Ask Sam Mailbag: Simmons, Vucevic, Payne and more

Art Alenik:

If you could get Ben Simmons for Lauri on a sign-and-trade, maybe I'd go for it... but you know that couldn't happen. Overrated or not, Simmons is a big star. Somebody will give them more than Lauri for him. Also, Simmons makes $33MM next season (then 35, 37 and 40). And lest we forget, he may have single-handedly lost that Game 7. He was not only afraid to shoot, but even to handle the ball long enough to get fouled. So do you really want him? At $33MM? You obviously like Simmons a lot more than I do. Maybe I haven't seen enough of him. For example, I haven't seen his toughness & attitude, especially in that last series. Doesn't that disappearing act give you at least some pause? I admit the combination of size & ball-handling is intriguing, but he's not exactly Magic. I thought you said it's all about offense now and we need 3-pt. shooters.

Sam Smith:

Yes, I did say that it's a scoring era, and I believe that. You have to respond first to baskets. But I would do just about anything not named Zach and Vooch to get Simmons. I know he's not a scorer, and Coby White is. And Simmons has a higher career scoring average. Though I agree with you it's probably a moot point. The vultures (team execs more than media) circle when teams lose and a player has a poor series. Or, more specifically, as things go these days if his bad play is shown on highlights and special media like the dunk Simmons passed on. As somehow they explained the loss. You know, compared to the point blank layups everyone passes on all game to throw out for threes with a 38 percent chance. And Embiid, who for some reason against a 175-pound Capella, kept pulling up for jump shots. Ah, but I digress again.

Despite the failure to retain the top four pick, I still like the Bulls position with Vucevic rather than yet another 5-10 (eight this time) pick and probably another in 2023. The Bulls' present dilemma is how to get that third main guy. Many of us believe it could eventually be Patrick Williams, but that's more eventually as he's a few years away from being counted upon. Sure, Simmons showed flaws and makes a lot of money and you want your point guard—or the guy with the ball at the end of the game, hello Giannis and Luka—to be able to shoot free throws. But Simmons is a star in his role, which is defense, facilitating, toughness and having an edge, the latter traits mostly missing on this Bulls team. I'd run to put together the best package I could without Zach and Vucevic to get him if I could. With LaVine's extension imminent and Vucevic to come, the Bulls no longer are in much position to be patient. They need to find a big time player. Or one who meets needs. There's only so long you can keep speculating about Kawhi or KD or Luka being upset or Lillard frustrated or Beal tiring. If you could get an All-Star like Simmons, I'd be first in line. Though I believe the Bulls still will have to proceed in, you know, that other direction. The 76ers aren't bailing out so quickly on their only other All-Star not named Embiid.

Guy Danilowitz:

My guy tells me the Indiana Pacers just got a lot better. What do you think of the Carlisle hire?

Sam Smith:

Assuming they couldn't get Nate McMillan, a nice addition.

John Petersen:

As a Bulls fan I would be ecstatic if Patrick Williams developed into a wonderful power forward of any type. Yep, only 19, already pro body, decent defense, started most every game etc., etc. but as one writer has noted..it's an offensive league. There were very few dominating offense moments from Williams this past season. What, if anything, did he show that should make fans optimistic about his scoring potential?

Sam Smith:

I'm not the least bit disappointed in Williams, primarily because he's still 19 and (fill in the blank of what we were doing at 19). He just needs someone to teach him how to play basketball. Though I think it's also a result of growing up with a poster of LeBron on your wall instead of Jordan or Kobe. In the be-like-Mike and Kobe times, you understood you needed to score. And shoot. That you could make teammates better by not asking them to do too much, that you would absorb the bulk of the pressure and take the shots and thus they got the space as the defense responded to you. It was more a get-out-of-the-way era. There are similarities to the availabilities when the defense responds. But LeBron with his caution about last shots and especially late game free throws has made this a "make the right play" era, that if you are double teamed you have to pass, that if a teammate is open you let him shoot. The Bulls eventually succeeded as others contributed more, but Jordan still needed to make the big plays no matter the circumstances. I know teams and players are judged on the result: If you won you made the right play. So Trae Young did and Giannis didn't. At least that night. Williams' principal problem is no one yet seems to have explained to him that if a defender runs at you, or even if it's a second defender, it isn't the right play to pass to Garrett Temple when it's Mike Conley running at you. It was so frustrating to watch Williams—and we excused him due to inexperience and age, at least for now—repeatedly pass the ball and run away from a shot even with a 5-11 guard running at him. His size and the smoothness of his gait sometimes could make you gasp, that a kid that big could shoot and move like that. And then he kept passing the ball! Shoot! Heck, the way they protect offensive players now as long as the defender isn't in traction you usually get to the line. Perhaps focusing too much on his poster, Williams seemed to get the idea that "making the right play" is what the NBA is about. No, it's about taking advantage of the mismatch you might have and putting the ball in the basket. That's the right play! Most of the things they add up are points. I believe Williams will eventually get it and will be one of the top five players from this draft. I just hope someone tells him enough with the making the right play thing. The right play when one of those little guards is on you, which is what most teams began doing to Williams last season, is flattening him like in the cartoons when they get hit by a steamroller. That's who Patrick Williams can be.

Will Pennix:

Now that Detroit has won the Cade Cunningham sweepstakes, does that mean their 2020 #7 pick Killian Hayes could be available? Would a swap of Bulls' 2019 #7 pick Coby White for Hayes be enough to get the deal done? Both will be coming off of injuries. White obviously has more NBA experience and is probably a better prospect at this point in their careers so additional draft capital may need to be included from Detroit. I liked Hayes for the Bulls prior to their ascension into the top 4 of the lottery last year.

Sam Smith:

I actually didn't care much for Hayes as more of a strong one way shooter as a point guard. I guess you can speculate the Bulls weren't that interested since they passed, but that could be because they liked Williams more. Cunningham seems more of a point forward type, which still would necessitate having a point guard in the game. Since Dennis Smith, Frank Jackson and Cory Joseph are their others for now, I assume they'd want to get a good look at Hayes because he was injured most of last season and basically didn't play until April. It is true the Pistons have a lot, lot of young players. But they seem weakest at guard and center. I do think there will be some No. 1 picks available since teams like Orlando and Houston have multiple picks and some veteran teams don't need more picks, like Golden State with two lottery picks. Plus, New Orleans in the lottery hardly needs another young player. One question for the Bulls, however, and that applies with someone like Hayes, too, is the risk of trying to turn over a veteran team (LaVine and Vucevic) to a 20-year-old point guard. Unless he is transcendent, that generally takes awhile. You generally can't buy a lottery pick (because teams usually don't give them up for money), but even if the Bulls could the cap hit would basically take them out of free agency. Assuming, that is, if they are trying to clear cap space to go for one of the name players. Because so many of the name teams are out of the playoffs—yes, it gives everyone hope of saying, if the Atlanta Hawks can be in the conference finals…—there's likely to be at least plenty of talks about movement. It's always unclear what will occur, but this is going to be a great offseason for rumors and speculation.

Ben Arrieta:

If at first you don't succeed, try and try again, said Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, The question is how many times do you have to try on your bet before you finally give up? Wisdom dictates that if your gun misfires four times, then it is time to try another one in your arsenal. A good leader would consider the strengths and weaknesses of an individual before coming up with a good valuation so the same mistake won't happen like Spencer Dinwiddie and Cameron Payne. Do you think AK should take a gamble on trading Lavine and Vucevic or retain them and trade the rest of the team for another set of players?

Sam Smith:

I've always enjoyed that quote, though I remember it more as, If at first you don't succeed, don't try skydiving. I believe the honeymoon is over to the extent that the new management has had its year of evaluation (bye, Wendell Carter) and knows more what it wants. Whether they can get it is another issue. But the Vucevic trade clearly signaled they are done with the draft, that it's about getting that one more player who will bring out the best in LaVine and Vucevic and help persuade both this is a place worth investing in. And having them invest in you. And that not only Atlanta, but the Suns in that "tough" West with a team that hadn't made the playoffs in a decade also can suddenly be a serious title contender, why not us? Why not now? The complication is perhaps a dozen other teams not having been there lately probably thinking the same thing.

Mike Sutera:

There are reports the Nets may listen to trade offers for Kyrie Irving. Trade Kyrie; Reup Dinwiddie. Really don't need a great PG with Harden always handling the ball.

Sam Smith:

The Bulls and Kyrie? Nah, don't see that one, though he's really good. Too unreliable. Well, at least with the injuries. It gets overlooked a lot with him because of the lack of a Big One (Achilles, ACL), but he barely played in college and only once in his career as one of the league's best scorers has played more than 72 games. It's true that Irving has become somewhat redundant with Harden, but I assume they have to give it one more run to determine if they can withstand a season. After all, most of us were picking them to win. And if Durant had a slightly smaller shoe size….I get a lot of Dinwiddie suggestions from fans. Yes, the Bulls did give him up when they shouldn't have, but also brought him in when no one wanted to. He is coming off now his second ACL and presumably wants a lot of money after opting out of his $12 million Nets option. He's talked about wanting to return to LA (so does everyone), but he figures to follow the money. He's not the classic facilitating guard, but before his last ACL a productive one. I assume the Bulls at least kick the tires. To see how those wheels are working.

Bruce Roberts:

Question I never, ever thought I would ask. I was one of the fans who could not stand Cameron Payne when he was with the Bulls. I am shocked, impressed by his improvement. His tricky hesitation move; his long arms and ability to get to the rim and finish is impressive; his improved 3 point shooting; and his impressive defense seem a great fit for us. He is doing well on the big stage substituting for Chris Paul. Cameron Payne I believe is a unrestrictive free agent this summer. He is making under $1.97 million dollars this year. We might get him for a reasonable price. That means Coby White goes back to the second unit. What is your take on trying to get C. Payne again?

Sam Smith:

I know teams always say if you start to listen too closely to the people in the stands you end up sitting with them. Well, I guess they did. Dave Corzine knows what Payne experienced. He was traded for popular Artis Gilmore at a time management wasn't doing so well in public opinion polls. Dave is a wonderful guy and was a solid contributor. And booed as soon as he got out of his car. He endured it well; not so much Payne, who arrived injured as a nice speculative move for a former lottery pick. The Bulls gave up the beloved Taj Gibson and the team was in losing mode. Fans and media turned on Payne like few not named Corzine. Sometimes you can't go home again. Or more likely won't. Plus, he's probably best where he is in the role he's in, and the Bulls really need better.

Brodie Larsh:

What do you think it would take to get Wiggins from the Warriors? Lauri, Sato, and Troy Brown Jr? Lauri seems like a good fit next to Wiseman down low. Warriors have some expensive decisions to make soon. Wiggins looked like he was starting to hold his own on defense.

Sam Smith:

Wiggins is one of the more polarizing players. Last year I was getting all sorts of suggestions to stay away from him, the soft stuff, doesn't care, Jimmy made him cry. But he had a solid season with the Warriors; rare for an NBA player he almost never is hurt and plays all the time, shot much better and will average close to 20 points. I've liked him more than most even if he's never going to be that stopper; as if many are. With two first round draft picks and Klay Thompson returning (plus Wiseman from last season) the general assumption is the Warriors will try to package up a bunch of stuff for a star-type player. Wiggins could be part of that to balance the salaries with the picks. Kyrie to get the titles Durant left on the table? Plenty to see here.

Mike Worth:

Has anyone made it back from this injury like Durant has? This injury is a career killer. Just ask Kobe and Elton Brand. Durant sure did miss time this yr with hammy strains but he still has that quick first step which players lose when they come back from an achillies tear. Which also means what a fresh playoffs. No super teams.

Sam Smith:

Speaking of Durant, you're correct; hardly anyone was speaking of that, and it's really quite the accomplishment to rank with Zach LaVine's athletic play after his ACL. It's remarkable the way some players—and part is the condition they are in, so I excuse some of the excess training which I believe leads to breakdowns at times—have returned to such star levels after surgeries and injuries that were not long ago career enders. He did have his Achilles younger than players like Kobe and Dominique. But it was a marvel to not only see him play like that, but play that much and perform at that level without two thirds of his team, basically. Yes, Steve Nash did a poor job, but that's for another question. As for the remaining teams, I know the networks can't say anything, but say it's Atlanta and Phoenix. How many would have watched that in the regular season? Other than you and I? It's like in golf, sure it can be a great finish, but without Tiger not as many care. Dislike LeBron or Harden or Durant or Kyrie as much as you want, but it's not a surprise the TNT post game lately focuses more on their golf games and fan tweets.

Chris Teen:

As I see Giannis shoot and miss three after three in these playoffs, I wonder if you have any insight into the coach/star player dynamic that allows this? Can Budenholzer not tell him to stop shooting threes? Would the player not listen if he did? Also, how has he been in the league 8 years and still doesn't have a reliable 12 to 15 foot jumper? Especially when we're told on every network game that he's the hardest worker in the league? What is he working on, dunks?

Sam Smith:

He probably can't. Popovich still can, but the dynamic has changed so much in the NBA. Not that it's bad as all of us employees wished we had more leverage. With free agency, shorter contracts and for some reason teams believing they have to trade a player if he's unhappy, the coaches often are in a very difficult position because if the player gets upset, he goes to his agent, who goes to the GM, who rarely backs his coach if its him or the coach. Its Darwinian. It's a tough spot particularly for Budenholzer, who is the blame in Milwaukee for every loss and bad bratwurst. Probably for Aaron Rodgers' issues, too. Not that it's that different because I always remember Chuck Daly (Pistons coach, glory years, for younger readers) saying you need players who are willing to let you coach them. There always have been players opposed to that. Giannis doesn't seem like that, though I agree he probably doesn't work at it very much. If you listen to coaches, no one can ever squeeze through the door at practice because everyone always is the first to arrive and the last to leave. It does seem like someone may have mentioned something to him with the threes decreasing, but at least in Milwaukee these days, this Bud has not been for them.