Ask Sam Mailbag: 06.08.18
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to answer readers' questions.
Will the Bulls workout Porter Jr.? If so, were there any concerns about his health? Have you heard anything about his health from other teams he's worked out for? Some mocks have him going as high as the 4th overall pick to slipping to the 8th spot. I hope the Bulls do as much testing as possible in case he's available when they select 7th. If Porter Jr. & Wendell Carter were both available at #7, I still have a better feeling about Carter being a better fit with the Bulls regardless of the results of Porter's physicals. Porter maybe a better scorer but we have LaVine & Markennen as your primary scorers.
Sam: This could become one of the two biggest decisions of the draft for the Bulls as well as a few teams selecting before them. I read the Bulls have already examined Porter, though I have no idea how that went. The results are supposedly being shared and Friday is a big day for Porter as he is supposed to have his so called pro day, like they do in football, where the guy runs around and throws the ball and basically doesn't do much of anything related to playing in a game. But looks good in shorts. So if his agents are allowing him to do that, you assume he'll do well shooting, running and taking water breaks. It always gets back to taking a chance on a player who maybe has star potential, though it's uncertain given his back surgery and average looking play when he did return for a few games this year. Though that he did return suggests he does want to compete. I related Carter Jr. to Elton Brand in a story I wrote for bulls.com recently. The point was that he's not so much a Brand duplicate, but should have a long, reliable NBA career and be able to help a team in many ways as a front court player. If Porter is available at No. 7, which certainly is possible, we know there'll be strong fan and media demands to take him, shoot for the star and all that. It hasn't been a Bulls tradition in the draft. At least it should make draft night most intriguing.
Your comparison of Wendell Carter Jr.'s measurements to Elton Brand's was especially interesting. Elton Brand was a very good player who wasn't the great player the Bulls needed at the time, but it seems to me, the Bulls circumstances are different now. They don't necessarily need a ball-dominant, primary scorer. They need a rugged rebounder who can move his feet on defense, hit open shots and occupy at least one defender, and keep the ball moving on offense. Reports of Carter's defensive quickness vary, but if he's a capable defender, he might be the best fit of all for the current Bulls roster. The most intriguing guy in this draft has to be Trae Young. If his NBA game is patterned after his idol, Steve Nash, he might end up being the biggest steal of this draft. Which begs the question--how did Nash rate coming out of college in terms of athleticism, and measurements?
Sam: Here's the scouting report for Nash — it was still the old, center dominant NBA — before the 1996 draft: Nash is a natural point guard who can distribute the ball effectively and hit the long-range jumper. He uses deceptive quickness and a superior understanding of the game to his advantage. Nash has uncanny court vision and a sixth sense for the game. He may be the best true point guard in the draft. Steve's biggest weakness is his man-to-man defense. His average foot speed makes him an easy target for small, quick point guards to blow by. His lack of physical strength does not bode well for handling the bigger, stronger point guards in the NBA in the post. He is a very good shooter whose stats went down for his senior year. This is due to having to force so much playing on a relatively weak team. Had trouble getting his own shot against quality opponents. Sometimes Nash forgets what's a good shot and what's not. The comparisons to Stockton are skin deep; nowhere near as quick.
Nash measured about 6-1 without sneakers, similar to Young, and almost exactly the same weight at 178. Is Young as intelligent and as willing a passer? Young did lead the nation in assists. The Nash comparison seems more realistic than the Curry comparison, though Young also has an uncanny ability to make difficult shots. Young is supposed to work out for the Bulls next week, and presumably he then will meet with reporters since the Bulls have been doing that with just the top picks most likely to be available when they select at No. 7. Yes, another conundrum. Though really more complicated than with Porter because the Bulls have a starting point guard. They have no wing, small forward starting level player on the roster. So if both Young and Porter were available, I think the Bulls would go with Porter and avoid all the questions about Kris Dunn. Young could be a third guard, though you generally hope for a starter with the No. 7 pick. With that shooting and passing ability, Young could be a breakout player in the NBA the way the game is played now. He also could break your heart. When Jimmer Fredette came out, there were comparisons with Nash, also.
Watching Steph Curry makes me have second thoughts on Young. Maybe gamble if he's there at 7? One other thing, I never understood that stupid unwritten rule that you cant score if u have the ball last and up big. You compete till the clock hits 0.00. Did Tristan really think Shaun was stat padding as he suggested after the game? Pathetic.
Sam: If they gamble and he's a bust, I assume you support the pick and don't complain or second guess? And we thought only baseball had all the stupid traditions. I'm with you on that one. Because I don't see how that is paying respect to the opponent. When you stop playing to let the shot clock expire, it's like saying it's too easy to score, you guys are pathetic, so we are giving up so as not to embarrass you any more. I actually think that's more insulting to the opponent. Finish the game. OK, if you don't want to do a 360 degree dunk, I get that. But take a shot. One other I hate is all the guys running to console their teammate when he misses a free throw. The fist bumps and pats. C'mon, make the free throw. The way it used to be was if you missed a free throw, your teammates yelled at you that there's no defense and c'mon, those are easy points and get your head out of your elbow. So many of the more delicate players today (I'm told snowflake is the common disparagement these days) appear to need additional encouragement and support in order to perhaps make the next free throw. C'mon, make it!
Wendell Carter seems to want to be a Bull; says he thinks it's his best fit. Of course, Bamba said something like that too. Maybe they all do...
Fran Faschilla coached at St. Johns and knows college hoops (I'll overlook that he works for ESPN), so I found his comments online. He really does like Carter; has him just behind Jackson Jr. among the big men. Of all the players he mentioned (not including the 'big 3'), he sounded most enthusiastic about Carter. The one thing he said about Bamba that gives me pause is that stuff about his motor. You can't see that in highlight films. I can tell you that he moves fluidly & is coordinated, has a nice stroke that can probably be extended to 3-pt. range and needs to beef up. But I can't see how hard he plays or how often he loafs. Fraschilla gave him a 7 out of 10.
I've heard similar things about Ayton (low motor). Now, it's common for guys that size to look slower than they really are. Kareem did, surely Yao and even Wilt looked slower than you know they were. But... I would expect someone like Fraschilla to take that into account. If we DO take Carter, it'll be the 2nd year in a row that the Bulls don't fool anybody at #7. All the polls had Lauri last year, and most have Carter now. My only concern is that he's a natural #4 (Fraschilla agrees!). I checked his measurements; just under 6'9” (barefoot) and 251 lbs. w/ 7.85% body-fat. Standing reach is 9'1” & wingspan 7'4.5”, hands are not very big (8.5” x 9”). I guess that might be a center in "today's NBA", but still a small one.
Sam: That low motor thing—Noah had the high motor, remember?—has become a skill these days. It's toughest to gauge. After all, Bamba is 20 years old. Who was mature at that age? Though the guy comes off very impressive in interviews. Basically more so than anyone I knew when I was 20. Heck, he sounded better than any of my teachers. The part of all drafts I believe is most flawed is this numerical placement that one is always better than two and two better than three and three better than four, and…Of course, as I often mention, how can it be possible when 30 teams look at 19 and 20-year-old players that they see the same potential and skill level? When hardly any even played against one another and were playing in structured, suffocating systems of play designed to promote primarily the coach. But, yes, Bamba is “rated” ahead of Carter Jr. and we assume the Bulls would select him if both were available. As it's said, you cannot teach height. And it does make logical sense I assume even to analytic staffs that if you are closer to the basket you may have a better chance to score and rebound. Though the game, as we know, has changed dramatically to more perimeter and smaller man play. Plus, the history of these huge players, Manute Bol, Shawn Bradley, Yao Ming, Mark Eaton, Zyndrunas Ilgauskas, Rik Smits, Hasheem Thabeet (Yikes!) has hardly guaranteed any team or individual success. And I named the good ones. Do you remember Chuck Nevitt, Gheorghe Muresan, Priest Lauderdale and Randy Breuer? Though Kristaps Porzingis was doing pretty well before being hurt. Another tough one: Biggest man, or maybe the man who is a bit more versatile and skilled?
I actually had the Cavs in 7 games in this series. That game 1 breakdown was as much on Ty Lue not calling a time out as it is on JR. if they won that game there is a mental edge for the series. I actually see LeBron staying in Cleveland for the remainder of his career. Losing in the finals as they will then jumping ship again will only hurt his legacy. As such, if they blow up the roster to appease him, I'm hoping the Bulls take a long hard look at Rodney Hood who has been misused this series. He would be a perfect fit in Chicago. I also see Ty Lue gone if LeBron stays.
Sam: That's a lot of stuff not many agree with for now, so we'll see. What has most been brought up was that charge/block reversal in Game 1. Cavs figure to win the game at that point, leading by four with the ball with about 35 seconds left. LeBron holds the ball and probably makes his free throws. Yes, I know many will say LeBron always got all the calls and the refs did get it right by examining the play, though I do believe it was wrong to be able to overturn one foul call and no others. I was mostly rooting for a long series, which seems somewhat in doubt now. Which, by the way, many say makes it easier for LeBron to leave, that it shows how far the Cavs are away, that Boston and Philadelphia should pass them, that they have no moves with this huge payroll well into the luxury tax with LeBron—of course, it was his urging (forcing) management to pay big contacts to J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson when they had no offers and were represented by LeBron's friends—and they are hamstrung with a monstrous payroll that allows basically no signings. Plus, basically all the guys they traded for played poorly, so there's no market.
Many have speculated LeBron joins up with Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston and I can see that. The 76ers get mentioned a lot with David Griffin speculated as GM with Bryan Colangelo out and to bring LeBron with him. Nah, I don't see that, and not only because of Ben Simmons. Philadelphia, really, LeBron? One speculation that also makes sense is LeBron taking Chris Paul with him to the Lakers. It's a better fit than with Paul George and Paul in Houston quietly accepted the Dwyane Wade role with LeBron and backed off to accommodate James Harden. The Lakers might have to dump some salary, and I'd look at taking back Luol Deng and his $18 million salary to help them if they gave me Brandon Ingram. They certainly don't need him with LeBron. So there could be some possibilities for a team. I don't see LeBron's legacy changed since his legacy is changing teams to get a title. Plus, he did deliver the championship to Cleveland and you can be sure he'll return for the last season of his career. Maybe buy the team by then. Rodney Hood's situation is interesting and the TV broadcasters must have been ordered to not mention that the Cavs turned on him from that game when he wouldn't come in late in one of the blowout wins over Toronto. It never gets mentioned; just that he fell out of the rotation. Though Hood apologized, they basically banished him to their detriment. You assume LeBron ordered it. It would have been like the Bulls benching Scottie Pippen for that 1994 playoff walkout. But they brought him back right away and almost won that series.
The Cavs probably win Game 1 even with all the other stuff if Hood hadn't been banished. He was excellent in Game 3 and almost helped the Cavs over the finish line. They made a huge and petty mistake exiling him like they did. He'll be a restricted free agent this summer and there were rumors of Bulls interest in February. I don't know if that was true, but if the Bulls don't draft a wing player, Hood figures to be a relatively modest cost free agent who makes sense for an offer.
So, if Zach Lavine were in the draft this year, where would he go? What do you think about Donte DiVincenzo at #22? I will hang up and listen.
Sam: Thanks for the email, Josh from Jacksonville? Of course, is that pre-ACL or post ACL? LaVine went 13th in the 2014 draft at a time when he was moving up based on athletic potential, but came off the bench and had a long shooting slump his one year at UCLA. Then he emerged with the Timberwolves and pre-injury with Minnesota, he'd be in the top five in this draft, perhaps rated about the same as European Luka Doncic. Doncic in the latest series of mock drafts averages out between three and five. Now after surgery and a sputtering return with the Bulls, I'd say he'd be selected before the two Bridges and on a level with Young and perhaps Porter for potential at six through eight or nine. I can see DiVincenzo in the pile at 22.
Why not get Luol for these two players, Ask or Felicio, and maybe a protected second rounder to the Lakers? I think the rebuilding process could benefit from having someone like him with his work ethic, locker room presence and team first attitude that helps establish a winning attitude. I'm sure he is one of those who always sees himself as a Bull. Maybe it could rub off the young guys?
Sam: Like I mentioned, the Lakers likely will need to only dump salary to add two free agents and get back in contention. I think Deng has some basketball life left in him, and the Bulls could use a veteran presence who is respected. I didn't think there was enough around last season because players like Lopez and Holiday, essentially, had been role players. Deng has been a longtime starter, played major roles in playoff games late in series and is an international ambassador for the game. It would be a coup to have him back. Plus, he's a wing player who can shoot threes. The Lakers just have to give you someone worthwhile for you to take that big salary.
Bamba apparently has serious deficiencies on offense. Footwork probably non-existant. Probably no feel either. Can the guy catch the ball at all? Asking; haven't seen any tape besides him dunking and blocking shots. Might as well be a tape loop. If that's all there is to his game, he's got a long ways to go. There's a lot to being a good rim protector. Angles, lateral explosion, vision, anticipation maybe most of all. Has he even played enough basketball in his life to see around corners like a really good defender has to do? it's complicated to work around NBA-quality screens. It also helps a lot to have relationships to your perimeter guys, which takes time that you only get with a stable roster. As noted, Bulls right now not especially in any big time hurry, I suppose. All that said, that kind of length is pretty much plug and play. He seems to know what his hands are doing all that ways out there otherwise he wouldn't have put that kind of tape together and he'd be Yinka Dare. He could very easily be there for Bulls @7 and if they grab him, ...? well, as these things go he's as much of a gamble as any of 'em. The kid from Duke sounds pretty safe but he could wind up as Nazr Mohammed which wouldn't be God awful but could end with more criticism about drafting scared.
Sam: Yes, Yinka Dare; how could I have forgotten him? That's the generic issue with big men in this era. It seems Ayton is going to be the No. 1 pick (he declared it when he worked out for the Suns and said he was done with workouts; the Suns seemed to be fine with that) and everyone would love to have Joel Embiid. But those guys are unusual talents with speed, shooting range and quickness. If you don't have quite all that, are you JaVale McGee? Useful, but not always. Wow, is this getting complicated, or what?
I read somewhere that the Bulls were surprised that Portis was still available as the 22nd overall selection in 2015. Given Portis' continued improved play year in and year out, why don't the Bulls view him as a potential mate for Markkanen at the 5/4 spot? Portis has a much better inside game, and can easily be a 16/11 ball player at over 30 minutes a game. There is no need to draft a big like Carter, in my opinion, unless you can get an All-Star potential in Bamba if the Bulls know they can get that.
Sam: It's a reasonable question, which is why the Bulls get trade inquiries about him. For a lottery pick? I doubt it. Portis has made himself into a useful sixth man type, which surprised me. Actually, I didn't believe at 22 he was that big a surprise. Most of the mock drafts had him going between 13 and 17, which put him out of true elite territory. Once you get past the top 10, there are various flaws. Plus, it wasn't the greatest draft. Some of the players rated ahead of Portis coming into the draft were Frank Kaminsky, Trey Lyles, Willie Cauley-Stein and Sam Dekker. Portis was considered about on a level with Jerian Grant (taken 19th), though at different positions, because of Portis' general lack of athleticism and explosive abilities. He vastly improved his shot with the Bulls, though remains more regarded for his hustle. He was then considered mostly like Tristan Thompson, and yes Thompson starts for a Finals team. Well, sometimes. And they do have LeBron. Portis has demonstrated he deserves a spot and credit for expanding his game dramatically, but the Bulls need more.
Frequently draft time and the trade deadline are the principal trading periods. Do you expect a fair amount of trade activity leading up to the draft? Any speculation/rumors? It will be fun to watch Ainge given his past success.
Sam: I don't see the Suns or Kings trading, and probably not many in the top 10 until the Clippers at the end of the lottery. There's a lot of speculation they'd like to move those two picks. The Hawks are intriguing because they are starting over, but I assume they stick with a draft pick. Many believe the Grizzlies at No. 4 are most likely to do something given they probably are stuck with Mike Conley and have veterans. Kawhi Leonard remains the biggest name because of his odd season at odds with the Spurs. Then there's Minnesota with general unrest, or so we've heard and perhaps Andrew Wiggins available, and, yes, Danny Ainge still has extra No. 1s to dangle. Get this Finals over with!
If this happens per Stephen A Smith: “LeBron James will be having a conversation with the Golden State Warriors this summer.” I'm out.
Sam: Maybe it's just congratulations and can he get on Augusta National with Steph and Iguodala.
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