Ask Sam Mailbag: DeMar's three-point shooting, offseason additions and more

Michael Mortenson: Is it my imagination, or has DeMar been working on his three-point shot?

Sam: It’s your imagination. True, he’s shot a few more lately, and when he makes any everyone is aghast because he’s the midrange guy. But he’s on pace to attempt and make about as many as he did last season. And he has had a few seasons he’s shot close to 35 percent, where he is now. I actually remember talking to Toronto coach Dwane Casey before the 2017-18 season and he was talking about getting DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to shoot more threes to break out of the playoff disappointments they’d been having. So DeRozan had the second best three-point season of his career, and the Raptors set a franchise record for wins. And then when they lost in the second round of the playoffs again, Casey was fired, DeRozan was traded, and they won the NBA title the next season. How about that! What I have been seeing with DeRozan has been more passing, averaging six assists the last six games and getting on the boards more. I assume Beverley is talking to him, also.

Mike Sutera: 36-40. I had them at 38 wins. Can we do it? Hornets and Pistons are wins. Another thing I will tell you I am right about soon is that blame of this season's failures will somehow fall on Zach. Media plants stories? Who knows what. And you keep hearing all this stuff with Jaylen Brown and the Boston fans and he doesn’t like them and there. If Boston doesn’t win it all, do they breakup and then go looking for Zach?

Sam: For Jaylen Brown? I’d keep Zach; no offense, though he has plenty. With as I’ve noted the timely addition of Beverley to play a bigger role, we see a lot more of LaVine going to the basket and getting free throws, in better position to score and with that unique athletic ability. Perhaps Brown is somewhat better defensively, if not much, but he doesn’t have the variety in his game that LaVine does. Brown is one of those guys who loves to shoot threes. And if he misses 10, doesn’t realize it’s not his night and keeps shooting them. Terrific talent, but he often seems angry about things and you wonder if you can find a better teammate than Zach. Although like they always say, you have an underachieving or unexpected season and nobody is untouchable. I suspect the Bulls could be sorting through a lot of possibilities. I’d be hard pressed to give up on Zach.

Greg Young: Why did it take Bulls management so long to get a semblance of a point guard, no disrespect to Beverley. It would be nice if management at least would acknowledge the need for a true PG. Kudos to the Bulls players who continue to play like the professionals they are.

Sam: It seems they knew, but the issue has been the choice. After all, they prioritized Goran Dragić over shooting last summer as insurance for Ball. But it seems like the Dragić who showed up wasn’t the one they wanted or expected. He should have been the starter to open the season as the only true veteran point guard on the roster. But when the coach opted for Ayo Dosunmu, it was a signal that either Dragić was hurt or they couldn’t count on him or didn’t want to. They obviously wanted Dosunmu to be that point guard. But it probably was a disservice to Dosunmu. Albeit understandable because of need, it often became, until Beverley arrived, a size 10 foot and size eight-and-a-half shoe. A lot of shoehorning was going to be necessary, and it still might be uncomfortable. If the Bulls get in the playoffs against the Bucks, will it be Goran’s revenge tour? He had some moments with the Bulls, and for awhile after that he seemed like the season’s savior with his message after the Minnesota loss and 150 points against that they weren’t playing for eachother. I never got what was the big deal about that since it seemed cliche said all the time about losing teams. But everyone seemed to believe it was a catalyst for playing better afterward and Dragić was the wise sage for awhile. Until, you know, he was released. I seem to be digressing again. Point guard, right. There were other options — Boogie Cousins? — but their buyout market was point guard Westbrook and point guard Beverley, as close as Beverley is, at least. But even if Beverley isn’t the classic distributor, his presence and intelligence, if not his trash talking, did help the offense, enhanced LaVine’s play and began to put the right people in the right places more often. And Coby White has stepped up impressively to add to that role off the bench. It seems obvious the Bulls can’t count on Ball for next season. So I assume management’s priority is point guard. And shooting, of course. But I think there’s potentially more flexibility this summer with LaVine’s contract last summer. And as soon as the new management came in, their first major free agent option was a point guard, after all. And for 30-some games, it looked great. I think they understand. But like the great quarterbacks, there just aren’t that many great point guards. And half the teams always seem to be looking for one all the time.

Matt Metz: There was recent media speculation Draymond Green signing with the Mavs, Kyrie staying, and LBJ eventually finding his way to Dallas. I can see Draymond going there as Mavs need defense and Draymond needs a fool like Cuban to overpay him. Kyrie I can see signing for the supermax with Dallas or taking a smaller deal in Miami. As for LBJ I can't see him ever leaving the bright lights of LA.

Sam: But what about if the Mavs miss the playoffs next season, get the No. 1 pick and select Bronny? Yeah, I also don’t see LeBron leaving his business empire. It’s seemed like all the latest stuff circling Draymond’s drain this season with the fight and all has been about the lack of an extension. Talk about your safe place, Draymond provides toughness and some good playmaking. But he’s badly exposed without their shooting. Just the albatross contract you can see Dallas going for. The Mavs are a mess now and we all believe soon to panic to go for names. They’ve got enough money in players they don’t use much, so it does sound right that they could be in the market big time for trades. But I expect that for many teams, including the Bulls assuming there is no big postseason surprise.

Ateeq Ahmed: After watching the Clippers game, I see what you mean about Westbrook being ok after leaving the Lakers. He looked fast and was playing free. He looks happy, too. Never thought I’d say that. I am fully rooting for him. Clippers have a pretty good team. They made some nice additions at the trade deadline.  Plumlee as a back-up center is a nice luxury to have off the bench. Hopefully Paul George comes back soon from injury. They might be the sneaky upset team in the 2nd round.  

Sam: They’re part of a Western Conference playoff story that could be one of the more interesting in years; maybe since the Rockets made the Finals with a losing record in 1981. That was the season the Rockets and Spurs moved to the Western Conference when the NBA office trying to get over its problems with geography had the Bulls and Bucks in the Western Conference. They then switched with the Spurs and Rockets. The 40-42 Rockets lost 4-2 to Boston in the Finals in 1981. I don’t expect either Denver or Memphis to make this season’s Finals. Or the third place Kings. So it’s an unprecedented guessing game. I can see the Warriors, the Suns, the Lakers and maybe those Clippers. They’ll call them upsets, but will be like this NCAA tournament. No. 11 beating No. 2 isn’t really an upset as much as the lack of understanding of those setting the brackets. What do you think are the chances they even watched some of those teams play? Get ready for too many of those annoying gambling ads. No one has any idea what’s going to happen.

Dan Covel: If Bulls management is such a great judge of talent, why did they take Williams over keeping Markkanen?  Did they just want to give Markkanen a chance?  Nothing against Williams, but he wasn’t a primary need. Why did they skip PGs like Haliburton, Maxey and Quickley (their biggest need) to draft a forward? Or why didn’t they trade the pick and move back to draft Cole Anthony or Tre Jones later in the draft (at least they are playmakers)? How did they think that renting a few older players was worth giving up so many draft picks?  Did they think Ball could then carry the team?  I would trade DeRozen and Ball to the Lakers. Dump salary, let them take the risk on Ball’s future (could be very good, could be done). 

Sam: Not on board? I don’t believe they said they were great judges of talent, but they did look pretty good after the 2021 summer with the DeRozan pickup which everyone was lauding as a coup; the same with Ball. I remember reading what could the Pelicans have been thinking. I was reading me. I didn’t hear many complaints in Chicago at the time. Sometimes things don't work as you hoped. I agree they were hardly perfect, but I think they weren’t doing anything unusual. Like when a new boss comes in, the holdovers aren’t often in a great situation. I’ve been fortunate to get older, but as you do, every time a new young coach or general manager or editor comes in, he or she makes these great discoveries and develops these fantastic plans that, you know, we had already been doing. So they wanted their guy, and he was Patrick Williams. It wasn’t a crazy risk. It wasn’t a great draft — maybe one All-Star in the top 10 — so they took a shot with the youngest guy with a real NBA body. I know they had good reports on Haliburton and needed a point guard. But they were committed to getting Ball to a long contract. And you see even in Sacramento because they had a point guard, they had to trade Halliburton. Of course, everyone would love to have him now. But he didn't go top 10 then. As for Markkanen, the team had moved on even before the new guys came in. They just affirmed it. It’s a Lauri we’ve never seen before, and if they saw this Lauri I do think they’d have had second thoughts. Lauri would never say it, but I’m pretty sure he did or was ready to demand a trade, anyway, the way he’d been marginalized. And it wasn’t like when he was with Cleveland everyone was demanding his return. Like they say about watching the pot, its not going to boil if you keep looking. I know; it always sounded stupid when my mother said that to me. Lauri just took more time than they had. As for Ball, no one is trading for a player who may not play at least for awhile. But DeMar’s fate is going to be one of the storylines of the summer as he enters his free agent season if the Bulls don’t give him an extension.

Matt Michael: It hasn’t translated into wins, but the last month Wiseman is averaging 14 and 9 on 56% shooting. What I like is there is some effort being shown on defense by the kid. Could the Bulls have gotten him. Heard Golden State would have taken Caruso. 

Sam: It was a complicated deal, and the Warriors did get back Gary Payton II, a Caruso-lite type. Who knows, though it doesn’t seem like Caruso was available. Plus, there were a bunch of draft picks in the deal and the Bulls don’t have many, so who knows if it were possible. The interesting part is the Warriors, who are getting a pass for getting basically nothing for the No. 2 pick, a pick so many said they needed to turn into a veteran to support the ending runs for Curry and Thompson, and they didn’t. And seem to have wasted those injury years with Kuminga and Moody also lottery picks, and not major producers. Can you imagine what they could have gotten for three picks like that. But you get a pass when you win and when you make other good moves, like with Poole. Curry and Thompson still are so good they’re covering up the draft misjudgments. But everyone makes them. It seemed not too long ago everyone was commending the Warriors for building this organic champion through the draft.

Mike Meadows: What's the point of Alex Caruso if the guy is always banged up? Guys career-high in games played is 64. He is at 61 so far. 

Sam: Well, in some of those seasons he did play almost all the games since those were Covid shortened seasons. But as most everyone has noted, if you’re that size and play that way, you are going to get a lot of boo-boos. Billy Donovan has said this latest one isn’t going away this season, though Caruso will play through it. I know the Bulls love having him and even internally consider him something of the face of the franchise — yes, even with Zach, DeMar and Vooch — because of the way he plays and competes, being a model for the kind of franchise and, watch out here it comes and I apologize, culture they are seeking. Sorry. Of course with the way the season has gone I assume they’ll say something about looking at all possibilities. But they may have missed an opportunity with Caruso the way some Western teams were sniffing around for him at the deadline. When you keep missing games for legitimate reasons, teams take notice. He may have to get going on a long and productive playing streak to enhance his value. The way the Bulls dealt with the trade deadline, it seemed to me they were both in it to win it and all that, or get there, and by playing better as they hoped and assumed, the value of their players would be enhanced if they chose to do something. So that strategy still seems in play. Caruso does stuff on defense you can’t teach, and he’s valuable to have. But, again, when you have too many needs he perhaps becomes a luxury.

Parker Lerdal: Do the NBA coaches bring back suits and ties for next season? Maurice Cheeks wore a tie and suit for the 76ers 40th Anniversary of the 1983 Championship last time. 

Sam: I didn’t see that, but good for him. Mo is a classy guy. No, it seems to me the coaches prefer the gym teacher look. I’m not a fan, if only because in saddle shoes, slacks, a button down shirt and vest sweater, I can walk the fashion runway compared to NBA coaches these days. I guess they may sweat jumping up and down yelling “foul.” But I still think it’s a job and have that quaint notion that when you come to work you need to look at least different than you do when mowing your lawn.

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