LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots the ball against the Golden State Warriors in Game Four of the 2018 NBA Finals won 108-85 by the Golden State Warriors over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Quicken Loans Arena on June 6, 2018 in Cleveland,

Ask Sam Mailbag: 07.06.18

Sam opens his mailbag and answers readers' questions

The Bulls weren't lying when they said they would be patient. Every decent player is coming off the board and we haven't secured Lavine or Nwaba? ps: Magic has done a great job with LA securing all these players on 1 year deals , oh , and Lebron

Mike Burling

Sam: It's like people never expect a recession or financial bubble burst, as the saying goes, even though they happen regularly. When the big financial rights fees and salary cap expansion came a few years ago and teams began to go nuts with huge contracts, many said to watch out, that there would be an inevitable contraction and very few teams would have cap money for free agents. So it's here, the music is stopping and there aren't enough gold plated chairs for everyone. For the Bulls, there are two issues. One is that it's Year 1 of the rebuild (they finally got themselves to drop the euphemisms). The Lakers missed the playoff five years, the 76ers also five years. So they started adding free agents. The Bulls missed the playoffs one year since their breakup and trading Jimmy Butler. So it's still a time of shaping a future and determining what they have. They finally have the outline of a starting five with the two first round picks and Dunn coming in as a starter for the first time. So you let them play and see what you have and who you may need.

Looking at 2019 free agency, which the Bulls long have signaled, is a relatively quick turnaround in comparison if they can pull it off. You'd say they can pay LaVine and Nwaba, which is true. But every extra dollar you spend on them now is one fewer you have for next summer. Would they take one-year deals? I doubt it. But they also don't have much market with so few teams having cap room and neither having been an impact player yet. Nwaba, OK, he's a great story from building himself a career, but he's at best a role playing reserve. Is LaVine your star? Maybe he becomes that, but after starting just midseason after ACL surgery and not finishing the season with knee issues don't you have to see if he can give you one full season before you spend $50 million to $100 million? I hope they work something out since I still am high on LaVine. It's probably at the point of which side wants to bet the most: LaVine taking one year to become unrestricted while not worrying about further injury and walking away from lifetime money that could become a minimum next year if he is hurt again? Or the Bulls willing to wager when seemingly no one else will that he's a $100 million player despite having a relatively indifferent comeback season? Compromise generally is somewhere in between.

What an off-season so far! If the Bulls are able to get Jabari Parker, who I don't think they should really chase, who else would they target in free agency? I like McCaw out of Golden State, or perhaps Rodney Hood? Both would fit well with the current roster.

The East is open for business and having some young wing scorers is imperative if you want to challenge Boston and Philadelphia. I don't think the Bulls are going to miss the playoffs one more wing player or not. They have some nice pieces and are legitimately 8 to 9 quality players deep. I'm ready for the season to begin!

Stephen Fulton

Sam: Summer League here they come; second title in three years? Summer League dynasty in the making? Parker and Hood both have been frequently speculated regarding the Bulls, though Hood makes more sense on a short term, prove-yourself-again-because-LeBron-hated-you deal. If he goes for that, sure, but as I've been saying I see it less than the Bulls going for eight and one round and out than just being competitive and trying all season. Doing that would help develop the players they have and get another lottery pick, albeit likely not top 10. Which sounds like a plan to me. The Bulls do have some pretty good depth with off the bench presumably Portis, Valentine, Carter Jr. for now with Lopez still around and Hutchison for now with Holiday also in his last season. But here's what the East playoffs look like, at least four months early: Boston, Philadelphia, Indiana, Milwaukee, Toronto, Washington, Miami, Detroit. With Griffin and Drummond a full season together and Dwane Casey pushing, the Pistons should be better. Plus Reggie Jackson healthy again with all his issues can score. Yes, someone can slip with a major injury. There looks like six other certain non playoff teams with Atlanta, Orlando, Charlotte, Cleveland, New York and Brooklyn. So the Bulls could be in a race for eight down to the last weeks. But considering their goals of playing rookies and young players and with teams like the Pistons playing with veterans and to get into the playoffs, the Bulls look like they'll be one more season on the edge. And, again, wasn't all this about not trying to be eight?

The Bulls should have a very good understanding of Blakeney with the 2017 summer league, Windy City/G league leading scorer, with the Bulls and the coming summer league. Carter & Hutchison will be the summer league fan focus but what do you see as the ceiling for Antonio Blakeney? What are the Bulls plans for him? He can create his own shot, is a prolific scorer and now has a solid year of pro experience with the Bull's system. Does he have a real shot in the big leagues behind Levine?

Terrance Crowder

Sam: I don't know how to judge him because he was the best player last summer, which got him that two-way contract, and then probably the best player the first week of training camp. And then when the Bulls had to play their more regulars and he wasn't playing a lot, he tightened up. He seems to be the kind of quantity type player that needs to be left on the floor for a lot of shots. The Bulls don't have him targeted that way. He could get a lot of shots in the G-league. He's really a terrific athlete, one of the best on the team, and perhaps as good as anyone in the open court finishing. But he's still somewhat fundamentally unsound, making those playground type decisions. It makes him a tantalizing prospect because he really can score and shoot. He needs to turn himself into a knock down, reliable, Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams type to come off the bench and make shots. He's got the ability to do that, which not that many do. I think he's tied up with that two-way deal for another season, and you can see he feels he's outgrown that. He's clearly too good for the G-league. It's up to him now to reign in his game, figure out defense, move and push the ball and get set for good shots. If he can show a bit more patience and maturity and not believe every shot should be his, I think he could be a good bench addition going forward.

Donte Ingram #0 of the Loyola Ramblers celebrates with teammates late in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines during the 2018 NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at the Alamodome on March 31, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.

I know, it's the Summer League, not organized basketball, but the Bulls have some interesting names on their roster, in addition to the two new draft picks. Melo Trimble had some buzz among mock-drafters for awhile. I'm surprised he didn't get drafted. And it's good to see the Loyola star, Donte Ingram, get a look. One of the holdovers from last year that I pull for a lot is Ryan Arcidiacono. He looked like a guy who worked hard on defense and played a pass-first point guard role. Other than him being a little reluctant to shoot, what are his prospects for making the roster?

Kirk Landers

Sam: Randy Brown's job will be to organize it. Actually, I like watching Summer League because the kids do play hard because it's a non stop job interview. You love to see them in that environment. Trimble had a decent year in the G-league, but is more the shooting, undersized backup point guard. I think the Bulls are pretty set with Cameron Payne behind Kris Dunn (I don't know what happens with Jerian Grant) for ball movement. And there's Arcidiacono as well, who did some nice things in spot duty with the Bulls, but likely is more doing his own audition for NBA teams as well. The interesting guy to me for the roster is the local Loyola guy, Ingram. I haven't seen him play much, but he sounds like he could be this season's Nwaba, a hard working, committed guy with a better shot and more size. And he's got that game winning tournament shot for his check in music.

The Lakers are doing what the bulls should do. I wanted the bulls to sign free agents to one year deals and not jeopardize their cap space for next year, Lakers are being smart. Wish the bulls could think like that. The Lakers know they ain't going to win this year but signing guys to one year deals to save cap room for next year and use those contracts as trade chips with those young guys,

Sergio Kalet

Sam: Yes, eight or bust? I thought all this was about not fielding a team that just tries to make the playoffs and then is ousted in four or five games. Doesn't everyone always say you have to have a plan? Magic's was to take over a team missing the playoffs for four years (and Magic added one) and then in the most appealing and easy-to-get-free agents market in the NBA to add a major free agent. You could have gotten LeBron to LA. Look, he already has two homes there--half the NBA players have homes there--wanted a stable situation for his basketball playing sons in high school and has business interests in the community. And the Clippers still are renters. You cannot compare where the Bulls (and everyone else but the Warriors) are regarding free agents and their time line for recovering with the Lakers'. The Lakers obviously are trying to protect salary cap room for Kawhi Leonard (who hasn't been rumored yet interested in the Midwest in free agency) while providing some other kids for LeBron to play with for now. The Bulls are sticking to their plan. That's what they are supposed to be doing. Not being tempted by the glory of eight.

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball against JaVale McGee #1 of the Golden State Warriors in Game Four of the 2018 NBA Finals won 108-85 by the Golden State Warriors over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Quicken Loans Arena on June 6, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.

What are your thoughts on the one year deals the Lakers are giving out? I haven't seen anything discussed about how much of an asset they are accumulating in creating over $28 million with the deals. Seems like they are focusing on using them in a trade this year or for cap relief after the season. The long-term commitment with LeBron almost confirms that for me. Also, do you think this was the plan they pitched to win LeBron over outside of the personal lure of LA?

Matt Koza

Sam: I doubt it's the plan they pitched to Luke Walton. Oh, him. Talk about your next coach to be fired. It doesn't seem like Luke has any chance there as well as he's done. Ask Dwane Casey Obviously, LeBron just wanted to be in LA, which has been suggested for a year since even Cleveland gave him permission, and Magic Johnson acknowledged in comments last week that it's a two-year plan because, well, he could not pull it off as a one-year plan. So keep running in place. And who else is signing one-year deals but some of your delinquents who cannot get long term deals? Like many delinquents, they're not bad people, but flawed professionals. The Lakers have a lot of good, young players in Kuzma, Ingram and Ball, at least pending a Leonard trade. So JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Rondo. Often first impressions, or impressions, in life have you marked. We found out in Chicago that Rondo is a great teammate. Better than most of his other teammates. But because he was singled out before, it sticks. McGee is a good guy who has been unfairly targeted by Shaq in his highlight videos. Stephenson, well, is quixotic. The basketball problem for the Lakers is too many guys who don't shoot well. Oh, yeah, the coach. I don't know if LeBron has any issues with Walton, but Walton wasn't the hire of Magic and fellow GM Rob Pelinka. We saw in Toronto as soon as the GM felt he could fire the coach he didn't hire, he did. Even if he was coach of the year. Maybe a former Pelinka client as coach. Kobe? Nah. How about Chris Bosh? He wants to come back. How about as coach? Very bright guy. Phil's still living in LA, by the way. Nah.

Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans high-fives DeMarcus Cousins #0 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game Three of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 19, 2018 at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Your thoughts on the Cousins move to Golden State -- signing a 1 year /$5 million deal to join a super team of Curry, Thompson, Green, and Durant....he probably could've commanded max money from the Lakers. Is the 18/19 NBA season over yet?

Tom Plonowski

Sam: He couldn't get a max from anyone, which even he acknowledged because once you get to know him as the Kings and Pelicans did, you don't want him around. He's just too angry. He's like the person you know who comes to work mad every day, yelling at people, sulking, and everyone just freezes when he/she is around because no one wants to trigger the anger again. That's the walking on egg shells metaphor. So Cousins did something very smart. He's not stupid, though he plays stupid because of the anger, holding the ball, yelling at teammates and officials, standing around for 20 seconds and then firing a three, yelling at the officials some more and not ever getting back on defense. Oh, right, Achilles surgery, also. He probably cannot play until mid season, so no one was paying him big money despite his statistics, which never equalled wins. He's never even been in a playoff game. Perfect for the Warriors, who won with McGee and Zaza. They can get Cousins back to as healthy as he'll be this season and then have a defensive force and occasional offense for the playoffs. Cousins needs to be with excellence. Because he doesn't know how you reach it. He was at his best as a defensive role player with the Olympic team and Mike Krzyzewski. He needs to be with a strong coach, like Popovich, Jackson. Steve Kerr fits. And players far more accomplished, which the Warriors are, and with an edge, like Draymond Green has. He pulls any of his stuff, down he sits and they win, anyway. He's not stupid (he figured out going to Golden State), so Cosuins will be on his best behavior. He has incredible talent depending on how healthy he is. Also he'll have a great game, probably a few, with everyone watching in the conference finals or Finals and then he'll be a max (or close) player again. Heck, Luc Longley had one good game in the Finals and he became a sought after free agent. GMs aren't that aware; they watch the same games you do and think that guy will do those same things even without Curry and Durant for them. Cousins is going to be a playoff star and then a rich man and woe to whatever team he feels comfortable with after that.

Javale Mcgee was a perfect fit with GS. An athletic big that plays above the rim, blocks shots, mobile on a pick and roll, knew his role and performed it superb. He took advantage of the fact that you can't go under screens when guarding the perimeter against GS and when those guys got double-teamed and you overplay them , they would just throw a lob pass and Mcgee was there to finish. I'm not sure how Boogie fits with this team. He can shoot from the outside yes, but he's not a leaper and is coming back from a serious injury . GS plays fast with lots of movement and cutting (it reminds me of the old Kings offense under Pete Carril and Rick Alderman), where as Boogie is a poor defender that slows the game down and the ball sticks with him. Plus you don't want him taking shots away from Durant, Klay and Curry. The Pelicans offense improved when Boogie went down with an injury and they sped up the tempo and pushed the ball. He also comes with lots of baggage and not sure if he is willing to play a limited role where he's not the first or second option offensively. What am I missing here?

Bobby Grbevski

Sam: Perhaps the one place that was ideal for Cousins. They won't put up with his stuff. Many have likened it to when the Bulls acquired Rodman, but that was different in that the Bulls had a vast need for a rebounding power forward when Horace Grant signed with the Magic. And, by the way, when you talk about your dynasties wasted, there may have been no greater one than with Shaq and Penny, who was a smaller version of LeBron in that era, and a before their times complement of shooters with Dennis Scott and Nick Anderson and the dirty work guy in Horace. It was a similar Bulls concept with Rodman in the part that if he acted out, the Bulls were prepared and told him they'd release him immediately. Dennis wasn't playing for his career as much as Cousins is at 28 next month. It is true when left to his desires, Cousins will slow the offense and shoot too much, which is likely why the Pelicans, hardly overwhelmed with talent, let him go. But with the Warriors, Cousins becomes a much better version of JaVale: Block shots, protect the rim, dunk a lot. And he worries about calming down Draymond. It's win, win. Well, actually, win, win, win and win again for what looks like their fourth title in five years.

Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls handles the ball against the Detroit Pistons on March 9, 2018 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan.

Should the Bulls consider walking away from Zach LaVine? I know he was a big player in the Butler trade, but with players like Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, and Klay Thompson becoming free agents next season shouldn't they consider staying the course financially. Statistically Lavine is a major defensive liability. In looking at player development the guy I would like to see get major minutes next season is Denzel Valentine. He improved from a -2.3 defensive player to a near even defensive player at -.8 from year 1 to 2. He has a high IQ and there's no reason his defense won't continue to improve. Also his offensive game took a major step forward. He averaged 5ppg, 2.6rpg, 1.1apg on 35FG% and 35% 3pt shooting in 17 mpg. With increased minutes to 27mpg he improved to 10ppg, 5.1rpg, 3.2apg on 42FG% and 39% 3pt shooting. After the all star break he shot 43% from 3pt range and nearly 44% from the field averaging 11ppg in decreased minutes at 25mpg. I think the bulls and Hoiberg should consider giving him big minutes. Its time to see what we truly have in Denzel Valentine. I'm actually pretty confident that if he got between 32-35mpg he could average between 16-20ppg and stuff the stat sheet with between 7-9rpg, 7-10apg. I believe he's developing into one of the better shooters in the league. I could see his averages 45FG% and 40+ 3pt %. Holiday could play the 2 and Chandler Hutchinson and Blakeney could provide depth off the bench. Bulls should stay the course and not pay max type money for a player who they are not completely sure about. I'd even consider low balling him to the point where he signs his one year deal and prove his worth versus getting stuck with a bad contract.

Rocky Rosado

Sam: Very good point on Denzel. not so great on Zach. I don't get much mail about Valentine, but he is a player who could have a surprising breakthrough. Not that he's going to duplicate Jimmy Butler, but he does a lot of things well. He has a good shot, he passes well, sees the floor and can make plays. He's a little on the slower moving side, but so have been many impressive players, like Steve Nash and Chris Paul. He was a mess as a rookie basically assigned to stand around watching Butler, Wade and Rondo dribble and feud. Then it was tough to gain any traction last season with the ongoing tryouts and lineup roulette. Once he is allowed to settle in--and it could be starting the season at small forward--he could be a good tertiary playmaker and shooter. He sees angles better than most everyone on the team. He's always been rushing a bit too much with his spot in the lineup continually uncertain given the circumstances. The chorus of don't go broke paying Zach has been reasonable. The larger issue is if someone said to you that you could go after a player in free agency who was a dunk champion and 40 percent three-point shooter who is healthy after ACL surgery, you'd be very interested. Zach's market isn't great now because, like Cousins, he's coming off surgery and there aren't many teams with salary cap room. So play it out, like Jimmy Butler did, and take your chances in free agency? Jimmy wasn't coming off ACL. And Zach, a one and done, can sign for maybe three years and be a free agent at 26. Next year's free agent class could be very big, and would he be one of the elite among the likes of Butler, Kyrie Irving, Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, DeAndre Jordan, Harrison Barnes, Kevin Love, Karl-Anthony Towns, Al Horford, Dario Saric, Enes Kanter and many, many others? He's still capable of being the best player in that trade. Capable of being. I'm assuming the Bulls still see it that way.

Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball during the game against the New York Knicks on January 2, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.

The Kawhi Leonard story is compelling because we can guess, but we do not know with any certainty why he wants to leave. Does he have a serious medical issue that the Spurs Medical staff did not appreciate or is this a reaction to hurt feelings from the Tony Parker criticism or does he miss home? What is clear is that we really do not know with any degree of certainty why he wants to leave. To turn down a supermax contract with one of the best franchises in sports and not know with some certainty the reason is amazing to me. We do not know if it is physical or mental. Obviously it can be something in between physical and mental but there is clearly a lack of clarity with why he wants to leave so bad. What in god's name is wrong? I find this one of the most interesting, painful, compelling quagmire in sports right now.

Bruce Roberts

Sam: Well said. Now imagine if he were a Bull and was doing this. What do you think the community reaction would be? Heck, Derrick Rose at least went to the games when he couldn't play. This is one of the more bizarre stories in a league that could feature them as a family crest. I think most everyone figured there at least was a chance he'd return for the money. Heck, no one's had this much trouble in San Antonio since Davy Crockett. It doesn't seem like it now, and the amazing part is, as you say, he hasn't said a thing about this. I saw some media reports this week that when the Spurs management went to New York to see him in rehab he hid from them and wouldn't see them. It seems a shocking overreaction. There can be misdiagnoses. The Spurs gave him no problem about getting multiple opinions. They hardly pressured him to play this season, at least it seems from the outside. Which would give me pause. Certainly Leonard is a talented player. But is there a mental, physical or psychological issue? I get the Lakers saying, 'If he wants to come we'll have the money next summer, we're not competing now, anyway, with the fun house we've put together in free agency, and we're not giving up four years of lottery picks. Let's see what he's about.' Which also suggests the potential rental teams, like the Celtics and 76ers, could be having some second thoughts. You know, if this guy will pull this with the franchise that nurtured him from a non lottery project to an MVP candidate and basically never forced him to speak to anyone, what does he owe us on a one-year deal? Leonard is going to have to break this deadlock and reassure someone sometime. Yes, what is wrong?

Wonder if players like Irving, Bosh, Lowe and J.R. Smith were laughing Sunday when George signed a max deal to stay with OKC. James goes back to talk with Cleveland and they basically told him "Thanks for the championship, We are moving on without you...best of luck!! Philly basically said "We would like to have you but we are not tampering with the youth we have on our team & we are not changing our direction to accommodate you... Don't remember any of that with MJ. Outside of Grant not wanting to play with Jordan when you want to make comparisons.

Randall Sanders

Sam: I think Dan Gilbert is the most relieved; he gets his team back. LeBron is, by all accounts, a decent guy and can be a supportive teammate. Though that's somewhat in conflict with the way he basically takes over a franchise. It often was uneasy early when Pat Riley vetoed that, but LeBron was desperate with no titles. His legacy is essentially settled like the foundation of a great building. One more or fewer championship or MVP isn't changing anything. So off he went for lifestyle in his last act. Pretty smart. LeBron proves the ultimate ambivalence for franchises, sort of that deal with the devil thing. Not to equate LeBron with any evil, but he gives you your best chance to succeed again. The price is he takes the soul of your franchise. He dictates the style of play, the personnel, the travel, the show. He can be difficult to play with in a way that Jordan was, as well, and many of the best ever players. They do so much that if there is a loss, it's difficult to blame them.

LeBron is as highly competitive as any of them, so his frustration can show a little over the edge sometimes in defeat. He dictates the style of play, and you need to fit like Kyle Korver. Not be a slasher who needs the ball like Jordan Clarkson or someone like Rodney Hood, who also makes plays with the ball. Though it's not unusual. We saw much of that when Wade joined Jimmy Butler on the Bulls. I think Paul George just decided after near career ending surgery to take the money. As difficult as it can be sometimes to play with a dominating star like that, every franchise would sign up, and you make a lot more money and your reputation increases for doing less on a winning team with someone like LeBron than a lot of points on a 25-win team. I'm sure the Bulls will continue to hold a roster spot open for him if he'd be interested.

Due to the disparity of talent in the league, a number of NBA fans already crowned the Golden State Warriors for three-peat, before the season even started. What is your opinion about making GLeague more marketable, just so fans of non-competing teams(a.k.a tanking teams) could find other source of basketball entertainment? I was thinking that if, the minor league could get more funding and market, they could afford better players. This make the games more competitive and marketable. Gleague could be an option for NBA players taking minimum salary, to be featured in a team and earn bigger money, rather than buried at the end of the bench. Right now, I have the impression that NBA players view GLeague as basketball purgatory. Where if you played there, your one step away from ending your career, rather than saving it. But if NBA make the minor league more appealing, players might be more than willing to resurrect their careers there, than bounce around as a NBA journey man.

Peter John Jimenez

Sam: It's a preparatory league like in baseball; not designed as a competitive alternative. But it does raise an interesting philosophical question about what is an NBA player or major leaguer, or the elite? Sports really isn't a pure meritocracy. It really isn't a scientific examination. Can you really watch a game and recognize the skill level between two players? Sure, we know it when we see it with LeBron James or Kevin Durant. But, for example, if you were watching say, Walter Lemon, a 6-3 point guard who averaged 22 and 6 in the G-league, and Kris Dunn, would you know the difference? Not to say Dunn is not an NBA player, but I go to class A minor league games in One County. I see kids making diving plays, hitting home runs, throwing 96. Can I tell the difference between them and say Jose Quintana? People like to be associated with what they are told is the best. They often really can't see it for themselves.

I often go to plays in Aurora at the Paramount Theater. I've been to Broadway plays often having lived in New York for 25 years and cannot really see the difference. You pay five times as much for Broadway, but more than that people will boast about having seen something on Broadway in New York as different and more special and be willing to spend far more money without being able to describe the difference. It's the atmosphere, the event, the surroundings, as well. Can you tell the difference in a piece of pie in a five-star restaurant? Of course, the large majority cannot just as they cannot with players. If they could, general managers would make a lot better personnel decisions, also. There is a process in which the elite in fields gather. But it's not universal and not completely objective. Every small newspaper I ever worked at had writers and editors better than many of those I worked at from the biggest media markets. But without the reputation. People like to be part of and witness, at least what they believe, is the best. That's why they tell you about dinner in Paris and not Idaho. But try getting those potatoes in Paris. It's not so much about players not wanting to play in the G-league, which they don't. It's about the notion you are seeing the best. Everyone wants to be part of witnessing the best. Whether they can discern that or not. They'll pay for that. It really is a heck of a business model. I'm in also.

Cristiano Felicio #6 of the Chicago Bulls goes to the basket against the Detroit Pistons on April 11, 2018 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

As I watch Brazil's soccer team close in a quarterfinal berth, I think about how appropriate is Cristiano Felicio's name. As in, "Christ am I happy to have secured a 4-year $32 million contract!" Yes, I read about his Horatio Alger upbringing and weird prep experience in the Bay Area. But, no way he deserved that contract last year (or this year). Would you have any insight into what the Bulls brass was thinking? I know there are crazy things that happen w NBA contracts (33yr old, never an NBA champion Chris Paul will earn $40 million per year for the next four!). Pray tell, is his contact somehow wrapped up in the Car Wash scandal that rocked Brazil?

David Gould

Sam: Sometimes you have the right plan and the wrong guy. It was like Jerry Krause's famous great last act with the Bulls in trading Elton Brand and getting Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry in the draft. It should have worked and been, if not a dynasty, a top contender for years. It was Cousins without the crazy and Anthony Davis. Or was supposed to be. Jerry had the right idea, that Elton was good, but wouldn't get you to great. So he took a risk. It didn't work. It happens. The Bulls were not wrong in their thinking with Felicio; just the execution. Though perhaps he comes back a new guy this season. It was really just this last disappointing season. They were burned with Jimmy Butler when he played out his deal and improved drastically. So they find this diamond in the rough who looks like he'll be Clint Capella; at worst Bismack Biyombo, big, defensive, role and roll guys who are getting well into eight figure contracts. Tie him up with a deal that is basically the salary cap exception in this era. It's a tactic that's worked well with the Reinsdorf White Sox with players like Chris Sale. It's a forward thinking philosophy, to some extent, as you perhaps get a rotation player inexpensively and the player gets security before anyone else would offer. Sometimes the player lets you down; sometimes your analysis is inexact. Whatever occurred, Felicio regressed last season. He said late in the season the pressure of the contract affected him. OK, we'll see this season. The Bulls believed they had found a jewel. It's looking like zirconia for now. We'll see if they still can rub off some stain and find a vein of value there.

LBJ gonna have to bust for 82 games for the Lakers to make it. This isn't the east. PG- Lonzo Ball SG- KCP SF- Brandon Ingram PF- LeBron James C- Javale Megee PG- Rajon Rondo SG- Josh Hart SF- Lance Stephenson PF- Kyle kuzma C- Mo Wagner. I see the Jazz and Wolves fighting for the last spot.

Mike Sutera

Sam: He got to the Finals third in the East last season. We'll see if there's a Western version of the Toronto Raptors who leave skid marks in their shorts during introductions against the Lakers next season. You know what we are going to hear all season and into the playoffs--I cannot believe LeBron doesn't assure a team a playoff spot--that no one can believe LeBron took a team that far. At least Lonzo Ball's father may help with that anti-narrative; assuming Lonzo doesn't get traded. The Lakers if you can look past the JaVales and Lances and Rajons have some good, young talent. They had a terrific run during the season after a rough 11-27 start, winning 17 of 24 with most on the road. They were looking like a .500 team this season without LeBron. That's not far to 50 with most any All-Star added. So the Lakers have a shot at top four in the West, which isn't quite that loaded. Golden State, sure, but Houston for now probably took a step back without Ariza and who knows with Chris Paul's fragility. We're all assuming Oklahoma City splits with Carmelo and gets Robeson back. Bench? The Pelicans built that good half season start with Cousins. The Clippers are in rehab. The Jazz look at least as good, but hardly dominating. Denver's got a lot of guys, but didn't make the playoffs. The Spurs may be starting again. The Timberwolves? It's the Jimmy drama again. We'll see how that goes. The Suns and Mavs are better, and maybe they make a run at eight. OK, it's Warriors, Rockets, Thunder, Jazz, Lakers, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Mavericks. Preliminary

Jimmy Butler #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball against the Houston Rockets in Game Four of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 23, 2018 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

There are rumors that Jimmy Butler's unhappy with his teammates' work ethic and unwilling to resign with the Wolves. There's also this thing about Kyrie and JB wanting to play together. Since both will be free agents in 2019, could the Bulls sign them both?

Paul Contreras

Sam: Phil Jackson told us you never say never in the NBA. And as many of my correspondents suggest/fear/wail into the night the Bulls never will get a top free agent. So if no one's coming, an All-Star backcourt? The rumors about Kyrie have long been wanting to return back to the New York area and the Knicks. The Knicks could create enough salary cap room for two free agents next year, and Jimmy is a big city guy. That makes some sense. Jimmy going into the last year of his contract certainly hasn't been endearing himself to the locals lately with reports of his alleged dissatisfaction with the team's best player, Towns. Jimmy is a talent, but he feuded with Rose, with Noah, with Rondo. Desperation or no, it would be difficult to envision after trading Jimmy for prospects the Bulls would pay he and Kyrie Irving $30 million each to make LaVine and Dunn little used reserves. Though with Jimmy and Kyrie, both ball dominant guards, the Bulls presumably could get a lot in trade for Markkanen. Because there'd be no point in having him around since no one was going to pass him the ball. I guess you could say I don't see it for now.

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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