Ask Sam Mailbag: 12.30.17

I was just thinking about the 2010-2011 bulls. Back than if I told you that 7 years later that Kyle, Taj and James Johnson were the 3 still going and going strong, you would have told me to stop watching basketball.

Mike Sutera

So the Bulls hire 3 alphas, try and win and are middling.  Then they decide to tank, trust the process, whatever nonsense they used.  Hire new people, young people, injured people and some who don't like each other.  Ironic that the new people want to win, appear to be able to win and will be maybe middling as well. Now what to do?  Many cliches come to mind but in the end this is why games are played.  I thought this season would be interesting but this has exceeded my expectations (great expectations?). Now what to do?  I would still venture that they are a 20-25 win team.  A decent lotto chance, but not what they were looking for. What's the old saying? Man plans, God laughs. This will be as interesting as the games have been.  Trades are coming, new people are coming and maybe they will keep trying to win. Fascinating but ultimately good for the franchise and more importantly the coaches and players.

Greg Young

Lauri Markkanen

Markkanen is a kid that probably doesn't even yet fully realize where he is and what he's doing.  That's part of the magic of being that age. This group isn't making any kind of run at June, but there's lots of stories here all the same.  Markkanen's journey from Scandanavia to the NBA has to be a rush.  Poor guy! the grocery stores don't have decent fish.  You like the fact that he's a responsible kid.  When Portis and Mirotic were out, he stepped up like a pro.  He's not even done growing yet.  He's probably tired just from that. What you hope for with a good-attitude kid is to grow him into a really good player.  Hoiberg seems to have survived the Rose train wreck, Noah's decline and Gasol mismatch, overall aging of that group and Butler's moodiness and then Wade's coup de gras.  The big deal with a head coach in the NBA is to get good players to buy into your system.  At this stage pretty much they all have a system that will work.  I personally doubted Hoiberg was going to survive Butler b/c it's a players league.  But, as they say, he might have crashed and burned but as long as he's smarter for it, why get someone new that needs to learn what Hoiberg already knows?  So another team can benefit from what Hoiberg learned on Bull's dime with the chaos he inherited?  Coming in, Hoiberg struck me as a pretty-boy politician with his eye on the safer front office job looking at coaching as a stepping stone, a chunk of resume that needed writing.  As a fan, thanks but no thanks. Give me a guy that wants to coach, that likes to coach, that's really happy being a coach.  If that were true, Paxson/Forman at least made him earn it with the last couple of years starting with the worn-out roster of no doubt irritable players that had years of being screamed at a lot by a marginally unbalanced boss who in weird obscure ways was uncomfortably unpredictable.  20/20 hindsight tells us that the expectations of that group were exorbitantly outrageous. A couple of years of that really tested Hoiberg's will to do this, I'm sure.  To his credit, he survived. He has to really want to do this. His X's/O's as we see them now? not too bad.  Former player, yes. Role  players often make good coaches.  Excellent people skills, though.  Fans can't tell if he's got good organizational sense because we don't see the workplace every day.  He's already done a superb job with Dunn, and Markkanen has a lot of formation to do yet.  Hoiberg's probably right for that job.  LaVine?  that depends on a bunch of things, but Hoiberg's already shown a steady sense of purpose these last couple of years. Hoiberg seems to have a nice handle on the Valentines and the Holidays. He also seems to understand the Nwabas and the Portises. If Hoiberg plays out, Bulls wind up with a balanced, coherent, talented group that operates from clear objectives. The players will each have their personalities on and off the court, but as a group they will have a foundation that starts with focus. If it works out like that? pretty good.  Right now, Hoiberg starts to get credit for work he's put in by now for years.  Good for him. It's a show me world and by now Hoiberg has shown that he understands the business end of a shovel.  All good, but these last 10 or 11 games also show that he can get results, too. Hopefully his key guys stay healthy so we can all find out.

Pete Zievers

Zach LaVine

You were on the "don't believe" list and looks like you are changing your mind thank goodness. The first rebuild trade was hard for me I admit but it made the second trade easy to deal with. The first trade defined the new direction and the second trade makes it work - but let's hope we never see Cameron Payne play again. The whole team has handled "The Punch" - no indication of an actual fight - in such a professional manner it sets a new precedent in the business of sports. I would rather see Niko start as earned in preseason but very excited to see Zach Lavine return to the floor. Bulls are strong enough in all positions with the only missing piece a real small forward. Bulls fans please stop talking about losing big for the lottery or any trades for picks when we should focus on what is available at the 3 spot in free agency or first round draft pick. What do you see in the forethreeable future?

Lawrence Joy

Robin Lopez

In a best case scenario for player development, the Bulls draft 10-14. Probably realistic with Zach Levine coming back. In wild scenario, battle for 8th seed. So, getting franchise player through draft becomes out of the question. Ok, I've taken that in and will look at the positives which are huge. 1. Can you now attract a franchise player or close to it in free agency in 2018. Nice young supporting cast in place now.... 2. Do you see management Lopez and/or Mirotic/Portis getting moved at trade deadline to push the Bulls back down. They've won 9 of 11 (that's a decent sample) and have their best player coming back. Situations change. Goal is to get a franchise player. Not saying I would want trade, but if an opportunity came where a franchise player become available, I'd be flexible enough to entertain it. Kevin Garnet, Kareem, Barkley all got traded.

Jeff Lichtenstein

David Nwaba

The Bulls should offer David Nwaba a multi-year contract: 2 years 8 - 11 million a year + player option 3rd season.  More upfront, but well worth it. The only missing element from Nwaba's game is a 3-ball. Nwaba is a smart guy and he'll get there soon enough. Doing this basically allows the Bulls to get him for cheap by his 3rd year (when few people will be under contract). If the Bulls wait and Nwaba gets everything figured out. They'll have pay at least 16 million at that point. Since he'll be a younger Andre Iguodala type of player.

Matt Ruth

Do you think the GMs are as surprised as anybody at how well this team is playing?

LongGiang Le

Jimmy Butler

The Timberwolves are hovering around the 3-5 spot in the Western Conference. Do they have a shot at the championship or do you see that team falling apart similarly how the KG-Spree-Sam experiment fell apart with Olowakandi and Trenton Hassell as the other core pieces. Butler appears to be playing well again at 20/6/6 and his regular shooting percentages. Their center Karl-Anthony Towns hasn't been the dominant force which he was last season in terms of numbers but I think that's because you insert scorers such as Butler & Teague to the lineup and you see numbers drop. I think that team is a bomb waiting to explode.

Tom Plonowski

Brandon Ingram

I'm slowly making peace with the fact we're not going to have a top 5 pick. I realize there are examples of players being found at any point in the draft, but it's always easier to cheer for pedigree than another worker bee Jimmy Butler type developing after a few years with the team. I also begrudgingly admit that the best way for the team to really turn the corner is to develop that winning attitude. So for this group to really rally together and win some games as a team, only for management to panic and trade everybody, that would really send a bad message to the players (both on the team and considering to join) and might really set us back. So here's my solution, talk the fan base/media into the upside play and trade Niko and some expiring contracts to LA for Brandon Ingram and Luol Deng's contract albatross. 2 more horrible years of Deng but he's a respected veteran Bull, lead the players and maybe be a bit of team ambassador as he cashes his checks. Then we're looking at a future starting 5 of Dunn-LaVine-Ingram-Lauri- and maybe sign Ja Okafor in the off season and bring him home and hope that does something?! Or some other athletic center. Maybe Bobby Portis turns into a strong man modern center? Just seems like there is a lot more high end potential with this group.

Dustin Chaviano

Chicago Bulls pregame huddle

Considering we are 9-2 in the last 11, and with LaVine coming back, isn't it feasible for us to go 29-18 or 30-17 - Roughly 60% win rate - and make the playoffs at 41-41 or 42-40?

Abram Bachtiar