Jabari Parker speaks at a Press Conference at the United center with John Pasxon, Gar Forman, and Fred Hoiberg

Ask Sam Mailbag: 07.20.18

Sam opens his mailbag and answers readers' questions

This is the final Ask Sam for the 2017-18 season. The 2018-19 season begins next week. It only seems like it. Ask Sam will resume in October. This is a longer one for the finale. Yes, it will have to hold you for two months. Maybe ready slowly. Consider it like the closing credits and hum a little for accompanying music. Thanks for the season long discussion, the passion, the anger, the despair and hope. I suspect there's plenty more to come.

I love the Bulls are spending their monies with the Parker & Lavine signings and not trading for future crapshot draft picks. The Bulls have a starting 5 with upside that rivals (one could argue that each Starter could be an all star in next 3 years) other eastern Conf teams so let's develop & evaluate before rolling the dice for another 19 year old or an aging free agent. When I look at other east teams, only Celtics are on paper significantly better…and that could change if Kyrie "walks" in next years free agency & Horford ages It's hard to attract top free agents to Chicago so re-sign Lavine & sign hometown Parker to score the points - the two in total could average 50 per game. Hoiberg needs to design team defense schemes to use Dunn & Carter strengths to offset Lavine & Parker shortcomings.

Wayne Warner

Sam: There were some who suggested the Bulls would have been better offer absorbing Faried from Denver and players for another first round draft pick, which was top 12 protected for next season. For now at least, the Bulls seem to have enough high draft picks. It's always interesting to me the way some seem to favor this continued draft process, as if a continuing supply of draft picks eventually will lead to a fortune like playing the same numbers in the lottery every week. You know, it has to hit sometime. The Bulls now have a potential starting lineup with Dunn, LaVine, Parker, Markkanen and Carter, all lottery picks. I agree you need one to hit. The 76ers have been a model except for their felonious method of achieving the result—I still believe based on being responsible for an entertainment product management should have been charged with fraud by the local prosecutors for what they did over four years—and hit with Embiid. With some luck since many said he'd never play after basically missing two years with foot injuries. The NBA would not be as good without him. Without Embiid the 76ers still would likely be a .500 type team. So, yes, let's see what and who the Bulls have. But the mix and combination could be quite the puzzle and challenge.

I have this prediction about the season: Starting 5 will be Dunn, Lavine, Parker, Markannen and Lopez. Second unit will be Valentine, Portis, Blakeney, Payne and Wendell Carter. The first 3 would all be great candidates for the 6th man award, another way to see it will be that they will eliminate each other as there are no way 3 players on the same team will have enough opportunities to win it. I reckon the starters should be scoring 75, and the second unit should average 40. That means the Bulls should be a very exciting team this year.

Stian Nordvik

Sam: Certainly interesting. It's not an unreasonable rotation, though I wonder where Justin Holiday fits. Nowhere in your model, and this is the final season on his contract with the Bulls. But I'm fairly sure he expects a chance to compete and I'm interested to see how and where that works out. It certainly sounds like the starting five is pretty set with Carter off the bench to start the season. I'm sure Hoiberg will talk about competition for positions, but I really don't see where. Could Holiday beat out Parker at small forward? Maybe if Parker isn't healthy. Hutchison looked overwhelmed at times in Summer League. He could come more slowly and see G-league time. We've seen Holiday, and you know the Bulls will want Parker in as much as possible given the second year team option. Payne seems set for now as backup; Portis, of course, and I agree Blakeney probably has done enough to warrant a spot. But there'll also be plenty of odd lineups with Parker considered more a power forward and the team seeing Markkanen and Portis often as a center for this era.

Dunn and Holiday block a shot

So mgt was worried about a Trae and Zach backcourt defensively yet they are cool with Zach and Jabari. Makes sense lol. Dunn and Holiday are our only two defenders on the perimeter. People are already talking about dealing Justin leaving us with just Dunn. We can be an offensive juggernaut at times with this roster but we will be putrid on defense all the time. I was too young to remember the 91 Nuggets but i read about them and it was not pretty. Rolo and Wendell will be having guys attacking the basket at will with no defenders.

Mike Sutera

Sam: Actually, management was not worried at all about Young and defense because I would not have been surprised if Young and Carter were available if they might have taken Young. Some in management really liked him, and after a rough shooting start this summer looked like the best passer among all the rookies. Both Jabari and I think defense can be overrated in the NBA, or that the weakness is overstated. On which team other than maybe the Warriors don't you have two or three horrible defenders? Barkley was a poor defender; Bird wasn't very good and neither was Magic. Plus it's different now with so many teams playing switching defenses on the perimeter on pick and roll. It becomes almost like a zone and other than Lopez, who is short term, the Bulls have big men who can move out to the perimeter on switches and not be horrible. LaVine gets a lot of flack, but I see that more as the reputation you come in with. Toni Kukoc wasn't such a bad defender, but everyone said he was, so he must have been. The truth is it's often difficult for media and fans to determine the quality of the defense because of the schemes being played, which aren't public, and who has which responsibility. Overall, that future five of the Bulls includes five players all reasonably athletic, capable of moving side to side well enough and long armed types who are athletic enough to react. There's no one as indifferent as James Harden, part of the league's winningest team, and likely no one who for the first three quarters will play as little defense as LeBron James played last season.

Gar Forman and John Pasxon pose for a photo at a press conference introducing Jabari Parker

Gar and Pax are often criticized for not making moves, and not being bold. Seems to me, their moves in the past 18 months should end those accusations. Good or bad, they were bold. Although, selling the Jordan Bell pick still has everyone scratching their heads. Not sure if that was bold, or a collective brain cramp.

Craig Dillon

Sam: Really, we're still talking about Jordan Bell? OK, let's look at Bell, who, by the way, was playing in the Finals and ran away from shooting the ball as much as Felicio at his worst. Would he start? No, obviously. Playing ahead of Porter and Carter off the bench? Of course not. So we're talking an eighth to 10th man defender who doesn't score. Good for the Warriors; not so much for the Bulls. But, yes, it's been a more innovative period, and I doubt they're done, though probably for this summer they are. Time to let them play and see who should stay.

Jamal Crawford #11 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots the ball against the Houston Rockets in Game Three of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 21, 2018 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Do you think the Bulls will sign anyone else this year, vet minimum maybe for 1 yr ? We need some veteran shooting help, do I smell a Jamal Crawford reunion ? Is Cam Payne really going to be our backup point guard ? Oh my…What are your thoughts on Kris Dunn? I'm a big fan and he's a tough kid who showed drastic improvement after year 1. I know the Bulls were really high on him coming out of Providence.

Chris Verzevoulias

Sam: I don't expect any more significant signings because players like Jamal are best fits on contending teams, and I don't see the Bulls there quite yet. Of course, we could be surprised given we all have no idea how this is going to work and fit together. Payne bereft of his foot pain was pretty good as a backup last season. He didn't shoot the ball well, which he has done better, but he moved it ahead quickly and got the team into offense expeditiously. He like LaVine in a different way carries that bad first impression when everyone turned on him because he came in the trade of favored Gibson and was hurt and was basically forced into the lineup as a tryout without earning his spot—hardly his fault—while veterans like Butler and Wade were concerned about the playoffs and not that encouraging. The fans and media often take their cue from the best players who speak most often, so Payne had little chance. I thought he handled it well. He's better than your memory of that time. Dunn, to me, is the biggest question mark among the presumed starters. He had some good moments with winning shots in December and looked like he was breaking through before he broke his face with the fall against the Warriors in January. He never was quite the same again. Now the Bulls when Carter is playing have a lineup of players who can make plays and have All-Star potential. Can Dunn be a facilitator to both make them look better and be more productive and provide the balance with his offensive play? Will he defend or fall into the trap of also saving his game for offense? Will he push the ball and give it up and trust teammates, which didn't always go smoothly last season? Is he really a point guard? Or just what kind of player is he? While many look at Parker and LaVine, I'll watch Dunn the most early because he could determine the fate of the season.

Jimmy Butler passes the ball

In my mind this rebuild effort is going as well as any. We have some young players that could hit the next gear and bring the team up with them. Much of that is due to the Butler trade. But now LBJ has joined the rest of the elite in the West. The East is wide open, and the Bulls aren't in a position to capitalize. Knowing what you know now, would you rather have tried to build around Jimmy? I think he would be one of the top 3 players in the East, making any sounding cast one of the top 4 teams. Personally, in sports fandom I'm always a bird in hand kind of guy.

Jesse Chrismer

Sam: Disaster alert! No offense to Jimmy, though it may sound like it, but with Jimmy eligible for that supermax deal if he stayed with the Bulls—and they'd likely have to give it to him of at least $40 million per year for the next five with yet another knee issue last season—and then little ability to add other top free agents, what were the Bulls going to be.? OK, LeBron's with the Lakers. Better than all those young guys with Boston? All those young guys with Philadelphia? Even Toronto without bogeyman LeBron to scare them? Would Jimmy have attracted Kyrie Irving? That was always his big plan, but if Kyrie leaves the Celtics, he's long made it clear it's for back home to New York. If Jimmy leaves Minnesota, New York, I guess, could be a possibility for him. Maybe the Lakers if they can't get Kawhi; the Clippers if they don't get Kawhi? Had Jimmy stayed, it was with Wade, which was not going well. Jimmy hasn't played well with young players again, this time with really good ones as he's been at odds with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins over their alleged playing commitment. Jimmy did some great things for the Bulls, and the Bulls did some great things for Jimmy, even though he had to play out his deal. He got his max contract. Does anyone really miss another Jimmy/Wade/Rondo season?

Wendell Carter Jr. #34 of the Chicago Bulls shoots the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League on July 8, 2018 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

Apart from the illegal (moving) screens he set, Carter's screens seemed largely ineffective. He would often either try and slip the contact at the last minute or he would crouch forward into a stance, compromising his sturdy base and allowing defenders to slip by unchallenged and unpunished. Is this a weakness—something he'll have to work on—or the desired technique for the Bull's style of play? Given his solid frame and that centers and power forwards seldom fight over screens, he's not looking at major contact anyway, especially in the modern NBA.

Nathan Anderson

Sam: Yup, another draft mistake. No way the guy makes it in the NBA. Overrated. Blew it again? Gotta love the fan community. Like they kept telling me in '84; this Jordan guy can't shoot; Quintin Dailey shoots better. How's he getting to the basket when no one is guarding his shot? This ain't that weak ACC. What! Carter was setting those bone jarring ones, banging on guys as a teenager like he was Rick Mahorn. I thought he was fundamentally sound, aware of the direction of the play, body between the basket and the man, awareness of the ball, quick with weak side help. Though it is reassuring to understand there's never anything on which we all will agree.

Jabari Parker #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks handles the ball against the Boston Celtics in Game Four of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 22, 2018 at Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Parker is basically a 1 year tryout deal. That's our risky Michael Porter pick in a way.

If they kept Butler, cap would be eaten up by his contract, no 7 squared picks and Butler at 29 with lots of miles.

Jeff Lichtenstein

Sam: I like the Porter comparison. Though he would have been a four-year risk on a rookie contract. I don't hear much from all those demanding him in the draft with yet another back surgery last week. Maybe he makes it, but maybe Jabari does, too, and returns to form and you have a No. 2 overall pick in the draft who was being likened at times to LeBron and Carmelo. One huge risk a season is enough. The Bulls just waited a month to take one, and in the interim didn't pass up a player in Carter who could be a starter for a decade. Sounds right.

Kyle Korver #26 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots against Shaun Livingston #34 of the Golden State Warriors during Game Three of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 6, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.

How about this… Korver For Denzel (hutch and Parker cover him) & Holiday.

We get 3pt shooting, they get small contracts and save money. Love will get hurt anyway and then it's tank all the way for them.

Andrew Brown

Sam: Never too soon to start trading off guys, eh? Been here, done that? Though as I recall fans were saying Kyle was done with the Bulls six years ago. Kyle is a specialist for a good team with a guy like LeBron, so maybe the Lakers. Yes, we've already heard the Cavaliers, understandably, want to move him. But that's $7.5 million and a buyout in 2019-20 for an aging player—I know I said I don't worry that much on defense, but a 37-year-old weak defender?—for a team experimenting with playoff position. Let's at least save the trades until the first day of training camp. Plus, I like Denzel as a wing playmaker for that second unit. I think he'd be much better for the Bulls than Korver could at this stage of his career. Even as Korver has been one of my favorite NBA people.

Welcome Jabari. Interesting! But, if they are going to pay $20 million per year, they should include a third year, team option. Two years sounds like "I get my form back and leave to Houston, Dallas or join my friend in Nola". By the way, fans are mentioning Anthony Davis homecoming, but where that leaves Lauri or Wendell?

William Blanco

Sam: Maybe Durant, too, and then poor Lauri. Everyone's been mentioning Davis returning to Chicago except for Davis. We all assume he'll be in Golden State soon in some deal for Draymond Green. Well, if he gets his form back, as you say, why exactly would anyone want to be in Texas? In case you haven't noticed, those teams get fewer free agents than the Bulls. Heck, free agents pretend to want to go there, like DeAndre Jordan a few years back, and then are scared straight and change their minds. I'm fairly sure Parker would love to recover and establish a base in Chicago where his family does wonderful community work, where he's always said he'd like to play and where he wanted to come on a risky one-year deal after reports last season in Milwaukee he rejected a three-year offer. Enough of the Chicago hate!

Jabari Parker??? I don't get it. Has GarPax invested in an orthopedic clinic outside the United Center? This off-season I was hoping the Bulls would take on a bunch of bad expiring contracts for draft picks and/or Felicio, giving them the flexibility to entice 3 top players (not named Irving or Butler) who wanted to play together in the East. I know that does not seem plausible, given GarPax's history, but players in the NBA want to control their destiny and Chicago is a big market that could have facilitated that. Surely we could sign players with similar talent as Lavine and Parker next season for the same amount. Plus, I would enjoy one more year of watching our young guys develop, and Lavine is not going to help with that. What are we aiming for now?

Jason Nitz

Sam: I think you are one of the exceptions who wants to see this tanking continuing. I believe the Bulls have had enough of it, thankfully. As I noted—and many others have as well—the short term contract seems a very good risk for a former No. 2 overall player when the team had to spend the money, anyway. Others like Marcus Smart, who got his deal, were seeking multiple years. The Bulls maintained their flexibility and still can pull off that top three player thing you are talking about, though I have no idea who these three great players are. Basically the league's top 10 scorers other than Irving are tied to teams going forward, and you didn't want Irving, anyway. So give. Who exactly are we talking about?

I'm having a hard time understanding what seems to be the national consensus that the Bulls could've used their cap space better. While I'm not 100% sold on Lavine, I think the deal for Parker makes a lot of sense. I'd rather take a chance on him for a year or more than take Faried and what might end up to be the #19 pick from Denver. They aren't locked in past this year and if for some reason Durant or Klay come knocking and have an overwhelming desire to play for the Bulls then we can let Jabari go. But if he's good then we have a potential starting lineup that are #2, 5, 7, 7 and 13 picks all 24 and under. They have to spend the money anyways, I'd rather take a flyer on Parker than the Nuggets deal. Am I missing something?

Scott Weybright

Sam: No. OK, Klay Thompson, and he's all of a sudden this big target for next season. And Durant, technically. But the Warriors with this amazing winning run are about to move into the newest and greatest arena ever built on the water in San Francisco. So the Warriors are going to have plenty of money to pay everyone. And who's bailing on that to come to the Bulls? Knicks? Heat? Exactly. Yes, you might get Kris Middleton, considered one of the top 10 free agents for next summer. Durant and Kawhi are the top two and then Karl-Anthony Towns, who is restricted, and you know Minnesota would match anything. Especially with Butler giving all sorts of signs he's leaving.

That Second Year Team option made this Parker deal absolutely fantastic for the Bulls. Whether he works out or not, the Bulls can either cut, retain, or trade him for another asset. In fact, this contract gives the Bulls even more flexibility in the 2019 free agency, should the Bulls need to do a sign and trade. But most importantly, Zach's retention and Jabari's arrival reveal just how much the Bulls front office is committed to developing WCJ's defensive IQ, giving him ample opportunity to play help defense. Assuming Parker plays the starting 3, he and Levine would make an unimaginable defensive pairing on the perimeter. I, along with opposing wings, look forward to seeing how they fair on that end of the floor.

Peter Chen

Sam: Perhaps that is the plan. Weak perimeter defense so Carter Jr. learns to react faster. Brilliant. Never thought of that.

Hats off to Gar Forman! Congrats this Jabari Parker will be awesome for us. Rebuild complete. Now u need a productive bench. Check out Kendrick Nunn off the Warriors summer league. He went to Simeon too. Might be worth having him with Donte Ingram in the g-league on 2-way deals.

Ryan Carpel

Sam: Well, perhaps not complete. But I can see Ingram with a two-way contract in the Bulls Simeon post graduate program.

What do you think about this whole deal of letting people come straight from high school to the NBA? You usually slam the age of nba players. I was shocked, I feel like it only makes the nba worse.

Darren Rowe

Sam: It does only make the NBA worse. It seems obvious: How is any business or organization better by having more inexperienced workers? I know there's been all sorts of fallacious consensus that this somehow violates the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and it is discriminatory not to allow kids to come to the NBA if a team wants them. Maybe draft LeBron's kids now? What's fair about making them go to high school? Of course, the law has nothing to do with this because those constitutional rights apply only in the public arena. The NBA is a private business. Maybe civic responsibility; but we're not sharing in the profits. I've never quite understood why the players' union refuses to agree to an age requirement. After all, these kids run out their current members. And I don't know what the NBA is getting out of this as commissioner Adam Silver seems to be on board. The age limit is collectively bargained, like the draft, thus legal. There's been rumors of a change in 2021 from the rule that went into effect in 2006. So soon if you have a high draft pick you have to be scouting high school and AAU games. And you thought the college coaching and officiating was bad. Get ready for the next Kwame Brown/ DeSagana Diop?Eddy Curry era. Miss it?

Jahlil Okafor #4 of the Brooklyn Nets drives to the basket against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 16, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I've seen an article saying Jahlil Okafor is not getting any interests from any teams. Do you think it's worth the Bulls taking a shot on a minimum, and see if he becomes a serviceable back up?

He fits in with the "go young" mantra, and even though we have a lot of depth at centre, I don't see us keeping Lopez, Felicio and Asik long term. If (and when) Carter does become the starting centre, Okafor could be a good back up, if he resurrects his career. It would be another young lottery pick for our core.

Daniel George

Sam: Another of the many mysteries to me. Can he be that bad? I don't believe the the Bulls are interested, and even though the center position beyond Carter Jr. isn't great or long term with Lopez and Felicio, they're both under contract, Felicio for three more. Plus, the Bulls envision Bobby Portis more a center in this era and see Markkanen playing some center. There's little point in giving Okafor a try if you don't have anywhere to play him. The Bulls will be trying to get Carter Jr. out there more. Though with Mike Krzyzewski now apparently doing Bulls personnel, who knows.

What are the chances we make the playoffs? We got a lot of young guys and usually young players don't tend to do well in the win-loss column.

Gorav Raheja

Sam: I can see the Bulls being a marginal or possible playoff team given the depth in the Eastern Conference. Or dearth. If I had to pick now, I'd have them on the outside because of the additions of so many new players who, as you note, are young, inexperienced and post rehabilitation. It looks like an intriguing and entertaining season, if curious because of the need to mix and meld very different skills and talents, players who basically never have played together and all are in some form—other than Lopez—of proving themselves and regaining their games. Then to take the next step for teamwork and personal sacrifice isn't very simple. My East Eight for Now? Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto, Indiana, Milwaukee, Washington, Detroit, Miami. Nine? Possible.

Jabari Parker speaks with the media.

"Look at everybody in the league. They don't pay players to play defense. There's only two people historically that play defense." – Jabari Parker.

I realized listening to Jabari Parker's press conference that he was someone who struggled to speak smoothly and was at times defensive. I had hoped he was better at speaking about basketball itself but after listening to his interview on 670 The Score he then sounded ignorant about basketball. To me the most insulting thing you can say about a player is he doesn't play defense. It takes pride and effort. You'd think a kid from Chicago could grasp that saying such a thing, even if it were true, is a big turn off to most basketball clubs, and their fans. It's not a comment a player can make that just goes away. It sticks with you your whole career. Especially in Chicago. I've seen him play and thought he came back strong after both surgeries. An okay pickup for one or two seasons. However, the last 24 hours has left me not impressed. What's the fan reaction?

Dawn Parker

Sam: About where you are with detours to fury and vexation. So let me try to explain. I think most everyone has it wrong; sort of. That's right. Just because everyone says it's so doesn't mean it is. On the face of it, Jabari's comments miss the politically correct target by several blocks. Not that he told everyone the truth because it's ludicrous to suggest this kid who led four straight teams in the tough public league to state titles, whose father was an NBA player, who was a star in college and has worked his way back from two major knee surgeries is going to quit competing. If you read the statements, you could surmise he was taking tips from World B. Free and Stephon Marbury; give me the ball, get out of the way and we're going to get 35 wins if I have anything to say about it. There have been many like that. Check some comments on defense from Charles Barkley.

Anyway, if you listen to the conversation, it seems apparent what Parker was talking about as he pointed to the excellence of NBA players, that you don't stop those players one on one. Jeff Van Gundy says it on every broadcast. If a guy wants to score with that talent he's going to. It hardly means Parker is not going try, and he did say he intended to. But it's the trap that also sunk Derrick Rose often. Words are parsed and overanalyzed more than ever these days, and even when it's apparent what a player really meant, like being able to see his kid graduate just being an awkward way of saying long term health is important as every single player says, it is interpreted as a lack of commitment, a don't care attitude, a take that money and run. You know: I deserve it more because I would care compared to these spoiled stars. And which state titles did you lead your school to? Offense is more vital in the NBA these days, which even the math shows, and Parker merely seemed to be emphasizing that. Plus, he knows the NBA and knows most teams have few man to man defenders anymore, that this is probably the era with the fewest individual defenders because of the rampant defensive switching.

It's basically the first time in NBA history teams have accepted playing zones so legally. So Parker looks around and knows, well, who exactly are you talking about with all this defensive talk? Parker may not be the quickest, but he's never not tried. I've also seen this syndrome regularly with players who have been injured. All they are asked is about their health. It's pretty much why Russell Westbrook stopped talking after multiple MCL surgeries; Kevin Durant at times. Bill Walton stopped talking for about six years. It becomes tiring every day from every media person feigning concern asking about health when all you have been doing for months is the private, painful rehabilitation. So Parker shows up in Chicago in his welcome home, and most of the questions are about his health again. I got one of those curt answers, also, but I got it. Though it's still the question until we all see. Then after 20 minutes at the podium, it's a bunch of individual TV and radio interviews and then on the phone with more media and in the afternoon about five hours later on WSCR being asked about health and defense for about the 100th time, and so he didn't say the precisely correct thing. Parker isn't going to be Dennis Rodman or Alvin Robertson or Tony Allen—and by the way can you name 10 great individual defenders in the NBA today? Five?—but his career always has been about work, commitment and success. You don't achieve that without playing both ends. Maybe not at an All-Star level, but this is a specious issue. The unfortunate thing is it may well send Parker into that one or two word comment state and, really, who could blame him? The guy's here one day and based on a few awkward sentences a decade of success is ignored?

I understand the moves made by the Bulls this offseason. I believe the deal to attain Jabari was a necessary risk/gamble. I understand the thought process of management to retain Zach Lavine considering he was the marquee talent in the Jimmy Butler transaction. My question is, do you the believe the Bulls have a greater chance of returning to prominence with an ensemble cast or by continuing to tank and acquiring a transcendent talent (i.e. LBJ, KD, Curry, etc.)? Although we have seen ensemble casts win championships in the past ( see Pistons, Mavs) I believe that most championships in the NBA are won by the aforementioned transcendent talents. I'd like to know where you stand. Is tanking not an option? In the same way the Spurs acquired Tim Duncan. Or, is management opposed to that because it diminishes the interest and financial viability of the team if they don't put a competent product on the floor? At that point we are talking more bottom line than winning percentage.

Olusina Adebayo

Sam: I think management is opposed to that because it's not maybe a great idea. I think the fans would turn on you. The flaw is in cherry picking the lottery. You can't just look back at the few stars from the lottery and believe your team would get them. Most teams don't. Plus, the lottery odds starting next June are being flattened out even more, and many teams that pursued that route often did so for a decade. And now with the NBA apparently soon to go back to direct from high school, we may have even more of the Leonard situations where a player gets trained by one team and then moves into free agency as he matures. If there were a generational talent and you were sure you could get him by losing 82 games, sure, go ahead. But the lottery odds for the worst record go from 25 percent to 14 percent in 2019 for No. 1. and commissioner Silver already has said that's not enough and even more reform is needed to persuade teams that losing on purpose to get lottery picks is not advantageous. You cannot run a team on luck and hope. Plus, you owe paying fans a competitive product. Not for your profit; for their enjoyment and entertainment. Every season.

Antonio Blakeney #9 of the Chicago Bulls handles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League on July 8, 2018 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Did the Bulls pass up a chance at signing Nwaba with the Blakeney signing? I like them both, but Blakeney was mostly just a nice story as an undrafted chucker. If that deal means Nwaba is out, that makes me ill. Nwaba is actually a useful, well rounded NBA player that I believe would crack the rotation of a championship level team as a solid reserve.

Joe Guest

Sam: I guess we'll find out, though none of the championship teams seem to think so quite yet. No offense to Nwaba, who was a coaching staff favorite and played as hard as anyone. But he's a very undersized forward who doesn't chuck enough. The Bulls gave him a chance when few would. I hope he gets another. But Blakeney has such scoring potential it would be a shame not to try to harness it. I feel he's the right choice between the two. And we're talking about 13th men here, anyway.

I just read a report that Kawhi Leonard is seriously considering attending USA basketball minicamp next week… you've got to be joking! After what he has pulled this year how could any team possibly be willing to give up anything to get him this year. Let alone signed him to a max contract next year. I would always give a player the benefit of the doubt when it comes to injury but for him to show up to a minicamp suddenly healed would be outrageous

Aaron Ward

Sam: Must miss Popovich.

Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant greet after the jersey retirement ceremony on December 18, 2017 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.

Watching an NBA-TV show – Shaq & Kobe talking. Kobe said that he was dead serious about coming to Chicago and was already shopping for a house when Shaq demanded to be traded. After that, he knew there was no way the Lakers would let them both go. Even Shaq was surprised to hear that.

We always assumed that was all talk, but maybe not.

Art Alenik

Sam: It's kind of nice to see them together, though they have it all wrong; so big surprise. The Lakers never were trading Kobe. Jerry Buss had made that decision years before Kobe went bonkers when the Lakers were blitzed in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. Buss had traded Shaq to accommodate Kobe when Shaq still was close to his prime because Shaq refused to defer to Kobe on the floor. Buss told his staff Kobe was the attraction and to get rid of Shaq. Buss was all about the show. Kobe even started calling radio stations and reporters that summer to demand to be traded and he was serious about Chicago. The Bulls had recruited him and met with him in LA a few years before when he was a free agent, but only the Clippers had money. So he stayed with the Lakers. But he loved the Bulls pitch and did tell his agent to make the deal and was looking at Chicago real estate. Buss' told his staff to at least tell Kobe they were trying to trade him so as not to antagonize Kobe, to make him think they would do whatever he wanted. So the Lakers suggested all sorts of crazy trade packages that no team could meet with multiple lottery picks and All-Stars. They figured Kobe would calm down as camp approached, and he did, and then they traded for Pau and Kobe said, what, me, wanting to be traded? You must have the wrong Kobe.

Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs dunks the ball during game against the Phoenix Suns on January 5, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Why do some think the Spurs got fleeced by the Raptors? I think they got a pretty good return considering the hand they were dealt.

Kawhi's trade demand and interest in the Lakers "devalued" him. Kawhi may not return in full form post injury.

The pick, although if it falls in the top 20 becomes 2 second rounders in the next round, is almost a sure thing. With Kawhi playing, I don't see how the Raptors can fall below the top 12 team, which means the Spurs will get to pick between 21 to 32. The Spurs always finds talents that fit their system even with lower picks, so this is a good pick.
Spurs is a small market - extended rebuilding will kill their bottom line. Although they're the only attraction in town besides their WNBA counterpart, they still need some stars to keep attendance. Although DeRozan is not a great 3 point shooter, he checks the boxes on other things.

Now for the Raptors I understand this is a good gamble, since:

If he re-signs next year, great - best scenario. If he bails, they freed up cap space to start rebuilt - not a bad scenario. If Kawhi underperforms - whether due to lack of compliance or inability to perform at the pre-injury level, they can cut him next year. If this results in falling out of the top 12, they'll keep their pick. Also what happens if Kawhi refuses to suit up? I assume he won't get paid. Can the Raptors ask for relief from the league if that happens so they can sign another player, perhaps at a fraction of his contract cost?

Abram Bachtiar

Sam: I like it more for the Spurs because they got an All-Star player for multiple years and a good rotation big man. The pick probably becomes a second rounder, so not a big deal unless any family members of Jordan Bell are available. Leonard, of course, has to play or prove he's hurt or he doesn't even become a free agent. I get the Toronto idea. Their overly tolerant fans, basically expecting to slip into the Finals last season with the Cavs splintering, were stunned into despondency by the sweep. So rather than breaking it up now, they're taking one more shot basically knowing there's no chance Leonard stays on like Paul George did in Oklahoma City. Then they have just one season left on the brutal Ibaka and Lowry deals that cost about $55 million annually combined. Then they break it up and start over and maybe get a shot at Canadian Andrew Wiggins in free agency and start again. It's a one year shot and if Leonard decides to buy in, the East remains open. They have a chance at least to make the Finals, though probably more so if they kept Dwane Casey. The Spurs are done competing for titles, but so are about 26 teams and there's still a season to play.

So… Jabari comes home for a rebuild on his career and hopefully get the Baby Bulls to a next level. Every reporter and geek blogger is killing GarPax and saying how horrible this is going to be. First, this is essentially a one year deal - a tryout. If it works great, if it doesn't the Bulls move on and probably get a better draft pick. Why are all these reporters fixated on your either a championship team or you have to tank? What is wrong with winning and developing a winning attitude and winning culture? No one goes from worst place to first place in one season unless you are the Miami Heat in 2010. I'm so sick of these microwave entitled people. There's nothing wrong in building up a team. How many top five draft picks become NBA legends yearly? You guessed it - not many. You keep growing and hopefully develop as much talent as possible and maybe you get a chance for a superstar to want to play for your team.

Amin Sanaia

Sam: Actually, the majority of the emails I received this week were positive about the signing, recognizing it was worth the risk short term with perhaps with more potential upside than downside and without any great plan B or C. Though I am known to have the most intelligent emailers and readers in the sports world. Just ask them.

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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