Ask Sam Mailbag: 05.24.2019

Sam opens his mailbag and answers your questions about draft prospects and other stories around the NBA
Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors goes to the basket against the Portland Trail Blazers during Game Four of the Western Conference Finals on May 20, 2019 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.
by Sam Smith

Body

Tom Golden:

What could be worse than having a good team at the same time as, Michael, LeBron, Curry, Kobe, Duncan, Bird, Magic, Barry, Russell and Kareem are playing. Hmmmm, ...it sounds like the only time to have just a good team is Never. Rooting so hard for the Blazers, just to reward them with a win. I swear there was a point I needed a program for the Warriors. Who's that? I don't know, Who's that?, I don't know. And they still won! I want the Bucks, but some things look written in stone, and or on a Trophy. Break up the Warriors. Quickly please.

Sam:

What I always try to remind Bulls fans is at least they were there once. Most franchises—actually hardly any—ever have that. The Bulls did, the Celtics and Lakers, obviously, the Spurs basically, shorter for Miami recently, and now the Warriors. That's it. Like the Warriors now, no one in the 90s believed they could beat the Bulls. Many franchises never even celebrated one title. I know I've said they don't win without Durant, so we'll see. But it's to their credit the way they flipped the switch and went back to the style they were playing a few years back with the speed, ball movement and unselfish play. Sure, Curry is great and unique. But it was such a contrast to see the lack of trust among the Trailblazers (it did also remind me a little of the mid 80s Bulls when Jordan was thinking, "I'm not passing to that guy.") and the Warriors working the ball around the way they did. Portland was overmatched and as we knew had a very successful season just making it. Whoever wins the East will see the Finals the same way. Who knows with Durant, though we can see the Warriors aren't slipping much, and more than that there are so many flawed opponents. Also big credit to Steve Kerr. I know the broadcasters like to protect their buddy Mark Jackson, but it's such a contrast to see the Warriors with Kerr's influence versus Jackson's, the latter who emphasized isolation and individual play. There aren't many coaches who make a big difference. Kerr is one of the few because he has a vision for the entire game and unlike most coaches these days trusts his players to make the important decisions.


Tyrus Thomas #24 of the Chicago Bulls drives against Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks on February 5, 2010 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jeff Lichtenstein:

Where the Bulls very aware of the warning signs on Tyrus Thomas before taking such a gamble on him?

Who is the Tyrus of this draft?

Sam:

It was one of the few draft mistakes the Bulls made, though I think sometimes they let it affect the future too much. I didn't have a problem with the Tyrus draft. Yes, Aldridge became much better than many of us expected, but he never takes you past the second round at his best. The Bulls saw that and took a chance with Tyrus because he really was this amazing athlete. There were signs when he blew off his first meeting, but he was the high risk/high reward type player so many demand the Bulls take chances on and were then. There was no big Aldridge buzz as much as some would like to pretend now. You were never winning a title with Aldridge as a main factor. You could if Tyrus came through with those amazing athletic skills. But when you are drafting 19-year-olds you never know for a few years and until they are with you. The Bulls had been drafting safe players, like Hinrich, Gordon, Deng, and everyone was demanding they take a chance and go for a star. Tyrus could have been; more than Aldridge ever could be. But Tyrus also could bust farther than Aldridge ever could. The Bulls took the shot, and though they have drafted among the best for their picks since then—and better than most with a player like Jimmy Butler—they haven't been that daring. So they could be this year because Duke's Cam Reddish looks like that kind of guy. Not the super athlete, but the guy who could hit big or barely get off your bench. The other main one in that discussion is Bol Bol. He's not generally considered a top 10 pick, but I heard one GM say he gets you the executive of the year or fired.


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

John Leichtenko:

Will that NC guard with the big hair be around when the bulls pick? Would you take him? Why would the Lakers want to trade Lonzo Ball for anything the bulls have?

Sam:

If there's a point guard left, it would be him. But it's been sounding like no. I've been hearing the Lakers intend to take the Vanderbilt guy Garland at No. 4. Which likely would leave Hunter, the swingman/shooter for Cleveland since I don't see White good enough for the Cavs to present a challenge to Collin Sexton. With the Suns desperate for a point guard, White probably goes there. Which leaves the Bulls a choice among Culver, Reddish and what the heck lets take a chance. As for Ball, the speculation has been the Lakers would consider trading him because LeBron sort of plays point guard and they could draft Garland. With the Lakers winning this week's franchise dysfunction award who knows what they do. But the latest has been, especially with Ingram having had that blood clot, they want to keep Ball, that Garland is smallish, so they could play together, and probably don't have the package to make a serious run at Anthony Davis without Ingram. For now, it seems the Ball talk is just fishing around to guess which point guards could be hooked even if you're not sure you have the bait.


Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies shoots the ball against the Houston Rockets on March 20, 2019 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.

John Petersen:

Interesting possibilities of acquiring Conley. He could be expected to change the Bulls into a playoff but not a championship contending team for next season. It would seem to be essential for the Bulls to gauge the level of desperation of Memphis for cap space as they also have Parsons next year for $26 million. Who are the potential alternative Memphis trade partners for Conley as not many teams need an older point guard or can absorb the excessive $32.5 & 34.5 million of salary the next two years? It would seem crucial that the Bulls exhaust the Conley trade possibilities before the draft. It seems to pivot on the Memphis perceived need to dump salary within the next two seasons for their rebuild. In the longer scheme Conley is not the answer at point because of his age. With Conley the Bulls are not in the lottery so retaining this year's relatively high pick has importance. It's an opportunity to add a quality player with promise for virtually any position in preparation for three seasons into the future.

Sam:

It does depend on how much , at least on the Memphis side, it means to them to get off the salary. I assume it means a lot, which to me would mean giving up the pick because the whole idea for them is not to take back too much salary. They're likely going into full rebuild after a pretty good run. Which is part of the point. Most of the time when you have a good run it doesn't lead to or get close to a championship. This talk to me is specious about, say, adding Conley doesn't get you to or near championship level. These things when you are where the Bulls have been are getting back to where they were with a younger group with potential and then making a move in two years that perhaps advances you. In two years, Conley and Otto Porter would go off the books for $60 million. So what can you do then with a young core? That's a way to look at it. Not that Conley doesn't make a team a contender. It's about trying to advance these kids like Markkanen, LaVine, Carter, who have experienced as much NBA winning as you have. I assume Memphis will make a deal, but I have not heard anything of their thinking with a new management team working its way in. For me, I'd try to start surrounding the Bulls players with players who have at least played in one meaningful game. Conley is a high level player and I could see several teams interested like Phoenix, Miami (which I have already heard), Orlando and Utah and then there are teams who could be losing guards like Charlotte and Boston. There's always a market for good players.


Tyus Jones #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves drives to the basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 7, 2019 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

David Ferguson:

Why is no one mentioning Tyus Jones as a target for the Bulls? He only had the highest assist/to ratio in the NBA!

Sam:

I think because Ryan Arcidiacono was third.


NBA Draft Prospects, Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Jarrett Culver attend the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery on May 14, 2019 at the Chicago Hilton in Chicago, Illinois.

Jo Morrison:

Why don't they do this lottery drawing publicly for everyone to see live? I would have more trust in the outcome.

I don't care what he says, it's obvious that Zion is less than thrilled. Pels need him worse than he wants them. Do you think there's actually a way he can go where he wants? Bulls need a point guard, a floor general who distributes. we already have a hard nose worker with Arch They need somebody that electrifies, a difference maker, a crowdpleaser, a great defender, a good shooter, winner! That would have been Zion for sure. Are we ready to bring back Derrick Rose?

Sam:

I don't get the sense the Bulls want a repeat with Rose, but the options aren't that great, and he does seem satisfied to be the support player. And he can certainly score. Even with all the dark predictions at New York, he was averaging 18 points. He seems like he barely needs to wake up to average almost 20 points. I suspect he could be a fallback option, and the Bulls surely need someone not afraid to finish at the basket. He wouldn't make them the contender he once did, but that's the job of the other guys. And as I've mentioned before, why not Noah as well. Not for sentiment, but veteran reserves who like Chicago. What's wrong with that? And really, if they were manipulating the lottery, who's doing it to favor New Orleans and Memphis? Certainly not Zion.


Cosimo Sarti:

I'm reading of point guards all over the place but really the choice is easy. We need a veteran guard who can start or come off the bench, make big plays when the kids panic and be a mentor. That's the kid who was on TV last month asking Reinsdorf to pick up the phone and bring him home. He would be perfect and he seems to have won back a large part of the fanbase by basically saying "I'm sorry, here's what happened, can I have another chance?"

While it should have been the other way round. He would have to come for cheap, not because I think he doesn't deserve the money but because it would ease the pressure to play all games, which he can't and won't do. He could easily get the money back with all the publicity surrounding his comeback story. By all accounts he has been great to young players in Minnesota and he's beloved and respected around the league. He apparently wants to come home. Some say play it safe and go to a small market, be a feel good story and liked by everybody with no pressure. I get it, it would be a nice ending to a troubled career, but do you think he's gone through all he has for that? He has the chance to be one of the greatest stories in basketball history and claim his place as a Chicago legend by just being on the roster of a winning team. So let's just go for it, we're all following sports to watch stories like this unfold.

Sam:

Not sure who you are talking about.


Tacko Fall #41 dunks the ball during Day Two of the G League Elite Camp at the Quest Multisport sports training facility on May 13, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.

Jake Kolbus:

The game has changed from a big man's game, but the league is cyclical. You win with exploiting mismatches. To me one of the most unique players is Tacko Fall in this year's draft. Strong, skilled, mobile, intelligent, and a great talent. If he didn't foul out against Duke, UCF probably knocks them out of the tournament. A team with three top 10 picks in this year's draft. Tacko completely changes the game when he's on the floor and I think the Bulls would be crazy not to draft him in the second round this year. If I'm the Bulls, I want to be ahead of everyone else when the league changes again. Where do you see Tacko fitting in with the league and do you think the Bulls have any interest in getting him on their roster?

Sam:

That verticality rule should help him; the lane and the three-second rule not so much. I usually draw the line at 7-2. But Boban looked pretty good at times. Of course, Tacko's also about five inches shorter. If you think Robin Lopez is weak in pick and roll coverage...It's uncertain if he gets drafted, so he should be there at 38. But I don't see the Bulls this year pursuing developmental talents. I know it sounds fun to have a giant around, if only for the team picture, but his lack of movement and stamina and the NBA's silly idea that speed and movement succeed make him a questionable NBA player.


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

Rocky Rosado:

I don't know if I'd consider any point guard in the lottery outside of Ja Morant. Garland played 4 games in college and is slight in ht/wt. Coby White is an incredible scorer, but I'm a UNC basketball fan. Point guard does not seem natural to him. He's more an undersized shooting guard and he's not a good defender. For someone with so much speed he's similar to Zach Lavine. Just focuses more on his offensive game. To take a point guard in the lottery you would have to be convinced they are considerably better than Kris Dunn or a free agent point guard that could be signed. 2019 NBA draft is a weak point guard draft, while 2020 is shaping up to be a much stronger point guard draft with Theo Maledon from France, Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois, Nico Mannion, Arizona, Cole Anthony, UNC, LaMelo Ball, Devon Dotson, Kansas, Tre Jones, Duke could all potentially be in the draft and would be a much deeper and talented pool of point guards to pick from should Kris Dunn lay an egg next season. Bulls should go with Bruno Fernando or Cameron Reddish with the #7 pick and Jaylen Hand or Jalen Lecque (6'4" 180 lbs, 43 inch vertical, 6'8" wingspan could be worth a look) with the #38 pick.

Sam:

I'm hoping Paxson read this far. It's a valid point about the points. You have to be careful not to wish yourself into a player, which happens more than you'd imagine. Teams want a player to do something they need so badly, they push him in that direction and then when he doesn't they blame it on him. I agree they should not select a point guard who isn't substantially better than Kris Dunn. I see Dunn having been challenged by all the talk that Kyle Macy and Steve Colter appear to be playing point guard for the Bulls. I'm not sure Dunn ever will develop much of a shot, but if he becomes tougher and more physical as a defender and a finisher with speed, he could bring some of what Jason Kidd brought to the game. I'm not moving on until I know it's going to be much better.


Jaxson Hayes #10 of the Texas Longhorns shoots over Christian James #0 and Brady Manek #35 of the Oklahoma Sooners during second half action at The Frank Erwin Center on January 19, 2019 in Austin, Texas.

Kirk Landers:

I've been wondering if they might take a swing at Jaxson Hayes as a development project that could yield an impact player in a few years, especially if White and Garland are gone by the time they pick.

Sam:

I've been intrigued by Hayes as well. But it's that developmental thing that's a problem. Though Jim Boylen got his extension, after what he went through, you can see he's also going to try to win now rather than turning it over in a few years to someone to take the team that so called next step. Robin Lopez might not return, and the Bulls could use size and athletic ability inside to support Wendell Carter Jr. against some of the big East guys like Jarrett Allen, Embiid and Drummond.You still need size for defense. And especially if there's not a player to draft they really want. But if it comes to development or bust, I think they bust out and try to trade.


Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks the ball in the first quarter against the Toronto Raptors during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at the Fiserv Forum on May 23, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Art Alenik:

Milwaukee never expected Giannis to be this good.

For that matter, GS never expected Curry to be this good. And nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition (Sorry, Monty Python joke); that is, nobody expected Jimmy Butler to become a star. How about Draymond Green who went 35th Forgetting the stars for a moment, every team needs guys who will defend and rebound... and put back your misses, like Kevon Looney. He's been instrumental for GS in these playoffs,... and was drafted 30th in 2015, the same year Jahil Okafor went 3rd. Devin Booker also went 13th that year, just before Cam Payne. Of course, scouting becomes even more difficult when they're coming out so young. Most of the future stars may be obvious, but there'll probably be a few late-bloomers too. So what if, for example, Coby White develops excellent passing skills, or Brandon Clarke gets himself a jump-shot? A lot of players don't fill in the blanks in their games until they've been in the NBA for a few seasons. What if you can't get Conley and are ‘stuck' picking Coby White, but a year or two from now when Conley is 33 and slowing down, you have Conley + 4 inches? I have to admit I'm intrigued at the prospect of having two 6'5" guards who are both very fast and have 3-pt. range. If we can get them to defend, that might be a killer backcourt. Re Brandon Clarke: His game is incomplete, but he brings something the Bulls are sorely missing, a ‘beast' around the rim (17 pts, 9 boards & 3.2 blocks in 28 pg. – FG% = 68.7). You'd like to get a potential star (like Laurie) at #7, but if not, you still can get some help.

Sam:

I hate these well reasoned arguments. Where's all the Felicio for Giannis suggestions since the Bucks need some interior size? The Bulls historically have done their best through the draft. I think the point is the roster is basically filled with draft picks, and when young draft picks merely play with other young draft picks nobody knows how to win, what it takes and where to go. You need a mix, and it would seem like the Bulls have ample young talent that needs some direction, experience, mentoring and success. Remember, before the Warriors made their jump, they had a veteran like David Lee making All-Star teams and carrying the team. Kids need that unless that are transcendent like Jordan. They might not be able to obtain that sort of veteran, which was what the Otto Porter move was about and why it was important. You just seem to need a few more grownups in the room.


Rapper, Drake, reacts during a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 21, 2019 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Joe Guest:

Why is the NBA allowing Drake to act like such an embarrassment from his court-side seats? It's a bad look for the NBA and the Raptors having him act like he's an actual participant in the proceedings. He's touching people and roaming the sidelines, parading around like a high school student who wants to be seen at the Friday night game.

Sam:

Canada has that second country inferiority complex to the U.S. as Chicago does to New York. So I'm told it's Canada's answer to Spike Lee that if we have someone acting so stupidly at NBA games, well, they'll do us one better.


Malcolm Brogdon #13 of the Milwaukee Bucks attempts a shot while being guarded by Pascal Siakam #43 and Danny Green #14 of the Toronto Raptors in the second quarter during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at the Fiserv Forum on May 23, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

David Thompson:

The trouble with trades is that you have to give something up to get what you want. For example, everyone (except Kris Dunn) seems to believe that the Bulls need a point guard and a shooter. With the seventh pick (assuming they do not trade it) they could choose Cam Reddish. Then, they could sign a two-way, 6'5" combo guard, Malcolm Brogdon (age 26), as a restricted free agent. The Bucks have cap issues and may not be able or willing to match. My question is: How much guaranteed money would the Bulls have to pay Brogdon and for how long? In any event, under this scenario the Bulls would not be giving up valuable assets.

Sam:

Of course, in sports it's better to buy something. The Bulls would have the cap room for the offer. And the Bucks have payroll discomfort, which happens when you get better and your players became valued more. Though remember that you don't have Giannis. Which teams forgot they didn't have Michael when Longley, Buechler, Kerr and Scott Williams signed deals. I still don't see Milwaukee letting guys go like that, especially because the latest has been the new Lakers' plan is to begin preparing for Giannis in free agency after the 20-21 season. If Milwaukee wants to make its case to retain him, they have no chance if they turn frugal and start letting go regulars just for money.


Kris Dunn #32 of the Chicago Bulls handles the ball during the game against the Phoenix Suns on March 18, 2019 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.

Jay Carlson:

I believe too many people lack patience with young players. Kris Dunn has had to deal with a lot in his short NBA career such poor coaching (Thibs) and injuries. Expectations were naturally inflated because he was drafted no. 5 overall. That's not on him. But since that time, we have all seen Dunn take over games when the win was on the line and finish the game for the win. That is a special trait. Once Dunn gets and stays healthy, he is going to be a player and make people rethink their initial assessments.

Sam:

That sounds like me without the patience. You could be correct, and I have said unless you are sure you can do a lot better you need to take a look. But also with many of these young talented point guard types a change of scenery often is needed before they blossom. Could that be the situation with Dunn? He really hasn't had much chance other than those six weeks in 2017-18 under Hoiberg because of injuries. Of course, if you have that many injuries does that mean you'll continue to have them? Paxson has repeated many times the team hasn't given up on Dunn. Now it's for him to show people he can be what everyone thought he was.


Kevin Burns:

I am sick of the narrative that the Bulls "tanked" to jockey for lottery position. Unlike the Knicks, Grizzlies and Lakers, their moves actually improved their roster and regression was due primarily to injuries. I'm also rooting for Kris Dunn, who I believe is being unfairly scapegoated as a liability. I recognize his injuries and lulls to his play here and there, but that's offset in good measure by big moments he's had. If his trade value is low, keep him. I'm not averse at all to fortifying the PG through either the draft (Coby White, if available) or FA (Brogdon is my preference) and then let the chips fall Last, management is under unwarranted scrutiny and criticism (especially John Paxson) I think the Butler deal was smart; I was against moving him when they moved Rose/Noah but after the Boston debacle (Rondo went down and Butler showed he couldn't carry the team to even one win) the time was right, and the return was an overall improvement foundational. They're going out on a limb for Boylen now, but Pax has shown a knack for adding through the draft and the present foundation holds a lot more promise than people recognize, provided they can stay healthy. I anticipate GarPax can and will make the moves from which the Bulls will make a leap back into competitiveness for 2019-20.

Sam:

Sports is a bottom line business perhaps more than most. Corporations' value rise and fall on profits and loss. But there's generally more than one winner. No one takes credit for losing. The Bulls should have been the Hornets or Heat of this season, a team with a chance that faded late just out of the playoffs. They weren't trying to lose, as you recognize. They weren't that bad; just unfortunate with injuries. Zach LaVine could have been an All-Star or close the way he played the first two months if everyone was healthy. But you lose your best (other) player, your point guard, your forward tough guy and halfway through your most physical big man. No one survives that. It was like when Jordan got hurt three games into 1985-86. A 38-win team on the rise gets to 30 wins. And only because Jordan came back. It gave the Bulls an unexpected chance for a generational talent this season. Didn't happen. That's the luck between championship contender and building. It's not that large. I don't think Dunn was a scapegoat. No one blamed him for the season; just not playing like a No. 5 pick. Though as I've suggested, he never was healthy long enough for us to really know. His biggest skill improvement has to be health.


Danilo Gallinari #8 of the LA Clippers handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors during Game Six of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 26, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.

Robert Siegel:

I had read something about a trade where the Bulls get Gallinari, plus a first round draft pick for taking the final year of Gallinari's $ 22 million dollar contract.

Sam:

I can't see the Bulls interested in doing anything like that with Gallinari having about $22 million a year for two years left and the Bulls filled with power forwards. I could see the Clippers trying something like that since it would be good enough to go for three max free agents like the Bulls almost pulled off in 2010. They were closer than anyone imagined of bringing LeBron, Wade and Bosh to play with Rose and Noah. Talk about your dynasties. Ironically, it was the Clippers who killed the chance. They could have taken Luol Deng with the Bulls pick thrown in for their cap space, but they said they'd get a better free agent than Deng, who went on to a pair of All-Star teams. The Clippers did pull in the haul of Randy Foye, Mo Williams, Ryan Gomes and Brian Cook. Take that!

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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