Ask Sam Mailbag: 11.10.17
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to answer readers' questions
Markkanen looks like a great pick and Nwaba helped before the injury. Valentine looks better while Zipser and Felicio seemed to have regressed or are not fast enough. Dunn seems to be inconsistent but with a little promise as a defender, shooter and penetrator. Grant belongs on another team but sadly needed until a decent starting point guard (maybe Dunn?) is identified. If Lavine returns fully recovered, a Markkanen, Levine, Portis, Dunn, Newada, Lopez and Valentine core could be very interesting. Perhaps a trade after January or a buyout is the best solution for Niko who just doesn’t fit for several reasons. It’s early and the record is 2 and 7 but your thoughts would be appreciated.
Sam: I’m encouraged if not nearly as set with the roster as you are. I think there will be major changes to come since this is just the beginning. The Bulls are looking at one and probably two more high lottery picks, free agents at that time or after. Which could be three or four players as good or better than the best they have now. But for a start, I commend Hoiberg. Yes, the record isn’t good—pssst, over here; that’s really the hope—but the team has been interesting to watch. To Hoiberg’s credit, he hasn’t accepted or allowed the players to accept the organizational and community view of wait until 2019. Or beyond. The team plays hard, mostly defends, tries to be unselfish and has good rapport. They’re upbeat and I’ve seen more smiles around the locker room than in the last two years. Not that they are better, but more reason to do what the organization has done in rebuilding. Those last two groups were miserable playing together, rarely enjoying themselves. It’s still a game and games, as they remind us, should be fun. It’s not as simple as that, but there’s a joy to sport that left the Bulls in the wake of Derrick Rose’s injury with just a few extensions through Nate Robinson, D.J. Augustin and Aaron Brooks. But that wasn’t a plan. I agree on Markkanen and am anxious to see LaVine. Everyone else has some proving to do, which also makes this season intriguing. It’s up to them to show, and there’s a great opportunity here. If you don’t take it seriously with a bar not that high, it’s on you. I don’t see that Portis or Mirotic cannot prove themselves with the team, but it’s still up to them as it was coming into the season and will be.
What do you think will finally happen in the Portis/Mitotic situation ?. Portis has and served his suspension. Mirotic does not seem to want to bury the hatchet. Portis had a pretty good game against Toronto. I’m hearing Mirotic wants out of his contract if the Bulls keep Portis (Which they have by picking up the option). Mirotic is in no position to make an either him or Me demand. At least Portis had a good start for that same reason alone (trade). Mirotic needs to be the same professional about the matter. Come back. Play hard and create value for himself.
Sam: I doubt anyone knows given the uncertainty with Portis back, some feeling he should remain out as long as Mirotic, which is basically against the players’ agreement with the league; some are saying there are ultimatums. Though no one has gone on the record expressing any such thing. So it seems to be mostly rumor for now. I’m sure if I were Mirotic I would be equally as angry; and if I were Portis I would feel I served my time given it is one of the longest team suspensions in NBA history and I have a right to return. No one is ever going to be universally in agreement because of what occurred. Obviously, it was unfortunate given the fluke nature of the injuries being serious from a punch, not so rare in earlier NBA history. Rarely have fights even with punches thrown in the NBA produced such damage and injury. It obviously wasn’t pre-planned given when and how it occurred. It certainly crossed the line of competitiveness, but many times players have intentionally tripped someone that’s caused injuries that have lasted weeks or months and there wasn’t a corresponding cry for the perpetrator to remain sidelined for equal weeks or months. It’s not me, but I don’t see why they cannot return and play on the same team. Sports—and offices all over—are filled with co workers who dislike one another. Kobe and Shaq barely ever spoke and won three titles. We hear now of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul bitter adversaries. The myth that somehow team members are all in this together pulling in one direction and cannot operate successfully unless they are fully committed to one another is a utopian fantasy. Portis, of course, not being injured, clearly has reached out. Mirotic’s reluctance is understandable. But he has a career to pursue and there’s no reason why when he returns he cannot play on the same team and court. After all, how much passing to one another do the Bulls do? Well, more than in the last two seasons. But still not all that much all the time. Both are on short term deals with a team going through a rebuilding; so perhaps other than the three players acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade, who among the Bulls players didn’t believe they could be traded this season? So we’ll see. I’m looking forward to Mirotic’s return and hope it is soon and he heals rapidly. The Bulls hardly are a team that cannot use another competent player.
Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez all starters and all have brothers who play in the nba - surely that must be some sort of record!
Sam: And the Bulls had Pau and, of course, Jerian’s uncle Horace, twin of Harvey. I’m not quite sure what it means other than when he becomes a free agent if LeBron has a brother he would like to have on the roster.
So far I like Markkanen, Holiday, Lopez, Nwaba, Dunn as a lineup.
When Lavine gets back: Markkanen, Holiday, Lopez, Lavine, Dunn.
Do you think Hoiberg will eventually settle on a lineup or will they keep experimenting?
It's nice to get Portis back too.
Sam: Markkanen clearly has become a fixture and I suspect LaVine will be whenever he returns. Probably Lopez for the rest of this season, though Robin is such an ideal teammate you’d hear less from him than anyone about being on the bench, like he was when the Bulls made that great fourth quarter run in Toronto and he couldn’t have been happier. I think the Bulls would like Dunn—or someone—to dominate and win the point guard spot, but no one has been close. Same for small forward. So I expect continued changes there. Hoiberg has put it out clearly and been consistent: Perform and you get to play more. Can’t be more fair than that. With the NBA playing so small these days and with so little post play, I can see more of that lineup with Portis and Markkanen that finished he game in Toronto.
Did you see about Luol Deng maybe seeking a buyout?
Sam: Well, we all say he’s making $18 million and we’d take that to sit around. And I’m sure he’s pleased about that part, but you don’t become an NBA player—despite what some may think of some—by not wanting to compete or play and just accept being paid. Where’s the fun; after all. Once you retire you can sit around and watch your money. The interesting decision for Deng will be, like with Dwyane Wade, how much he might leave. Deng’s not likely to get more than a minimum contract again. He has two years left at about $18 million each, which makes it unlikely there’ll be a trade. Especially because the Lakers want to get into free agency and aren’t taking back longer contracts, which is about all anyone would offer. Deng’s also a philanthropist, so he might not want to give up much money. But if he did, because of the way he plays, his unselfish attitude and outside shooting ability even if he’s not much athletic, he’s the kind of guy who could win you one playoff game. And that’s often enough for a great team. Like P.J. Brown in the 2008 Eastern Conference finals for the Celtics. There’s a buyout deal there to be made.
Your thoughts on the Bledsoe deal to Milwaukee? Not a bad deal for Phoenix as they get a big man. Monroe was just starting next to Drummond in Detroit a few years ago and both of them averaged double figure points and rebounds. I think a great fit at the power forward slot for Phoenix. He can play the center spot as well. Bledsoe is a guy that can put up 20/5/5 but don't the Bucks already have guards? He should be a scoring boost but do you start him over last season's rookie of the year?
Sam: Win/win? It actually seems like a good deal for both, rare in the NBA. The Suns had moved on and despite basically doing what you were not supposed to in telling the rest of the league you had to trade him, they did expeditiously and got value, a first round pick, though there are provisions about which year they’ll get it over the next three or four. Plus, they’ll get a second rounder, which have become more valuable. The Bucks have been looking to deal Monroe, and his contract will expire. The Suns eventually will be able to land a free agent because of where they are and not who they have been. Bledsoe was always thought to be a defender and become a surprisingly good offensive player. Not a great shooter, but he moves in automatically as the Bucks’ second best player with Jabari Parker out. If Parker can return even near the level he played last season, the Bucks could move right into the debate in the East for best team. Parker probably can’t get to that level this season and there are questions regarding him extending or resigning. But the Bucks had to get some help for Giannis and did. Winner for them in the short term.
Fair Markkanen comp: Detlef Schrempf? More realistic than people thinking he’s Dirk.
Sam: I know Markkanen would appreciate it as he hates that Dirk comparison. And since many media questions are about the last thing anyone saw, Dirk is the easy reference. Of course, seven footer, European, can shoot. They’re all the same, right? Detlef is an interesting one and fits the white guy, European thing and pretty darned good. But a good comparison in potential efficiency. Made three All-Star teams, played a long time with good teams. Markkanen is a better shooter with a more pure shot, but that’s more a function of this era for big men. Detlef came up in an era when big men played out of the post more, though Detlef was a good face up, driving big man. Detlef was good inside. He was not the classic American big man given he did have a faceup game and at about 6-10 was a good outside shooter. Though not potentially great like Markkanen looks like he can be. Markkanen is just 20, so he can learn to play in the post. He’s a good passer and what I like almost most about him is he doesn’t get stuck with the ball, starting to dribble endlessly like so many players. He seems to see the court and anticipate the game well and is quick to move the ball if sometimes you wish he shot it because his shot is better than anyone else’s. If he has a career like Schrempf’s, I think the Bulls will be thrilled.
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