Ask Sam Mailbag: 06.07.2019

Sam opens his mailbag and answers your questions about the Finals, the Bulls and other stories around the NBA
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later


Victor Devaldivielso:

Knicks should try to get another top 7 pick. Package 3rd and 7th/6th pick for Anthony Davis. Knicks can throw in Kevin Knox and whatever else it needs. Then they can work on adding one max player this off season. I'm guessing they'll still have cap space for at least one. The Pelicans can then make Zion happy. They can draft his buddies, Barrett and Reddish. Boom...done.

Sam Smith:

Yeah, we haven't talked enough Knicks lately. We all can't wait until they get shut out again. The Davis trade talk was fading for awhile as those annoying playoff games were being played. C'mon! Let's get to the draft and free agency! The Pelicans were putting on the press to retain him and meeting with him. The rumors then were with Kyrie likely opting out, the Celtics aren't going to package up their young players for a shot at Davis. Of course, knowing Danny Ainge that probably meant they are all in for Davis. Failing to get picks 1 or 2, the Knicks aren't in a great spot because then Davis might not find enough success with them given what they have to give up and then leave after one season. With health issues for Brandon Ingram, if he's not cleared the Lakers may not have enough of a package to make much sense to the Pelicans. I'm not sure the Pelicans' idea of the perfect foundation is a Duke team that could not shoot which lost in the round of eight in college. I think after the initial shock and realizing he can get some guest roles on NCIS-New Orleans that Zion will be happy enough.

Do you get where I am heading? Before David Griffin was hired by the Pelicans, he had a show on the Sirius NBA radio station. He often would say regarding rumors and trades it's often the one that is not rumored that occurs. Because, you know, teams that really want to make deals aren't leaking what they are doing. It used to be it was too risky to take a chance on a player with one year, like Davis, who has expressed interest in being in a certain place. You know, like Paul George. Until he couldn't get enough of Oklahoma City. Then came Kawhi Leonard and you know no one wants to play in Canada because as Antonio Davis once wondered whether his kids could be educated there with that anthem and crazy number system basically the rest of the world uses. Who leaves the great Spurs organization to live in an igloo? And now leading 2-1 the Raptors might just be on the way to an NBA championship by taking a risk on one guy. And so even if Leonard leaves….Suddenly, one guy means a lot in the East. Really, which Raptor other than Kawhi must you have? Which Buck other than Giannis? So what better place to give Anthony Davis a reason to resign than his hometown? It likely will cost a lot, but the Bulls also have a lot despite the record not reflecting it lately because of all the injuries. They also have the cap space to take on some unwanted contracts, perhaps like that of Solomon Hill and perhaps E'Twaun Moore. They have the No. 7 draft pick and enough young players like Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Wendell Carter Jr. that maybe the Pelicans can pick one or two. Would it be worth taking that risk on Davis? Is there any chance he'd entertain staying? How much would you have to give up to match offers from several teams? Could you even compete with Davis after what you would have to give up? Would it be worth a chance for one year? You assume, like the Knicks, Lakers and Celtics and many of Griffin's mystery teams, the Bulls will be considering all this as well.

Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors defends against Frank Ntilikina #11 of the New York Knicks during the game on October 26, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.

Buddy Munson:

Why are there so many rumors of players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving going to the Knicks? I realize the Knicks have one box checked with the salary cap space they have. However, the on-court talent the Knicks have to surround those two are atrocious. Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith, & Frank Ntilikina are not a championship supporting cast, even in the weaker Eastern Conference.

Sam Smith:

Because New York has the most media in the world and what's generally been the greatest appetite for what might happen as opposed to what actually is occurring. I agree; it's an awful roster. Perhaps Kevin Durant will find that out. The Knicks were all but producing LeBron James jerseys in 2010 until he basically said he never really was interested. But when you still have the closest thing to media/newspaper competition in the United States, you have to provide some daily entertainment. It's not what it was, but it's still the best place in the country to read newspapers. Other than the pizza, it's the only reason I can still fathom for a visit. But they do have the cap space to sign two free agents and they do seem to have the interest of Kyrie Irving, who always said he wanted to finish his career playing in New York. So we'll see. Though it would be so much fun again to see them whiff. Talk about a team that really never gets a free agent. But there is always a first time. Again, seeing what an average roster in Toronto has done with just one all-league player perhaps changes the equation some this time for a player like Durant.

D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts during the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 19, 2019 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.

Andrew Brown:

It's rumored that the Nets are a strong chance at Kyrie. With that in mind, the Bulls should push hard for D'Angelo Russell. Better player who is still developing, young, and would be a great fit for the Bulls.

Sam Smith:

Just a rumor for now, though it seems to be getting beefier with the Nets apparently moving some more salary. How sweet would that be to see the Nets steal him from the Knicks. Russell, meanwhile, is an interesting case in point to make a point about the young point. And why there's such a risk not only when you draft a 19-year-old, but when you do and expect him to be your lead point guard right away. It only occurs with the really special ones. We think Ja Morant could be that. But what about Darius Garland or Coby White, generally regarded as the next two in line if a team feels it needs a point guard? Russell was a No. 2 overall pick joining a young, 20-some wins team with hopes for development. "OK kid, show us what you have." So Russell showed some scoring, and a lot of immaturity, kid stuff that got him in trouble with teammates, inconsistent shooting and eventually a trade after two years of pressure and demands to, Be Someone! Then in his fourth year he became an All-Star for another team. The general history is often that if you want a point guard or a center, you better find a prodigy if you want a young one, or you better be patient. Russell's situation is more the norm than the exception. As for Kyrie, I'd keep Russell if I were the Nets. Can both work, as some are suggesting? Hard to see that the way both tend to monopolize the ball. Kyrie is a talent, but a classic buyer beware. If you examine his three situations with Cleveland pre-LeBron, with LeBron and with the Celtics, he basically had trouble with teammates every time. It was first with Dion Waiters fighting over the ball and being "the man." And losing a lot of games. Then Kyrie came up big in the Finals thanks to LeBron, but he couldn't stand being in LeBron's shadow and asked out. And just a guess, but he doesn't seem like a very popular teammate in Boston. He's certainly very talented, but with a history of injuries and disputes with teammates. If I didn't have a point guard I liked, sure, I'd take a chance even if his crazy world-is-flat stuff indicated some sort of instability. Suggesting people believe in obvious falsehoods is at least irresponsible, if not dangerous. But if I had an All-Star level point guard who was younger like the Nets do, I doubt I'd have that much interest in Irving.

Pascal Siakam #43 and Danny Green #14 of the Toronto Raptors celebrate the play against the Golden State Warriors in the second half during Game One of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on May 30, 2019 in Toronto, Canada.

Chris Feldman:

I'm torn. On the one hand, I'd really like to see the Raptors dethrone the Warriors as NBA champions. On the other hand, I really don't want the Warriors to lose, because if they do I'll be in for years of hearing, "Well, if Kevin Durant had played . . .," which I'm confident would happen because for the past few years there's been a steady stream of, "Well, if Draymond Green wasn't suspended for game 5 . . .," as if it was a foregone conclusion the Warriors would have won that series with him available in that one game--a series that went seven games, with the Cavs winning half the games in which Draymond did play, and ultimately won by the Cavs on the Warriors' home court. It demeans what the Cavs accomplished to make that claim. You can't live life in the "what if?" If you do, what impact did the Cavs' Kevin Love missing the 2015 NBA Finals (and Kyrie Irving missing most of it) have on the Warriors winning that title? It's never brought up. Things happen--sometimes they benefit you, and sometimes they don't. I just hope if the Raptors do win the media will give them their due and not feel the need to keep making excuses for the Warriors being mortal.

Sam Smith:

I'm sure there will be some of that, but the record and trophy are inviolate. I often refer to the '89 Lakers going into the Finals 11-0 and then Magic and Scott got hurt and the Pistons swept. You don't hear the Lakers should have. There's more voices now, so I suspect the ones making excuses sound louder to you. I often say the Bulls with Rose would have…if not for…but they didn't. If the Raptors win, critics will say what they want, but I'm quite sure the Raptors will feel fine about it. Just as Cleveland celebrated that title enthusiastically. Do you remember Russell missing much of the 1958 Finals won by the Hawks? The Hawks look like a strong champion in the record book, and so will Toronto if they win. Health, as the Bulls have discovered, also is a skill. If you don't have it, and cannot play through the problems, then that's your problem and your weakness.

Derrick Rose #25 of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Luol Deng #9 of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Joakim Noah #55 of the Memphis Grizzlies, and Taj Gibson #67 of the Minnesota Timberwolves pose for a photo following the game on January 30, 2019 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Benjamin Brenna:

Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Denzel Valentine, Chandler Hutchison. How about that for our bench going
into next season? Could it work?

Sam Smith:

Sure would be fun to watch, and a case can be made for a team that really needs veterans and leadership. But the Bulls rarely go back for what once worked, and if there is an addition from that old gang of ours, I suspect it could be at most one of those three guys.

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

Samuel Ortiz:

If he's still available at number 7, do you think the Bulls would consider drafting Cam Reddish? The Bulls are planning on getting a point guard as they should, but if a player who has been compared to Paul George is still available, at least they should think about it. After all, the Bulls can acquire a point guard in some other way (via trade or free agency). I know Reddish is surely the most mysterious player in this year's draft because he played under the shadow of Zion and Barrett, but with that kind of potential, it's a gamble worth taking.

Sam Smith:

There's always someone the fans demand, like Michael Porter Jr. last year, and this year my mail suggests it's Reddish. I understand the majority of the fans' opinion, which is star or bust. Go for a guy who could be a star or we don't care. It's not unreasonable thinking, unless it's you who is on the hook for a minimum of about $12 million guaranteed for a No. 7 pick over three years' and then with a fourth year option virtually everyone assumes. Though I understand: You win with stars. The problem is the chances of hitting on one after the top four or five is much less than 10 percent. Reddish has the reputation of being that guy who might get 50 one game and then five the next and then coming up with an injury. Perhaps not fair; maybe even not true. Was his star obscured by teammates? But if it was, how's he going to exert himself playing with pros instead of college players? My guess knowing the Bulls history is Reddish is not that high on their board unless they trade down, perhaps get an extra pick and then decide to take a chance. I'm fine on high risk/high reward. Though I'm not sure he's really that true high ceiling player.

Jarrett Culver #23 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates after a play against the Michigan Wolverines during the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 28, 2019 in Anaheim, California.

James Heneghan:

Although I am not Jarrett Culver's biggest fan (turned into a ghost in the National Title game), I have to disagree with you that he does not have the atleticism of a Demar DeRozan! At this point I'm hoping they either trade down or out of this draft. At this juncture of the rebuild, they need some veteran leadship with playoff experience.

Sam Smith:

I didn't suggest he's not athletic; just not to the level of DeRozan, who in his draft was regarded as a top three athlete. Culver clearly is not that level. And it did concern me some about his play in that title game. I know it's just one game, but big time players usually come up big at big times. Which may just suggest what's reasonable for this draft, that he could be a very good rotation player and maybe a starter, though you're not likely to get a star after the first two or three picks. Culver clearly does a lot of things NBA teams need, and the Bulls certainly need lots of things. Plus, Otto Porter Jr. isn't exactly your 40-minute per game guy given his history. Culver can handle the ball well, pass, play defense, make a three, a lot of very good things. Maybe not so great, but as the Raptors have demonstrated at least for now, perhaps you need only one great. If you don't have that, maybe a lot of very goods can get you somewhere. Culver sure looks like a competent and reliable NBA player.

Guard Carson Edwards #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers takes a shot during the first half in front of guard Isaiah Moss #4 of the Iowa Hawkeyes on January 20, 2018 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, in Iowa City, Iowa.

Tom Golden:

Carson Edwards had a pretty good season and tournament. I haven't heard you mention him period. Any reason why he doesn't have the press hyperventilating. He has better stats than any of those second tier and down guys. Bad marketing or some obvious flaw?

Sam Smith:

He's actually a guy I asked several scouts about because of the same impressive statistics you saw, but then don't mention much because everyone says not to. Sort of like undrafted Fred VanVleet? Or Shane Larkin? Or maybe Aaron Brooks or so many of those undersized guys without an exact position whom NBA scouts dismiss, though as we see some make it because they are competitors. And you really can't tell until they are with you and tell you to get lost with the load management crap. His latest comparison is Quinn Cook. Who is playing in the Finals. It's the inherent flaw in NBA scouting, but since few are big risk takers and most just compare lists to make sure they are part of the consensus, guys like Edwards often slip through. He'll likely be a second round pick. Sort of like Chris Duhon, whom the Bulls selected on a future and asked him to play in Europe first. Then he came to camp and outcompeted their higher picks despite his lack of size for his position and forced his way onto the roster and a nice NBA career. One of those scouts' rules is positional size because who are they going to guard? Will they be overmatched when switching? I understand to some extent because of the cliche that heart cannot be measured while jumping and running can.

Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies drives to the basket

Kirk Landers:

I think the evolution of the G League is evidence that times have changed. It's not that the #7 draft choice is going to help this year, it's that franchises today have to be developing talent constantly because of the constant churn of players to other teams and/or retirement and because the draft is producing mostly raw teenagers. Just because a #7 pick might take a couple years to develop isn't a reason to throw away the pick. You'll still need new rotation talent in two years, whether you're the Bulls or the Warriors or someone in between. I like MIke Conley's game, but I don't see a lot of benefit to the franchise in acquiring him. I'd guess he could get the Bulls into a 6, 7 or 8 seed for two seasons, but the cost of that mediocrity is an even worse opportunity to draft a starter-quality point guard or rotation-quality big man. In any event, with the draft dominated by teenagers, and with a burgeoning minor league system for developing raw talent, it seems to me NBA franchise management is going to trend toward the major league baseball model as time goes on.

Sam Smith:

That's a very reasoned, astute, progressive, enlightened and sagacious observation. Also wrong! Well, not completely since it is true that with so many young players—and perhaps younger still in the future—coming into the NBA, development becomes more important. Though in the Bulls case I'm looking more toward what has occurred the last two years. I don't believe the fan base or the management is satisfied with continuing to remain patient for some hoped for benefit. The NBA isn't a 401K plan. Baseball's minor league system probably is a bit anachronistic, but it's probably balanced by teams not having to pay players so much to start. Yes, basketball has the G-league, but it's not about developing stars, like baseball's minor leagues. Stars, like it or not, have to develop while you are paying for their apprenticeship. The reason I've suggested a player like Conley is it's not only important to compete after two years of building a foundation, but those players don't develop enough unless they are playing for something. A player like Conley fits well to me with the Bulls because of Porter. Both would be on huge deals for two years and then with several young core players, the Bulls could dive aggressively into free agency with a solid roster, presumably some success (since free agents don't come to rebuilding projects out of the playoffs) and something more substantial to sell to one and perhaps two free agents given that Felicio's salary also drops off at that time after the 2020-21 season.

Art Alenik:

I've been thinking about free agency lately. I've always had strongly mixed feelings about it, even though it's clearly the right & moral thing to do. Player salaries aside, you can't have the teams ‘owning' their players. The problem is that free agency has led to so very much player movement that it's not really good for the game. It hurts the team concept and fans end up "cheering for laundry".

Here's my (i.e. another crazy) idea...

Currently, free agency treats a player pretty much as an ‘independent contractor'. Their team can offer them a little more than anyone else to re-sign, but clearly not enough to curtail player movement any more. With the salaries so enormous, you can live as well on $80MM as $100MM. And with a new multi-year contract, there's no real incentive to stay or risk in leaving. The best players in the game are all over the place. LeBron's on his 4th team (if you count the Cavs twice). Durant may be on his 3rd soon. And we're not talkin' last-chance comebacks, like Mike on the Wizards or Malone in LA. Can you imagine Bird not a Celtic or Magic not a Laker? So my tweak is simply to make the incentive to stay much larger. Maybe an FA can only be signed for 2 years by a new team. After a season, they can renegotiate. This wouldn't come close to ending free agency. Bottom-line, I think it would make the FA market a little less frivolous and allow some teams the time to grow together, which would make for better, more competitive basketball – more teamwork, better rivalries, etc.

Sam Smith:

Another reasonable and sensible fan-oriented proposal. And closer to what the NBA tried for in negotiations, though it's a tough curve to get past the big bat of the players' association. I'm more for open free agency since I believe players deserve the chance to consider their options. Especially since they agree to stay with a team four to five years following the draft. You can see in baseball how free agency has almost been eliminated because of the extraordinary waiting time in the minor leagues and then the six years with a team or whatever it is. The NBA doesn't face that with young players coming into the NBA, though I'd rather change that and give them free agency sooner. But free agency has proven to be a bonanza for the NBA and hardly seems to have eroded interest. Actually, Bird should have been a Pacer both for geography and if they were smarter (they selected Rick Robey ahead of him in the 1978 draft) and Magic should have been a Bull in the 1979 coin flip and being from the Midwest he initially wanted to remain closer to home. Your memories become what was experienced as opposed to what might have been. Free NBA players! Free NBA players!

Drake reacts in the first half during Game Two of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on June 02, 2019 in Toronto, Canada.

Abe Rotbart:

After what just happened in Houston with an infant getting drilled by a baseball, when will the NBA learn that its time to move the benches, press and fans (including Drake) at least 5 feet back. I have seen fans holding babies while sitting in the first row and it is just another disaster waiting to happen.

Sam Smith:

Can't say I've heard that one much. Yes, there was another outpouring of justified anger over the child in Houston being hit. But pretty much since Rodman was diving into the stands for a good photograph long after the ball was out of bounds, the basketball fans have been pretty safe. Actually, the real NBA issue is the court is way too small for players of this era and size. The 94 by 50 court has been used the entire history of the NBA back to the 1940s when the average players size was barely six feet tall with much shorter arms and smaller strides. It's obvious the length, but certainly the width of the court needs to be increased to enhance the game. But the league and teams are never giving up those courtside seats that cost thousands of dollars for the most unique access in sports even if sometimes your rappers, actors, producers and directors end up a bit too close to the activity.

Jeff Lichtenstein:

In answer to the writer's question as to what Kirk is up to, my photojournalist friend stood next to him last week at Animal Kingdom in Disney World in line for a ride.

Former Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich poses with a fan at Animal Kingdom

Sam Smith:

Who ever said Kirk wasn't an animal? Thanks for the investigative reporting.

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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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