game against the Houston Rockets in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 08, 2019 in Oakland, California.

Alejandro Yegros:

KD is out and the Warriors look even better, and they're doing it in the playoffs. This is ridiculous. How true do you think those "KD to NY" rumors are? I really hope that's the case just for competitiveness.

Sam:

Well, there’s that where there’s smoke there’s fire thing. I do believe the New York hope was to get the No. 1 pick and flip it for Anthony Davis. No. 3 and the pile of backups the Knicks have puts them out of that race,to me. I believe Kyrie goes there, though the Celtics believe he won’t walk away from the max contract they intend to offer. Jimmy’s going to be an interesting consolation prize. With the 76ers loss, I don’t see them bringing back both he and Tobias Harris. Plus, it became clear Jimmy and Simmons didn’t work well even if Simmons can’t close like Jimmy can. Jimmy always has talked about being close with Kyrie. It’s possible Durant goes to New York because with him he could go anywhere. Plus, with everyone saying now the Warriors are better without him who knows who he’ll be angry with and what he will want to show. If he bails on New York, I can see Jimmy joining Kyrie there or joining LeBron with the Lakers. It doesn’t look like anyone’s rushing to LeBron’s side anymore and I’ve heard he’s been reaching out to Jimmy since the loss. Probably other free agents as well. We always used to joke with Jimmy about having gone Hollywood with his friendship with Mark the actor. Or maybe he goes to Brooklyn (considered New York with trees), which is guard heavy. Jimmy’s getting paid and will be in demand. I see Jimmy ending up in New York or LA.

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