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Ask Sam Mailbag: Bulls starting lineup thoughts, Drummond's role, and more

Tim Flynn: You know, of course, that your suggested starting lineup is not going to happen. There is zero chance of a healthy Vooch not starting. Also, Dragic might be the choice as starting PG but does he, despite his experience and toughness, offer more than a possibly noticeably improved Ayo? The biggest problem that Donovan has to solve – even though it is a lesser one as long as Ball is out – is how to divide the two guard 96 MPG among Zach, Ayo, Caruso, Dragic and White. Even if Zach’s PT is “reduced”, I cannot see it being less than 32 MPG most games. That leaves 64 minutes between 4 guys.  If you start Dragic and give him the 24 MPG he has talked about possibly getting, with 40 MPG left, at least one of the other three guys will essentially be a benchwarmer.  Caruso, of course not. Ayo, really?  White, odd man out? If Lonzo makes it back healthy even by January, the glut of guards will be a real problem.

Sam: I know it’s not going to happen, but what I often attempt to do is raise issues for discussion instead of making predictions or assurances. That’s for gambling sites and surgeons. I agree Vucevic will start, though I do think my suggestion of Vucevic as “the man” for a supersubs group with Drummond a dirty work defender for the starters makes sense. I favor Dragic starting. But if you went the Drummond starting route, then with Caruso starting at point you’d have a better balance of defense with the starters to replace what Ball provides. But you are correct in that Donovan (and most coaches) worry about alienating their regulars since media and fans look at coming off the bench as a demotion even if you play as many minutes and finish the game. Billy doesn’t seem to like those issues. I don’t think it will be a huge issue to start since—and I think it’s preferable after some guys played a lot last season—to expand the rotation early in the season. I don’t see DeRozan playing as much and thus LaVine taking some time at small forward. Also, I don’t see Dragic, and certainly not early after Eurobasket, playing 24 minutes. Maybe closer to 18-20. Though Coby often looks like an odd man out, I believe they have to give him reasonable time both for his shooting and if they need to make a move considering Ball’s health to help elevate White’s value so they have more options when it comes closer to the trade deadline. They’ll view the “glut” as a positive if it comes to that, but already Donovan has made clear just recovering from surgery hardly puts Ball close to playing. And then like with Derrick Rose in 2013 toward the end of his rehabilitation when the community and media were clamoring for his return, do you then ask a player who’s been out a year to push himself at the most extreme time of the season? Rose didn’t and suffered the censure of the community. Rose’s rosy Chicago receptions since have suggested to me the community was apologizing without admitting it was wrong. Like Donovan said, the Bulls have to proceed as if Ball’s not returning to also not put pressure on Ball.

Dante Valenzuela: Could this work? Drummond: Center; Vucevic: Power Forward.; DeRozan: Forward; LaVine: Guard; Dosunmu Point Guard?

Sam: Already this week, the twin bigs idea has been brought up several times to the two big guys and Donovan. And other than Drummond being interested because it means starting for him, no one seemed that enthusiastic. Drummond said he’d be the good teammate (who doesn’t say that the first week of camp? OK, other than Kyrie?) and do what was asked. But Drummond did in his brief tenure with the Nets last season average a double/double in 22 minutes. He wasn’t nearly as productive coming off the bench previously with the 76ers after a rough run that changed the league outlook about the two-time All-Star when he was excommunicated by the Cavs and left out of the rotation at the end of the playoffs with the Lakers. Though he’s still just 29 and looks like an excellent addition. Based on my mail, the community wants Dosunmu to start at point guard. I’ve voted for Dragic, though mine doesn’t count, either. I’ve heard suggestions given that the Big Three all are offensive-oriented they need Caruso to start for his defense and experience. That’s the only real unknown, it seems. At least it gives the preseason some meaning.

Pete Zievers: You attack with speed and cleans up with size. I like Coby with Ayo, Caruso, and Terry off the bench. I think there's enough rebounding there to get it done and decent/stable distribution with Ayo against the other guy's second unit.  Green is situational. A 24 year old Taj would be really useful with this bunch of players. He, Caruso and Terry would totally make that unit if Terry comes close to working out. That'd take minutes off Caruso's load, too.

Sam: I like the idea of a bench identity, especially as I’ve suggested with pressure defense and picking up early in the clock and not letting the opposing offense get set. It’s tough to read how Donovan is thinking, and I don’t know how many hints we’ll get in the exhibition games since Donovan emphasized his priority is seeing how various groups operate together and then mad scientist-wise setting up his units. Donovan has often said he prefers a tighter rotation, and the name I’ve heard the least frequently in camp has been the rookie Terry. I think for now the shooting element, as well as the guard abundance, could hold him back and give him more time in the G-league, at least to start. Which I like. I don’t care for players hanging around with the varsity to play a few minutes. I liked the way the Warriors did it with Jordan Poole in the G-league for parts of two seasons to give him real playing time and then benefit the big team in his third season. I get the need with injuries, but especially now with what seems like a deep roster (where are you Javonte and DJJ?), it seems the Bulls have more flexibility. 

Brian Tucker: I wanted to build on the Conley topic. Given the not-optimistic happenings with Ball, could it be a good idea to try and make a trade here?  Seems like a win-win-win scenario, as much as I like Lonzo as a Bull.

  1. Utah gets to better tank this season while having Ball’s future potential.
  2. Ball gets to take his recovery slowly with no pressure.
  3. Bulls get a guy who can play, a very solid vet who could fit well with this team.

His minutes and numbers have been on the downslope and though he stayed pretty healthy last year, he hadn’t the couple previous years.  But with our backcourt depth, he wouldn’t need to play huge minutes. Does this interest either team?  I’m not sure for the Bulls given Lonzo’s age and upside potential.  Or the health risks for the Jazz.  But their positions and salaries do line up perfectly.

Sam: Now that’s cold. Lonzo, thanks for your service. I get the idea, and I’ve stated many times I’ve been a Conley fan, though for now I do think Dragic can do a lot of what Conley would do. That’s why I’ve favored Dragic to start, though I get the Caruso defensive component. My thought with Caruso, however, has been his impact is flying off the bench into the game. And would he start a game like that? Starters tend not to, though it would make sense since, you know, starters tend not to. Also that flying thing with his size results in a lot of owies. Yes, the tanking Jazz is stuck with Conley’s money, about $23 million this season and $14 million of his deal guaranteed for next year. Ball has two years left after this season, and I’m sure the Bulls don’t view this as the last season in franchise history. But, more so, it’s just not done. You don’t announce your welcome mat around the NBA by kicking the cane out from under your guy when he leaves the hospital.

Larry Jurkens: I might have to say Mike's dunk on seven-foot Melvin Turpin may have been at least as powerful as Pooh’s (on Dragic). And then he looked at that fan who was yelling to "pick on someone your own size" and says "is he big enough?"

Sam: A classic Jordan moment as the “fan” was the team’s owner, Larry Miller, who often sat courtside in what apparently helped inspire Mark Cuban. There’s obviously no scientific or aesthetic way to both measure dunks (despite the “judges” at the All-Star game weekend contest), so I guess I took some license to promote Rose’s dunk over Dragic. Yeah, welcome to Chicago, Goran. He was cool with his classy, quick quip about it being his nightmare. Jordan didn’t create the artful and breathtaking dunk, but he surely popularized it, tongue wagging and all. One vote for Rose notes Jordan had about four inches and 25 pounds on him. And even if Dragic wasn’t jumping that much, Turpin was known as “Dinner bell Mel,” suggesting he probably didn’t get off his feet much.

Kieron Smith: That’s a joke right about DeRozan being asked if he’s still not respected? What more does he need to do to prove he’s probably the best small forward we’ve had since Scottie Pippen.

Sam: Just like DeRozan said, “what else do I have to do?” I didn’t see it so much as an insult as a media narrative about no way he averages almost 28 points again. But he is “just” 33, which is more a just in this era in which counterintuitively the players make so much more money and have thus so much more security yet end up playing so much longer. Like DeRozan noted, he’s four years younger than players having statistical career years like Chris Paul and LeBron James and doesn’t rely on the athleticism that can wane with age. Plus, he obviously keeps himself in great shape. You can be sure he’ll be worthy of another substantial contract in two years.

Art Alenik: Are you sure you’d want a guy who demands that the coach and GM both be fired? Yeah, Durant. OK, he’s beyond talented... but at every turn, he looks low-character. I agree with Barkley that his move to Golden State was cowardly, even if it is his right to pick where he goes. Why not make some team great instead of going where they don’t even really need you? Basically, he deserves the Nets nuthouse and I hope he never wins another ring. He’s a superstar, but is he a winner?

Sam: Don’t be too harsh since I’m told the Bulls would take him. Look, a year or more around Kyrie Irving probably can do that to a person. I had no issue with the Golden State thing, and I don’t believe they would have won without him. But that’s another debate. People go to work for the New York Times, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, Kirkland & Ellis. I know the “in the day” players say it was heroic to stay and elevate your team, but there basically was no free agency then where you could leave and be with a team that wasn’t decimated to accommodate you. But you do have a point with Durant, which I believe is why he wasn’t traded, or at least one reason. There weren’t many team executives willing to both give up a pile of resources and then have the guy show up and say he wants a new GM. Though I also believe like the Lakers with Kobe some years back, the Nets intended to keep him and kept raising the price. Because despite all the potential distractions, with that core and guys like Joe Harris and T.J. Warren returning at some point they look like the best in the East to me. But if things begin to deteriorate…. Durant had talked about getting to Phoenix. And now with the ownership mess, there’s more stuff going on there. Though everyone tried to discount it, I do believe it is something that Ayton hadn’t talked with Monty Williams since being benched in that playoff collapse. The Suns obviously didn’t want to pay Ayton and he likely knows that; they had to match his offer. Valuable “asset” and all. Maybe things change with new ownership. But I’d watch that space because many don’t see Ayton finishing the season there.

Mike Worth: We get out of the gate slow; Lonzo no improvement. Do we deal DeMar and Vooch to contenders? Start a mini rebuild?

Sam: Don’t even whisper that! No more rebuilds! No more rebuilds! Though things do change quickly in the NBA with the shorter deals. Vucevic’s ends after this season and DeRozan’s after next, so I assume the Bulls have to be thinking about all possibilities. After all, DeRozan has made no secret of desiring to play back home in LA and LeBron, at least in his way, seems to have acknowledged that his Westbrook-over-DeRozan orchestration may not have been the best plan. But no, no matter how Lonzo’s health goes, Karnisovas has made it clear he wants at least one strong run with this group, which the Bulls might not get this season considering Ball’s situation, at least early. I don’t see any way they back off from that even if it has to come next season or in these playoffs. But if Lonzo is ready late in the season….

Dan Probst: Welcome back. Hope you enjoyed your Summer of Sam. Did you have a block of cheese the size of a car battery? Went to your old stomping grounds, NYC, over the summer and saw my favorite play, inexplicably still playing off-off Broadway, 'La Cocina'. Was strapped for time or I'd have also gone to see the architectural addition to the Guggenheim.  

Sam: It was a sweet time, I have to admit. Pretty much never got out of my velvet underwear at home except for the occasional frisbee golf. Played some Frogger, couldn't get around to reading Tropic of Cancer, but did call a friend to do an IQ test for me just to see. Pretty much had Twix every day and did one time find a tasty eclair in the garbage with just one bite taken out. Began marine biology study in case this thing goes bad. Pretty, pretty, pretty perfect offseason.

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