Ask Sam Mailbag 10.13.17

I have to confess, I'm getting interested in watching them play. They'll struggle against good teams playing hard, but I'm optimistic that they'll have their moments--partly because other teams will have a hard time getting up for them, and partly because they're athletic and hard-working. It has been a long time since we've seen a Bulls team get down court as fast as these guys do, including the bench guys. Justin Holiday evokes memories of the early Jimmy Butler--a very athletic guy with a modest pedigree who's getting his chance now and just might do something significant with it. He'll have nights when the shot's not there, but his speed and strength can be there every night. David Nwaba, too. His speed, power and leaping ability are off the charts, and he seems to have that killer competitive instinct (like Holiday) too. We'll see if he has the rest of the package. I hope so. I remember reading a national sports writer's coverage of the draft a while back. He excoriated the Bulls for giving away their 2d round draft choice to the Warriors, implying that the player the Warriors drafted was a clone of Draymond Green and a certain all-star. The writer did not happen to notice how many young players the Bulls already have on the roster; adding one more rookie would have been stupid. Nwaba, at least, has been in the league for a year and certainly comes on the court ready to compete. That looks like an enlightened swap, to me.
Kirk Landers

I don’t recall a season where so many teams have either pushed the reset button or are bad. Indiana, Atlanta, and Chicago have pushed the reset button while New York, Detroit, and Brooklyn are not very good with Cleveland, Toronto, Boston, Miami, and Washington predicted to make the Playoffs. Three (3) of the six teams mentioned first will have to make the playoffs simply because of the 8-team playoff format. It’s likely Detroit could be a playoff team. My point is, I think the Bulls picked the wrong time to hit the reset button because, If Zach comes back healthy or better as his prediction, the Bulls could be another 8th seed even if they don’t want to be? That would be considered a bad thing if the bulls slipped into the playoffs by default. What would happen in that case and what is your take on the East as far as playoff teams?
Randall Sanders

The good news is that we have about 10 decent bench players. The bad news is that four of them start. Let's hope that Dunn, Lavine, and Markkanen can make the Bulls a watchable team this year. So far, I'm rather impressed with Dunn, bad finger and all.
William Kochneff

I read the criticism of Gar/Pax. I feel Paxson is an excellent assessor of player skills and has done a reasonable job considering the unforeseen Rose injury. I feel they did OK with the Butler trade. However, the risk of being more patient before trading Butler for the Minnesota goods outweighs the certainty of making the trade. Waiting allowed the Bulls to be an opportunist to another team unforeseen problems. They were the perfect team to take Isiah Thomas for Butler and the Brooklyn pick. They could handle Thomas missing most, if not, the whole season. I do not understand and am not OK with the OKC trade of Gibson, McDermott and the now high 2nd round pick for garbage. How could they have missed how bad Cameron Payne is?
Bruce Roberts

I was reading last weeks mailbag and you talked a bit about how Olympic and national basketball during the off season can be physically taxing. I wonder if that contributed to Derrick Rose's injury. Do you think the NBA's big stars, who are mostly American, should avoid playing for the national team to avoid physical wear and tear. Our country obviously has enough talent to hold our own without them and it would also be beneficial to less famous players and give them more of an opportunity to shine.
Rose Kiernan

I don't think the Wolves will be as good as people think. I see GS, San Antonio, Houston, OKC and the Clippers having a better record than the Wolves this season. I think Denver is overlooked. Jokic doesn't get much attention but he's very good and they added Milsap which was a great pickup. Utah will be good as well. I'm not so sure about NO...unless they make a trade. Portland and Memphis are still there too. Anyways..I see the Wolves starting out slow. I like Jimmy...but he led the Bulls to a .500 record in the East. He'll have to lead the Wolves to at least 10 more victories this year if they want to make the playoffs. With Crawford as their only good long distance shooter, we'll see.
Victor Devaldivielso

If the Bulls are serious about a rebuild then they should consider moving Robin Lopez and one of the power forwards. I like Mirotic over B Portis. How about seeing if Philly would bite on a Robin Lopez+Bobby Portis for Jahlil Okafor+2nd round pick. I think Okafor would be worth the risk. Lopez is not a part of the long-term future. We should be looking to add some young potential guys. They have the cap space to take on lopez contract. Having Lopez and Portis coming off the bench would definitely be beneficial to the sixers who have playoff aspirations. While the Bulls clearly have lottery aspirations.
Rocky Rosado

Besides the Bulls does Sam Smith have a 2nd team that you root for? Could it be the Knicks since you are from the state of New York? Or Brooklyn? I personally don't, but there are teams that I feel like there is a personal connection with a player.

1) Washington - Marcin Gortat. The only Polish player in the league. Before, we've had Cezary Trybanski and Maciej Lampe. Both of whom had very solid roles on the Poland National Team but did nothing as NBA players. Gortat, meanwhile, is a double-double machine. So I feel like I have to root for Washington, because of him.

2) San Antonio - Brandon Paul. Just signed a guaranteed two year deal. 6'4" shooting guard. Mr. Illinois when he was a high school ball player at Warren Township in Gurnee, IL. He was a fresh when I was a senior. I just ran into his brother at the grocery store last night with whom I graduated and we talked about Brandon. He played in Turkey, Russia, Spain, and G-League. Now, he gets his chance in the NBA. Can't think of a better team than the Spurs. They like to give out minutes for players that prove they can contribute. Tom Plonowski

I'm more intrigued as to how the G-League develops as a rival to NCAA for young talent. One of these days a McDonalds All American is going to forego college for the G-League draft and some guaranteed money that's not illegal for him to take (looking right at Pitino).
Wesley Davis

If you attribute some of the crap in Dallas to starting the (pre)season with a back-to-back, the other games look pretty decent. But we’ll have to wait and see if it’s pre-season ‘fool’s gold’ or if any of this translates into the regular season games. So far, no complaints. But that voice in my head keeps saying,“Forget it, Jake. It’s… preseason.”
Art Alenik