Ask Sam Mailbag: 10.06.17

For many of us, the years 1999-2007 were extremely tough. Limited wins and prospects that didn't work out after such domination in the 90s. In your experience, when a team hits the "reset" button, how long should it take for them to become relevant again? I understand this year we will have limited wins and be able to take a look at a lot of prospects however with so much cap space going in to next season is there an opportunity the Bulls throw some cash at a top free agent to speed up the process?
Mike Burling

Paxson, who remains in charge and will be, committed to the historic strategy of building selectively through the draft with free agents that would fit the new, as we like to call it, culture. He didn’t get lucky early. His first draft pick was Kirk Hinrich after Jay Williams’ career ending motorcycle accident, which was the first of the bad luck. By all accounts, Dwyane Wade was about to be a Bull in that 2003 draft. He wasn’t that highly regarded compared with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony headlining that draft. Pat Riley in Miami always believed you cannot win without a center. He had Magic, but needed Kareem; he went to New York because of Patrick Ewing. The first thing he did in Miami was get Alonzo Mourning. So Riley was set on that draft’s best big man, Chris Kamen. He finally at the last minute was talked into taking Wade by one of his disciples, Randy Pfund. Everyone was shocked by the pick since Miami had told everyone it was Kamen. The Bulls recovered with Hinrich, and were able to build the model of a hard working, committed team with Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Chris Duhon in subsequent drafts. They were able to add a role playing free agent like Andres Nocioni, though not a star. They were good and popular, a near 50-win team. But you stall there without luck. The Bulls finally got it with Derrick Rose in the 2008 draft and they were the league’s winningest team two straight seasons, probably on to a title in 2012 or 2013 before we know what happened.

This time the Bulls have a much better start on it. They’ll have continuity with Paxson running the show and they had a valuable piece in Jimmy Butler. So they could start with a core by trading Butler. Assuming they are fortunate. Assuming Zach LaVine is healthy, he can be a closer and a star. Lauri Markkanen is the first top 10 draft pick they’ve had since Rose in 2008. This season is two-fold, a tryout camp to see who among the roster of role players is worth keeping and a chance to get that first top five pick in a decade. Sure, it will be a painful season, but it will be nothing like the nightmare of 1999-2004. Still, you have to get lucky big time once. For some teams, it never happens. But if it does, the Bulls look like with the talent and a manageable payroll they’ll be in position to take advantage.

David Lee still on the market. Worth a look? Deron Williams. Must pain him Jose Calderon got a job.
Bob Ding

Nikola Mirotic

What is the NBA minimum team salary without any penalty?  Where are the Bulls in that view?  Is that the reason or a contributing factor for resigning Niko?
John Petersen

Can you explain how these new two-way contracts work? Blakeny looked good in the first preseason game but it appears he can only spend up to 45 days with the Bulls based on his contract and otherwise must be with the Windy City Bulls.  If he's with the NBA team for more than 45 days does his contract become a regular NBA contract? Or is he limited to 45 days a year in the NBA for the remainder of his two-year two-way contract?
Cameron Watkins

Well, it’s too early to make any firm observations, except that they will have a better chance to win when they hit 3’s & play defense. So far, they’ve played D for 2, maybe 3, quarters out of 8 – not good enough.  It also worries me that they are so dependent on 3-pt. shooting and have so little going on around the hoop. I can see why they started Grant ahead of Dunn, and since they both played better that way, I’d stick to it for now.  Grant really did play well in NOLA, probably the best I’ve seen from him.  And Dunn looks anything but confident.  Maybe he still feels Thibs’ breathing down his neck, because he looks like Doug McNervous out there.  Maybe playing off the bench and matching up with subs for a while will help him.  You can tell he’s an athlete and an avid defender.  Gotta love him picking a fight w/ Cousins!
Art Alenik

Nikola Mirotic

How serious are these back spasms with Markkanen? Are the bulls worried?
Mike Sutera

What are your thoughts on Dunn changing his shot form?  You could tell in the first half he was trying to shoot with his new form but later in the second half, he kinda went back to his old form where he kinda arches back as he rises up.  That's gotta be tough to change something like that before a season where you're fighting for a starting job/playing time.
Victor Devaldivielso

Nikola Mirotic

The Bulls appear to be doing a mini Philadelphia 76 rebuild that you did not support.  Last year's Bulls team bored me except for the surprising 2-0 lead against Boston.  For the first time in years I did not go to a game.  This year's team interests me.  How many of these young players can develop into NBA rotation players?  Who if any can be a star?  Can Robin Lopez be traded for a mid to late first round draft pick?  I understand that we are in for a tough number of years.  However, I look forward to being at a game this year to see how the young guys are doing.  The Bulls appear to be mimicking the 76ers.  Are you OK with what they are doing?
Bruce Roberts

Anyway, back to the felonious 76ers. The NBA already overreacted to that with its new draft reform. Look, this is the fifth year of that disaster and they’re still trying to make the playoffs in a conference so weak no one even wants to watch its All-Stars. The lottery was working. A 25 percent chance for No. 1 meant 75 percent no chance. The 76ers did it once. They still don’t have an All-Star. Sure, they’ve had some bad injury luck with Embiid, but what they did was heinous. The Bulls and most everyone else who does this tries to compete, is serious with their fans, tries to identify a core immediately and build from there. Every time the 76ers got a player who they felt could make them better they got rid of him to try the lottery wheel again. It made a mockery of the idea of competition. The Bulls will be bad, but they will try, like the Pacers and Hawks and Magic and Kings and Nets. Only the 76ers were making a mockery of the game. I guess some will say its worth your dignity and values to pursue your idea of success at any cost. And, look, many do. But it’s wrong, in my view. We give so much voice to behaving the right way and then support a sports team that does this is the name of a chance for success? Isn’t there an unwritten rule somewhere to cover this?

There seems to be a consensus forming among national sportswriters (some of whom know more about basketball than the fact the ball is round) that the Bulls will be the worst team in the NBA this year. I can see the basis for their reasoning, but I'm more afraid of mediocrity.
Kirk Landers