Ask Sam Mailbag: Could Chris Paul or another veteran PG join the Bulls?

Brodie Larsh: I'm not saying the Bulls should go get Chris Paul, and the last thing the Bulls need is another point guard with injury issues, but I could see the reasoning behind offering him 2 years and 22 million or whatever the exception ends up being. A healthy Chris Paul would improve the team, but he's not consistently available. Maybe AK is looking at the success they had with Pat Bev's limited point guard skills/facilitating and feel like CP3 will be a vast improvement over that. Paul’s familiarity with Billy Donovan probably doesn't hurt either. He would be a great influence on Coby, whom he shares a close friendship with. If Paul ends up playing for the exception somewhere, I'm guessing it's in LA though.

Sam: Asked and answered? Hey, when is it my turn? Yes, the Bulls need a point guard and it’s been the point of post season discussion as much as two years ago when they signed Lonzo Ball. And now come reports the Suns might release Paul—to save $45 million of his $60 million owed, which also makes you wonder if the owner who’s declared money isn’t an issue doesn’t want to Paul—though there also were reports maybe he works something out to stay. For the Bulls, 38-year-old point guard who needs numerous days off to get through the season and who then has broken down in every playoff who a team that believes it’s a championship contender is letting go. That’s your plan? I’d pass, though like you suggest it’s more likely Paul passes first.

I read this week where he was complaining about classmates taunting his kid about him not winning a championship. Not that it is a reason, but you assume if Paul is let go he chooses a team he believes is close to winning a title. The Bulls can’t be mistaken for that yet, but more so aren’t likely to get closer if the point guard they hire has to miss a quarter of the season to try to be healthy for the playoffs. I think Derrick Rose may be healthier after all last season’s rest. What about Russell Westbrook? Not exactly Chris Paul, but healthy, he plays, also played for Billy Donovan, the Bulls tried to get him as a buyout and likely not to have much of a market with a potential title contender. Paul obviously is close with LeBron, and he has played for the Clippers, who don’t have a point guard. Plus, the East now probably is too physical for the fragile Paul. He’ll stay out west. While I still believe substantial change is coming for the Bulls in some form.

Harold Lach: Why couldn't DeRozan play point guard? Look at the Denver Nuggets.  Their whole team acts like point guards.Yes, Murray is their main guy but all are capable of bringing up the ball and starting a play. Now with Williams playing SF the Bulls need a PF.  With all the backcourt players the Bulls have it should be possible for the Bulls to engineer a trade for a respectable PF. 

Sam: You still need someone to play through and who makes plays for the offense. That’s why I’ve suggested the Bulls are one of the few teams that could play like a version of the Nuggets. But like teams trying to copy Golden State, there is one Curry, and there is one Jokić. Vučević, to me, has a lot of the abilities Jokić does, if not quite being as good at any. Vučević can pass well enough, shoot and rebound. He’s not quite as adept as Jokić at identifying the play as it unfolds, but hardly anyone is. That’s why Jokić is different. There aren’t many in NBA history who see the game that way. True that Denver doesn’t play with a traditional point guard, but DeRozan is a poor choice for something like that because as skilled as he is, he’s not quick to identify offense. He usually does when he’s dribbling and then when the defense reacts with maybe a trap, hedge or double team, he’ll make a play. He doesn’t tend to initiate, which few great shooters do. Don’t blame him. Or ask him to rediscover himself at 34. I assume from everything management has said the Bulls’ priority remains a point guard. Though Coby White if he doesn’t leave as a restricted free agent looks like he can play that role some. And, yes, with Williams likely moving to a wing position (I get it; you had to put DeRozan somewhere), there’s a need for a power forward, which I assume remains the Bulls other priority. Someone like Trey Lyles? But there’s a long way to go to see if the Bulls trade for a draft pick, make a trade or how they may use their salary cap exception. 

Marty Barr: I am interested in your thoughts about how Gabe Vincent has developed for the Heat. I recall a couple years ago he gave the Bulls problems in a game and you made a funny comment about not knowing who he was. Nobody did then. Seeing the job Spoelstra has done in Miami and especially in the development of so many G League type players that are now major contributors, does the Bulls coaching staff and front office have any plan to have their younger players take the next step. 

Sam: When you are the last team and men standing, pretty much everything you do gets exceptional attention since, after all, there’s hardly anyone else playing to judge things against. So Miami’s roster filled with undrafted guys comes to look like this exceptional development program. Maybe it is, but I doubt it. I’m sure they do a decent job, but everyone works at that.

What’s different with Miami are two things: They don’t treasure draft picks, and they aren’t afraid to admit a mistake and move on as quickly as they can. Pat Riley is maybe the league’s best team president, so they have that going for them. He’s never cared much for draft picks, operating pretty much in a what can we do now mode. He did tear it down once and ended with Dwyane Wade, but that was an exception.. and so was Wade. What happens with most teams is they are invested in their draft picks because first rounders have three-year guarantees that are basically five years with matching rights. Not as long, but similarly with second rounders who make the rotation. In Miami, they thus have the luxury of trial and error from his huge field of undrafted players and discarded draft picks. Some hit, some don’t. But they generally don’t get locked down long term.

Riley’s not perfect and has overpaid on some deals. It seemed like he did with Duncan Robinson, so then for months they wouldn’t let him play. Riley doesn’t take the bait of being asked why a big salary guy isn’t in the rotation. That’s more the celebrated culture. Max Strus worked just as hard with the Bulls. He just didn’t get to play. He hit some shots with Miami, so he played. If he didn’t he wouldn’t have and he would have been gone just for a cheap tryout. That doesn’t always work because you still need stars, and Miami paid big to get Jimmy Butler as a free agent. Bigger previously for LeBron and Bosh. They just seem to have more flexibility with personnel than most teams because of that lack of draft contracts.

Mark Kollar: Over the past few weeks you and your readers have rehashed trade options/free agent acquisitions ad nauseum. Frankly, none of them have anything near the excitement of the possibility that D Wade and LeBron might join Derrick, Noah and the crew. I don't see any team in the East that is that much better. I think Vuc is 85% as good as the Joker. The Bulls are a contender if Coby makes a leap as a starting point guard. I don't see another Lonzo out there for the taking this year and our ceiling is just as high as anybody. The Heat are not a great team. Maybe the worst team in the finals since the Celtics last year. I was disappointed this year but I think we're in the hunt.

Sam: I wouldn’t be fooled, but I think a lot of teams in the East are thinking that way. I understand it, and parity does mean if you stay healthy and make a few shots at the right time… after all, as we have heard many times, Miami was trailing late in the fourth quarter against the Bulls in the play-in elimination game. So I agree they aren’t as far as 40-42 may suggest. Still, I think it’s more than just Coby and development. I’ve been lobbying for some time now for the Bulls to consider playing through Vučević, and pretty much do it every week in one of these responses. But to me that also suggests two main personnel issues. It seems the Bulls have a choice to make about who is the shooting guard and then thus moving Patrick Williams to small forward. Then finding their Aaron Gordon type for some size at power forward. And finding at least one knock down catch-and-release guy for the perimeter. It could take a trade since the Bulls are somewhat hamstrung with the salary cap. I would not count on Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, et al, saying they don’t need to do much because Miami was a fluke. Or based on history the Heat to be satisfied where they are even if they win the title. If you aren’t moving forward you are moving backward in sports.

Mike Sutera: Reports are the Mavericks have dangled the 10th pick with hopes of landing a veteran who cam impact winning now. DeMar?

Sam: Seems like you ought to be able to get that shooter Gradey Dick there, who looks like an ideal fit for Bulls needs. It’s more complicated than that with salary matching and probably would require someone like Tim Hardaway Jr., who shoots threes well. The Bulls probably would have to give something back, and while there’s a lot of speculation regarding DeRozan because he has one year left on his contract, I continue to get the sense the Bulls value him highly also for his mentorship with the young players.

Michael Worth: Wonder if we could buy a late first and draft Ben Sheppard? Also like Anthony Black but he's likely going to be a top ten pick. Shooters and play makers are what the Bulls should be looking for.

Sam: Belmont, eh? Spent a lot of time there in college. Losing mostly $2 bets, as I recall. Oh, that Belmont. Sheppard sounds like someone who fits a Bulls profile, a shooter and who showed out well at the Combine. Indiana has two low firsts after their lottery pick, Brooklyn has two picks in the 20s, the Clippers have 30 and they aren’t about draft picks, there’s that Portland pick at No. 23 that’s often speculated they’d give the Bulls to free up their future No. 1 they owe the Bulls. So, yes there are possibilities, though teams rarely sell picks anymore and it generally takes a trade. 

Darrell Horwitz: I’m in Charlotte and was hoping the Hornets would get the first pick, which almost happened. That would have changed everything with the organization just from the standpoint of marketability. With two, I like Brandon Miller a lot, as I watched most of Alabama's games and he can do everything on the court. He could end up having a better career than Wembanyama if his head is on right, because players 7 foot 3 or taller usually end up getting injured. I read something that San Antonio's value went up half a billion just getting the first pick.

Sam: I haven’t been looking at the draft much since the Bulls don’t have a pick… yet. No, I don’t know anything, but I’d be surprised if they don’t get in somewhere since there are plenty of teams with multiple picks they aren’t going to use. I keep thinking—with my usual disclaimer of never having seen any of these guys play though I’m usually as good or better with draft picks than most of the executives because you either know what an NBA player looks like or don’t—Scoot Henderson at No. 2 because it’s harder to get a point guard, he looks like a dynamic scorer, we’ve learned you can’t count on the health of Ball guards, and the NBA is a multiple ball hander game these days. Miller would fit perfectly for the Bulls needs, a 6-9 perimeter guy who can shoot. I think for Charlotte’s purposes with their dreary and insipid roster, they badly need some pizzaz. Miller isn’t making much difference for them. They need some excitement. Though you don’t get to be where Charlotte is by making the right decisions. Most of the latest mock drafts do have Miller on the move to No. 2. That will be interesting, and many of us do fear what you say regarding Wembanyama, who may be 7-5. That history of size isn’t encouraging. I might sell now if I were the Spurs. It seems like Jordan will soon.

Is this reasonable? Clippers get: Demar and Drummond

Paul Giuntoli: Bulls get: Covington, Morris, Coffey, 2023 #30th overall pick, 2028 Lottery Protected 1st.

1) DeMar gets to go home

2) DeMar's ISO heavy offense fits right in with what the Clips do.

3) Drummond gets more playing time (in theory) backing up Zubac.

4) Covington, Morris, & Coffey were all out of the playoff rotation. The Clips really only went 8 deep (Healthy Kawhi, PG, Powell, Gordon, Mann, Zubac, Westbrook, and Batum).

5) Covington's & Morris' contracts expire at the end of the season. Coffey is young & inexpensive, and we need big wings.

6) Covington/Morris can slide into the starting forward spot, allowing Pat to go to the Wing, improving our overall D and rebounding.

7) Clips don't take any long-term salary; in a year they'll go from the highest salary team to below the Cap.

8) AKME get to buy into this draft and hopefully find a valuable player late, a'la Ayo.

9) Any Clippers future first, whether tomorrow, next year, or in 5 years, is valuable.

Sam: You make a reasonable case. So how did you get my email? Drummond has that player option and says he’ll opt in; is that why? Does he know something? While I get DeRozan suggestions, I know it’s more for the uncertainty with a year left on his contract, as you note, and fondness for playing in LA. The Bulls do need some size on the front line and some depth, so there is appeal. I always liked to have a Morris around for the toughness, though he did have a rough season. But they are one year deals, so there’s not long term risk. Worth thinking about, and the Bulls do need to start building some draft capital. 

Brendan Greeley: Vooch plays Jokic so tough head-to-head, I wonder if some observant Western Conference GM might make a run at signing him. If Coby secures the starting point guard spot and runs with it, he could end up among the most successful picks from 2019 draft.  I hope they both stick and become keys to a resurgent Bulls team in 2023/24.

Sam: Well, there is rivalry there from the breakup of Yugoslavia; though we don’t hear much talk about that, I guess, since Vučević the older one was two then. The Bulls did beat Denver in Denver this season, though Denver was easing off the gas by then. Vučević has had some good games against Jokić. I can see Coby welcoming your view since if it occurs he’ll have done a Jimmy Butler in betting on himself and winning big. It will benefit the Bulls, which is why his negotiation this summer also will be intriguing.

Nico Morales: Could you provide some insight into LaVine being “upset” with the Bulls. These comments have been circulating for quite a while. I watched the game where it looked like him and Donovan were engaged in an intense conversation, which resulted in LaVine sitting out the remainder of the game and I read that KC Johnson of NBCSports confirmed “tension” in the locker room when the Bulls faced the Timberwolves. Since then, it seems that LaVine’s and Donovan’s relationship has improved. LaVine has remained committed to this franchise and has been someone I enjoy watching.

Sam: There was that issue after that sort-of turning point Minnesota game when the Bulls gave up 150 points. I think Zach felt he was being singled out, though everyone since has said it was misinterpreted by media. If it were or not, they’d say that, so who knows. I believe there have been times Zach has felt unappreciated the way the offense and last shots have skewed toward DeRozan. But at the same time, LaVine always calls DeRozan his best friend on the team and has been consistently positive about the franchise and the city and fan base. I recall Jimmy Butler and Erik Spoelstra practically coming to blows and having to be separated in a timeout during this season. And things seem to have gone well for the Heat since. Zach is somewhat unappreciated at times in the community, though to me because of the lack of team success since Ball’s injury. But when you finish 40-42, no matter what management says, the game can be afoot, Holmes.

Pete Zievers: Saw what appeared to be a somewhat wild rumor sending LBJ to DAL to play with Kyrie. Apparently GM LBJ lobbied hard to get Kyrie onto LAL. I'd agree that Pelinka made something of a silk purse out of a sow's ear there under tough circumstances and should be commended instead of undermined.Isn't there zero chance that LBJ leaves LA? 

Sam: To play with the guy who in Cleveland said he had to get away from LeBron? The rumors were LeBron was trying to get Kyrie before he was traded to the Mavericks. And, yes, destroyed their season. I don’t see LeBron leaving LA given all his business interests there, and they are a contender again with the additions they made. And if they don’t let LeBron play GM this summer. The Kyrie situation is curious because he’s been nothing but a team malignancy everywhere he’s been since leaving Cleveland. I can’t see anyone giving him a long term deal. Though we always say it only takes one stupid franchise. He’s a big time talent, but you can’t count on him through injury or emotional distress playing regularly. He doesn’t play well with others, especially on the court. I can’t see how you could contract him more than year by year, but then there always seems to be one. He’s a good test case for that again.

Corey Pratt: Andre Drummond will opt-in, he said on a podcast. Could or should he be the starter next season?

Sam: Drummond hasn’t yet, but if he does I’ll admit I’m very surprised. He didn’t play as much as he liked, and while he wasn’t much public about it, it seemed obvious behind the scenes. He was one of the better offensive rebounders in the league, and his play was a big reason the Bulls were 3-0 over Miami as he gave Adebayo fits. It does seem like from reports the Bulls are committed to working out an extension with Vučević, so I don’t see a larger role for Drummond since Billy Donovan made clear he didn’t like the pairing with Vučević. But I’ve often said since everyone is a multi millionaire and you can only drive one car at a time, why not enjoy being where you are? Drummond said he’s comfortable in Chicago, so good for him. If he’s choosing lifestyle over chasing the last dollar, we should applaud him for his humanity. And choosing Chicago in winter? Sign this man up for the visitors bureau. We may not have a better ambassador.

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