Ask Sam Mailbag: 10.11.2019

Sam opens his mailbag and answers your questions about the Bulls' Preseason and other stories around the NBA.
by Sam Smith

Body

Sunny Shah

It's odd that the Bulls are an exciting 40-win team in the making, it feels like the beginning of a decent ride, this team reminds me of the Hinrich, Gordon, Nocioni Bulls. I loved those hard nosed teams. I think they will be entertaining, a borderline playoff team and provide quite a few highlights along the way. Zach will make the all star team.

This core doesn't have the makings of a championship squad but I think the next 2-3 years will be entertaining playoff basketball, with luck maybe one decent deep run.

The Bulls should switch Kris Dunn to SF off the bench and play him and Coby White in the same lineups. Wing lineup is weak, particularly defensively and Dunn is tall enough to hound most perimeter players in the league, it will also be the best way to increase his value for a trade by February.

White Valentine Dunn Young Kornet would be my bench 5. Dunn is essentially Shaq Harrison with a slightly higher ceiling offensively.

Sam

That's a sunny overview, or I guess Sunny's. It sounds about right with the verge of the playoffs and April games that matter for the first time in three years. I'd take that. I do hope Zach makes the All-Star team, especially with the game in Chicago in February. He's clearly the best talent on the team, and a team in playoff contention in mid-season should deserve an All-Star who's scoring well. Markkanen's shooting stroke has been terrific to start the season, but he's just not looking like he's going to be that guy who plows inside like Zach can do. Otto Porter really had an amazing Game 2 the way he was all over the court chasing balls and making plays, but the Bulls seem to have indicated they are not going to push his minutes. So they will need that strong second group. Will it be defensive-oriented to change up from the first group? A continuation to pass the offensive baton? There's once again something to look at here. The Hinrich, Nocioni, Gordon group? Much more grit there, but that was the NBA then. And that's not so much the NBA now.


Coby White #0 of the Chicago Bulls looks on during a pre-season game against the New Orleans Pelicans on October 8, 2019 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Lex Gray

Is Coby White a poor man's Nick Young. I don't understand why anyone is high on him.

Sam

Coby is a guy who reminds me more of a swaggy. Let's say you're being a little harsh, though, true they have played two exhibitions games so far. And why wait anymore for judgments. Actually, White is better than I thought he would be, which is inviting a more difficult equation in that epochal point guard conundrum. Is it the Czech or the guy with bounce? I had been thinking that White as a 19-year-old rookie point guard wanna be would be checking out the Hoffman Estates Claim Jumper restaurant more often. But in two games White has shown a confident sophistication about scoring, which is NBA scripture. It might mean the Great Point Guard Debate is almost moot since coach Jim Boylen seems to be finding appeal in using his best shooter/scorers at the same time. White looks to be one of them. He does look like he's got some swag and could develop into the scoring kind of point guard the NBA embraces these days. It seems like he's going to be a big part of the regular rotation.


Tom Plonowski

Your thoughts on the 15th spot on the roster with regards to Mokoka, Simon, and Doyle. Any chance they make the roster?

Sam

The Bulls have 15 for now in Satoransky, Dunn, White and Arcidiacono at point. LaVine, Harrison and Valentine at shooting. Porter and Hutchison at small forward. Markkanen, Young and Gafford at power forward. Carter, Kornet and Felicio at center. Mokoka is a two-way contract player, so he will be with Windy City in the G-league. I expect Doyle and Simon to be there as well.


Kris Dunn #32 of the Chicago Bulls handles the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during a pre-season game on October 8, 2019 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Randall Sanders

I've heard talk about Dunn's improved game and attitude. If Dunn has taken the next step (a.k.a. Victor Olandipo), That would be great. Question is, will the Bulls keep him then or still trade him?

Sam

The scorecards are harsher and more detailed for the point guards. In Game 1 against the Bucks, I thought White for his offensive audacity was the best followed by Dunn, Arcidiacono and Satoransky. Satoransky wasn't horrible, though just a bit tentative, which seems his nature. He doesn't shoot much and looks more to move the ball and himself, which seemed to be contagious in Game 2. Satoransky was best against New Orleans followed by White, Dunn and then Arcidiacono. Arcidiacono likely has locked up that tertiary role. That likely becomes a more sporadic use, but relied upon for emergencies. White appears on the undisciplined side, but he overcomes that even as an inexperienced rookie with his confidence and panache. He's tossing bats after home runs and doing an end zone dance for his first touchdown. Not so much to show off, but you know he's in the game and believes he can do as much or more than anyone else. It's a good trait. He seems to be leading for the backup scoring role, though with injuries (the qualifier for most Bulls games these days) the Great Point Guard Debate could evolve into some of the contestants merely assuming other positions, at least until all hands are on deck for this voyage.


Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans looks on during a pre-season game against the Chicago Bulls on October 8, 2019 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Parker Lerdal

Does the Bulls Rookie Coby White have a rookie of the year chance similar to Elton Brand, Michael Jordan, Derrick Rose?

Sam

No. Zion Williamson won the award Wednesday with his 29 points on, as far as I can tell, 52 feet of shots. Like the golfers measuring the feet of total putts they make in a round, I don't think Williamson took a shot beyond three feet. But I also don't believe he's going to be stuffed as much as I thought he might. He appears to have amazing strength. I saw him bounce off Thad Young one time and turn to the bench and ask if a fly had landed on him. Seven footer Luke Kornet admitted he thought of taking a change and then thought otherwise while checking his health insurance coverage. Zion will develop more of a shot, and as far as we can tell, Giannis can't shoot, either. Which was good enough for MVP and at least the conference finals. Zion's going to be on TV and in so many highlights, no one else is likely to be close. I believe White is going to put up good numbers for a rookie, and in many other years, like Markelle Fultz No. 1 pick seasons, he'd be in the conversation. Not this season. Though after the Knicks played R.J. Barrett 39 minutes in his first game, he might score more than Zion. On probably many more shots and minutes until he takes his exhaustion break in February.


Tom Golden

Defense is always toughest with so many new guys, But I'll try the "outscore em" method for a while; the movement was fun. I noticed we lost our mojo to ISO ball in the fourth against the Pelicans. Was that a forty or forty five footer that Valentine launched? Came in flow of the offense, though.

Sam

Always love the flow of the offense explanation on the vague scale. I think he had momentum at the time. Of course, when they go in there it usually was a plan. There were a bunch of isolation play against Milwaukee in Game 1 and not very much—maybe fewer than I've seen in a decade—in Game 2. So which is this team? Oh right, 85 more to go until the playoffs.


Daniel Gafford #12 of Chicago Bulls shoots the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks on October 7, 2019 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Stian Nordvik

Since summer league I have been hoping for everyone advocating for Gafford as the backup centers. Can Gafford and Lavine be like Capella and Harden? I belive so, but then based on summer league and not much else. I also have high hopes for Markannen and Valentine. Would they be like Dirk and Jason Terry back in the title year?

Sam

If you're going to make comparisons, may as well make them to guys and teams who have been champions or close. I don't see as many comparisons to Knicks and Kings duos. In any case, Gafford also has surprised me. I know, it's just preseason as it was just Summer League. But he's taken contact and held his ground better than I thought he could. He's also shown a nice ability, which isn't easy, to catch the ball, fake and go up without having the basketball for dessert. Though I think the rotation is farther away for Gafford, assuming Kornet is healthy. The game against the Bucks exposed the Bulls weakness against size, though Kornet was out. He's not physical. His strengths appear to be shooting and ball movement, which are good things. But he's also a very tall person, and the Bulls don't have many of those. Gafford is close, but still several doughnuts short. So assuming Wendell Carter can get past his nicks and knacks, Kornet suddenly looks like a very important backup, facilitating center. The Bulls are pretty deep at power forward with Markkanen, Young and perhaps Porter. So Carter is going to have to battle inside. Can he hold up? It's a big question for this team.


Art Alenik

I know Boylen was more about looking at players and line-ups, but I might've put a few guys back in just long enough to secure the win Wednesday. Meaningless, I know. But it might be good for morale for those guys to see a W. They played hard enough & well enough to earn one.

Sam

We know they are meaningless, but my guess is he regrets the early experimentation. With a team like the Bulls and what they've experienced the last two years, wins do matter because it's also about habits, about not accepting defeat and trying to find any way to avoid it. Though it became a difficult position because if Boylen had put back in, say LaVine and Markkanen, it might have looked like desperation in a meaningless game. And then what if someone got hurt? Coaches generally can always be wrong. Once he made the decision after three quarters, he had to ride with it. So I thought it was interesting after the game that Boylen said he's closer to making his decision on the rotation (which means point guard) than we think. It's usually by the final exhibition game, and there's only five this season. But it's likely he wants to get some positive momentum going even if there is no such thing. I suspect we won't see the fourth quarter Windy City tryouts again this weekend in Indiana and Toronto. And with the Raptors coming home from a game in Japan, it's doubtful they play anyone whose name we recognize, anyway.


Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat handles the ball against the San Antonio Spurs on October 8, 2019 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.

Mike Wahls

Who are some of the players you've seen over the years that have put in the most time/work to improve their skills? With Jimmy Butler being a recent example (at least by reputation). Were there any players that you saw that really stood out for their work ethic that didn't get publicized like others?

Sam

I've always had an issue (minor) with that I'm-the-hardest-worker stuff because I've never been a big fan of people who tell you how much they do, how smart they are. Hey, look at me! Though I do like Jimmy. I don't doubt his work ethic. Especially how far he came to become an elite NBA player. I mostly believe you demonstrate who you are by what you do and not what you say. Which, I know, does confine me to the Baby Boomers generation. And we don't have anyone under 60. We didn't trash talk until Ali came along. I'm not suggesting Jimmy wasn't a worker, though I think Keith Bogans may have worked as hard. He just wasn't quite as good.

Seems to me no one on this Bulls team works harder (or longer hours) than Ryan Arcidiacono. Though in this era it's rare to find players who don't spend so many extra hours in the gym. Sometimes I feel too much as my unscientific view is players often train too much instead of playing games like guys did 30 and 40 years ago. So their bodies become too strong and they are more susceptive to injury. That, by the way, being why they wouldn't let me take science courses. The top players generally use the summer to add to their games with an improved shot or handle or some skilled part of the game, like Michael Jordan with his shooting. But the fact was Jordan wasn't a very hard worker. I don't believe he lifted weights at all until about five or six years into his career, and only when the authorities were not arresting Pistons players for assault and he had to defend himself. Michael never was that last guy in the gym and his all night card games transitioning into 36 holes of golf before he scored 54 points were legendary. Though it was good to have him on the team even as he worked out less often than Dennis Hopson.


Jamal Crawford #11 of the Phoenix Suns drives to the basket during the game against the Houston Rockets on April 7, 2019 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

Adam Garcia

Is it true that Jamal Crawford isn't in the league at the moment? If so, couldn't the Bulls use him? I know we signed Satoranski, but Crawford is automatic offense!

Sam

The Bulls have their 15; again, for now. Jamal still looks about 25 years old, but he will be 40 this season and he's played a lot less the last few seasons. I believe he'll be able to help a team, and I do think someone will pick him up later in the season. Which could work well as he should have his shooting legs. Though I'm sure he's still playing pickup every day. The Bulls actually have enough scoring. Which may be the first time in years saying that. The issue will be defense, and that's not Jamal's strength. I'm not sure the Bulls can be a top defensive team with the kinds of featured players they have, who tend to be more offensive-oriented. Though I've never been an unwavering proponent of only "stops" mean anything. The Showtime Lakers of the 80s did fairly well never much worrying about the next defensive stand. The Houston Rockets have been on the verge of a title featuring the poster beard for worst defender in NBA history. They still measure the game results by the most points. You coach the players you have. You put them in the best position to succeed with the skills they have; you can't make them who you want them to be. If you finish with more points that's a good thing no matter how you get there.


Dennis Rodman #91 of the Chicago Bulls battles for a rebound against Hersey Hawkins #33 of the Seattle SuperSonics during Game Six of the 1996 NBA Finals at the United Center on June 16, 1996 in Chicago Iillinois. The Bulls won 87-75.

Joe Guest

Did you hear George Karl recently on a podcast saying the Sonics lost the 1996 finals on a technicality, because they flew home right after game 2, had some flight delays, then came out flat in game 3. He sounded like he really believed it! Let's give him Game 3. Game 7 in Chicago, Payton and Kemp against Jordan and Pippen, yeah you have to like the Sonics in that spot. Not like they had to beat Dikembe Mutombo.

Sam

Ouch! Yes, George fortunately does have a size 14 mouth to insert that shoe. I recall those travel plans, though it was the ‘Sonics idea. No one tells you when to travel in the playoffs. The real story was George's fear of playing that season's Defensive Player of the Year, Gary Payton, against Jordan. Not that I believe the Sonics would have won, but Karl gave this lame excuse about fearing Payton foul trouble and thus playing Hersey Hawkins on Jordan, which forced many of us to look away. There were other factors, but Payton did begin to defend Jordan in Game 4 when the Sonics won two straight. After the 72 wins, sweeping a 60-win team in the conference finals and leading 3-0 in the Finals over a 64-win team, there were two off days and the Bulls relaxed a bit too much. So they went home and won Game 6 pretty easily. Here's the untold Game 6 story: Dennis Rodman was pretty out of it after the two losses in Seattle and was "running late" for Game 6. He said he didn't feel well and wasn't coming. Yeah, stomach ache. That's it. The Bulls dispatched Dennis' roadie Jack Haley to persuade Dennis to attend the game. Which Dennis finally agreed to not that long before tipoff and then was dominant. In fact, Karl later said the Sonics would have won the series if not for Rodman. Yes, George did always say a lot of things. I do miss him, actually.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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