Ask Sam Mailbag 12.27.19

Sam opens his mailbag and answers questions on Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr., and more.
Tomas Satorasnky
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

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Art Alenik:

Brian Windhorst and Bill Simmons recently discussed Zach LaVine for Kyle Kuzma. I guess they don't think Kuzma is good enough to play w/ LeBron, and he has to go. Windhorst has been trading Zach for a while. Last summer it was for Jae Crowder and a draft pick. The Bulls would be nuts to trade Zach, and esp. for Kuzma, an athletic but undersized PF who can't shoot.

Sam Smith:

Until he made four of nine threes Christmas Day for his best game of the season? You hope the Bulls weren't watching. Actually a lot of stuff happens when GMs watch TV. Remember at all those huge contracts for Luc Longley, Jud Buechler, Scott Williams, Jason Caffey, Steve Kerr. A lot easier to look good standing next to Jordan. Or LeBron and Davis. A lot of that national stuff comes from LeBron's "people," who like to float scenarios to enhance LeBron's chances. Which they should be doing, actually. It's also a little bit of arrogance of an organization like the Lakers that always believes you should take their stuff if they need your stuff. What LeBron probably has realized with the Lakers is they did a better job this season of getting shooters to surround LeBron instead of that roster they put together last season after throwing darts at NBA rosters in a bar.

So while Kuzma is a good player, he's more of a volume shooter who doesn't handle the ball well. Or pass, rebound or defend all that great, either. But rated highly by Lakers fans, of course. Zach would be exactly what LeBron needs, another big-time scorer who can create shots, statistically better in basically every category than Kuzma and something of the missing piece between LeBron's rebirth as Chris Paul and Anthony Davis' inside brilliance. If the Lakers are interested in Zach, I'd say they'd have to start by offering Davis. Hey, didn't he say last summer he expected to play at home someday? Didn't he say Chicago is the greatest basketball city? He'd like to see all-Chicago teams? Seriously, could he really be happy with LeBron hogging the ball all the time or the way the Bulls are aiming for that 35-assist game? Pass it on to the national guys.


Josh Jackson

Brodie Larsh:

How would you feel about the Bulls trading for Josh Jackson? He's the 4th round pick from 2 years ago, and he's been doing really well for the Memphis G League team. Drastically improved his efficiency and shooting percentages. I know it's against weaker defenses in, but he's also the number one scoring option on the team and sees more double teams. Could be a great low risk- high reward option. Especially if we could get him for 2 second-round picks and/or an end of the bench guy.

Sam Smith:

I'd feel reasonably satisfied. I like those kinds of trades, but it's no secret many teams do. Fit with a team that's not dysfunctional is important. Sometimes a player just doesn't get minutes or shots or someone else monopolizes the game like Booker was when Jackson was in Phoenix. Sort of like Chauncey Billups, a No. 3 overall pick, not breaking through until his fourth team. And then a Finals MVP. Jackson was a highly rated No. 4 overall pick on a team filled with lottery picks with constant coaching and management turnover. His shot was a concern, but his stats now seem terrific in the G-league. Of course, so are Felicio's. I like to take chances on a player like that. The problem with the Bulls now is would he as another young player get the playing time and shots the way the Bulls are structured even with Porter and Hutchison out? Both are expected back sometime this season. He'd certainly be worth a look if he were available. I don't know that he is.


Jrue Holiday and JJ Redick

Sergio Kalet:

The bulls should go after holiday and Reddick for porter jr Dunn and coby White

Sam Smith:

I guess it's trading season, but it generally doesn't really get going until late January. Of course, there's no such possibility with Porter injured and on a big salary and his return unclear. Some fans asked about picking up Jeff Green, who was released this week by the Jazz. He hasn't been having a typical season, but he also hasn't played as much. He's a very well-traveled veteran at 33—nine teams—and could play the currently weak wing position and has shot reasonably well in the past. I'd expect the Bulls probably would pass with Hutchison due back before too long and Porter, I guess, sometime this season. The Bulls would have to release someone, but then also pay Green.

I suspect he'll try to get with a team that's closer to serious contention. It's not like the Bulls are that deep, and the playoffs are an important goal, something that wants to be achieved and Green is someone who probably could help some. But then you're sort of giving up on Hutchison without him playing much. The Bulls finally seem to have some stability and rhythm now with Young, Valentine, Gafford, and White off the bench. Would Green accept another limited role with a team not in playoff position yet? Would he make much difference? And what about when Porter returns? Green's probably not enough of a difference-maker for the Bulls to start changing again. Though I wouldn't object since I'm running out of puns and having a Green around would be money.


Lauri Markkanen

Stian Nordvik:

Markannen is not developing as a player with that talent should. Boylen should have benched him a long time ago. Young should have been starting for Markannen for a month or so. When someones playing so poorly for 2 months that people have been speculating about the player being injured, he really should be pulled from the starting position. Sometimes stepping out of the spotlight playing off the bench with less pressure and against lesser opponents are a way to getting the self esteem and feeling for the game back. An experienced coach would have pulled him from the starting position, sat Markannen down and explained why he did it and what Markannen needed to get better at.

Sam Smith:

It's looked like that at times, like in the fourth quarter against the Magic when Markkanen didn't enter until late. I've been a little disappointed that Young would apparently have concerns about his playing time and then be rewarded with more playing time. We all—Markkanen, too—agree it's been a disappointing season for Markkanen. And really surprising since he was on an upward trend his first two seasons, is healthy and not in denial. He's constantly agreed he needs to play better. I understand earning your playing time and all the accountability stuff of going to the bench if you're not performing. But I see it the other way.

I'd force feed Markkanen the minutes, keep him out there longer. He's too young and we forget too easily has had two injury-limited seasons. As long as he's healthy, I'd have him out there close to 40 minutes because he has more talent than most. He's not the great athlete, but good enough given his position. I'll take chances on the 11th despite him missing his first 10 shots. LaVine's closer needs a supporter whom the defense fears. Markkanen could be that; White could be that. Satoransky at times. Otto, though the sample is way too small. Not many others.


Team celebration

Greg Bowcock:

I should probably point out that I'm actually a Celtics' fan, so I'm really just here for Kris Dunn. Despite Chicago's record, last year, I enjoyed watching the team not only for Dunn but also due to the fact that the Bulls would actually utilize a post player in Robin Lopez. I realize that that probably sounds quite strange, but Boston has driven me nuts with their use of analytics since Stevens was hired. So all that you ever see is jumper after jumper, three after three, and nothing else, which, coupled with the fact that they did not actually possess the players needed to implement such a let's call it an "offensive philosophy", is beyond insane. So seeing anyone post up after years of, well, nothing but dumb perimeter play was something that I found to be quite refreshing, and I was hoping that that trend would continue over to this year, albeit with Wendell instead of Rolo, inside, but it seems as if you guys have caught the analytics fever, which is really depressing. The sport has become rather watered down in that all that these teams do, now, is run the pick and roll to death, and what can I say, I'm just not a fan of that style of play, as there's way too much standing around, for my taste. What I'd really like to see, or if only try, is Chicago just utilize mismatches, and if the players don't see it/them, then the coach has to point it/them out. Case in point, take the game against the Heat in Miami. It was stated if Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen had had their normal games Chicago would have won. But from my vantage point you should know going into that contest that Zach Attack is going to be defended by Jimmy Butler, so there's no advantage to be had, there, and the same goes for Markkanen being guarded by Bam "The Bodybuilder" Adebayo. Therefore, in order to break down the defense and get better shots for everyone else, you have to exploit any advantage(s) that you do have, and the most glaring one, for me, was Dunn, at 6'4.25" 205 lbs., being defended by Kendrick Nunn, at 6'2" 190 lbs. Just dump the ball inside to Kris and see what happens. Nunn isn't exactly a good defensive player, anyway.

Or at least I don't think so, so if Dunn scores a couple of times, Miami is either going to have to change the matchup or double, by which time an easy basket or two will help Kris' jumper, and then the Bulls become much more difficult to defend. When the lead was dwindling against OKC, why was Zach chucking the ball when Dunn had the advantage against Schroder and Paul, all night? You can play all of the defense in the world, but if you're not going to attack the guy who is torching you, as Chris Paul was, then you're only hurting yourself. Even though Golden State had Thompson and Durant, they would always go to Klay, inside, whenever he had a mismatch, and especially early in games, just to get him some easier looks via the post, and by the time that the opponent would change the defensive assignment, it would be too late, as now his jumper was falling. That's just how the game works, is it not?

Sam Smith:

C'mon, do you seriously expect teams to play intelligent basketball when they can draw up more spreadsheets? There've been questions about Markkanen posting up with his size. But I think Dunn is the most obvious candidate for post-up play given his size, his reach and his strength and physical nature. Markkanen's lower body is too light. Dunn's isn't huge, but he's strong enough to hold position. The Bulls were posting Dunn a few years ago, but he got hurt and things changed. Plus, you know we've all heard Brad is a genius. So if he's not why should we, eh? It's difficult to fight this narrative since just about every NBA team practices it. It's like trying to persuade a committed voter to appreciate the opponent. But perhaps there will be some change.

This topic came up after practice just this Thursday when Boylen was asked how he became this born again space-pace-chuck-it guy after coming in as Mike Fratello and the walk-up Cavs. Boylen said he always was a run and shoot advocate, but the Bulls didn't have the tools when he took over. I know, that's what Fred said. Anyway, Boylen said he called more post-ups against the Magic and that we'll be seeing more of that since it's baby steps. Boylen used the crawl-walk-run thing, and it made some sense saying he needed the players to get accustomed to playing faster and shooting and once they're confident to add things, like post-up play. I am intrigued to see Dunn get seven or eight post touches and see how the defense reacts. The question also is whether Dunn will make the correct decisions. He's another, like Markkanen, who may have more there than he's shown this season.


Wendell Carter Jr.

Carlos Ramos:

Wendell Carter Jr. is very expressive on the court. After block a shot, he yells at the opposing player. When driving to the basket and receiving contact he usually screams foul towards the refs. And, he often bitterly complains to the referees if he gets called for a tic tac foul. With being such a young player and still unestablished, do you think the referees are holding his behavior against him?

Sam Smith:

Only when he reaches out and grabs someone.


Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer

Cameron Kadleck:

I recall previous Bulls like Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah using smelling salts before games. Was this a fad from a previous era or are players still doing this for an extra rush of adrenaline before games? I did a little reading on the subject and found that it might be able to increase your max strength to the detriment of fine motor skills. So it's probably not the answer with the Bulls lacking touch around the rim these days, but I'm curious whether it's common in the league or a part of players' rituals.

Sam Smith:

I had to consult the expert on this one, Bulls medical guru Chip Schaefer, who since he left Phil Jackson got his doctorate and doesn't ever wear a stethoscope. Smelling salts, as we know, have ammonia. Chip informed me of the use dates back to Victorian times with even references to ancient Rome. You do need something to shake you up when your world is burning and people are playing the fiddle. Chip says it's not in use with the Bulls and rare in the NBA given the medical threat of potentially causing spinal problems. I can't recall Rose using them. We never knew what Jo was up to.


Wilt Chamberlain

Longiang Le:

I am almost in disbelief at the number of people in Chicagoland and online around the country who actually believe that Wilt Chamberlain played in some kind of "weak" or unusual era that made his stats inflated. I honestly think The 72 Lakers that won 69 games would have given any Bulls team with Michael Jordan a hard time - and would have probably won in a 7 game series. The bulls frontline was not Strong enough to contain wilt. The bulls and modern basketball players are more athletic and stronger. But the more I really examine and research, the more assured I am that wilt played very strong players

Sam Smith:

There's this belief regarding Wilt, in part because his statistics were so amazing, that they're in a separate category in something of a parallel universe of sports. And because he played against Erwin Mueller. But Wilt also did it against most of the greatest centers in the history of the game in an era when size and inside strength were the priorities. Wilt set the all-time rebounding record against perhaps the best defensive center of all time, Bill Russell. I know there were more missed shots then, but there are also more now than in recent years with all the three-point shooting. In Wilt's prime when he was setting the most unbreakable records, he played against Hall of Famers like Russell, of course, and Nate Thurmond and Walt Bellamy. And along the way Hall of Fame centers came along like Wes Unseld, Willis Reed and, of yeah, Kareem. Sure, there were smaller centers like Wayne Embry, but these guys were physical and could barely be moved, like Unseld. Plus because of Wilt, much like in Magic's prime with everyone loading up on big guards, teams kept hiring all the seven-footers they could find. Wilt had his flaws given he didn't trust many teammates and didn't pass much until someone told him he couldn't lead the league in assists. There never has been a more dominant player in any American team sport. Sorry, Shaq. You should have gotten in shape before the playoffs.

Got a question for Sam?

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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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