Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 06.29.12
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of emails from his readers
I’m a UK alum. Luke warm on Teague. I do like that he is a super-athlete, so there is upside. Great speed and can really get in the air with about a 40 inch vert. Probably means that Watson is out. However, I don't think the Bulls should plan on starting him to start the season. He's young and he was terrible for the first two months at Kentucky before he settled in and stopped jacking up terrible shots and turning the ball over. Again, I like the upside with this guy over the length of his rookie contract. He can explode to the rim. He's not afraid to take big shots. Not known for his shooting, but he's not bad. Probably average to above average. All I heard is that he could not shoot coming out of HS, but he does have a nice stroke and I think he has the potential to shoot 40% from deep during his career because his form is solid. The guy can score and create. Good passer. A bit undersized, but definitely a solid backup once he gets comfortable playing in the NBA... maybe in 2013-2014.
Sam: Thanks for the scouting report. Sounds about right. I think the Bulls look at him more as the future backup for Rose, which assuming Derrick returns at full strength still is a vital need. I wouldn’t say Watson is gone yet, as you point out Teague is hardly ready to start in the NBA.
I know it's hard, or even impossible to justify. But trade Deng or Boozer for a lottery pick pick and throw this season for another high level lottery pick.
Sam: I think maybe the biggest thing the draft showed is the changing financial landscape in the NBA. There were no major moves and no one taking on veteran players and their contracts despite all the rumors. I think the point is the economics are changing with the declining salary cap and more penal luxury tax and thus draft picks, which cost less in salary, are becoming of higher value.
Why didn't the Bulls choose a shooting guard with the first pick? I feel a serviceable back up point could've been picked up in free agency.
Sam: I actually think the pick was good. I had Teague rated my third best point guard in this draft and most had his talent ranked between 18th and 22nd overall. But the teams with picks 20 through 28 mostly had point guards, so Teague began to fall. After the better talent guys, teams usually draft for position. Shooting guard, at least after this coming season when Hamilton’s contract can be bought out, is a position the Bulls need. The problem is you rarely can get a starting level player at the end of the first round. The Bulls clearly need a backup point guard as well, and if you can get one with a relatively high talent level, it’s a need and a good selection. There weren’t exactly any big time shooting guard prospects when the Bulls picked with the next shooting guard going 10 picks later. The Bulls basically could have used any perimeter position. It’s possible Teague could become a Jason Terry type point guard as he’s a scorer, so he could prove valuable in the long run.
I am totally excited for the Marquis Teauge pick. With all the pre-draft build up he was the player I was excited for him to drop to us. I think his ceiling is better than his brother, maybe even as good eventually as a Aaron Brooks. That is awesome value for a #29 pick.
Sam: Yes, I actually think is one of the rare cases where the Bulls can’t believe he dropped. It’s sort of like the old Bob Arum story when he contradicted a previous comment at a press conference. When it was pointed out he said, “Yesterday I was lying; today I’m telling the truth.”
I like the pick of Marquis Teague to fill in for Rose and back him up when he returns. However, I'm wondering why they didn't select Doron Lamb? With such a need for a really good shooter at the two, was he even considered? If not, then is it safe to assume they will go the trade route for a proven SG?
Ryan M. Grace
Sam: My guess is the priority remains getting a point guard who can start next season and then perhaps move over and play some two when Rose returns. Perhaps someone like Kirk Hinrich. As Lamb isn’t really a combo guard, I assume they just went for the larger talent at that point. But Lamb really did slip. We’ll find out if it was a mistake, as he’s just up the road in Milwaukee. Though Ellis and Jennings don’t leave many shots.
Marquis Teague falling to #29 was more than a consolation prize. He would start in most NBA teams after a year or two. It maybe too early to say it but I think Marquis Teague is already a steal of this draft. The Bulls could have landed both Teague and Barnes if they made a risk of trading Deng to GSW. Do you think being conservative played out for the Bulls? Or they made a mistake of passing on a talent that could propel them in the future in Harrison Barnes?
Sam: I don’t think they were that anxious to move Deng, and despite rumors regarding that predraft interview with Barnes, which was more out of curiosity as they always are allowed to interview a few top level prospects, they never were that high on Barnes. If they had a chance, I don’t think they would have taken him. Though as I noted the larger issue was teams mostly passing on the chance to trade for veterans with big contracts even though the top players aren’t considered sure All-Stars other than Davis.
I'm puzzled at all of the negative comments I'm seeing on the Teague pick - which seem focused on us having Rose and needing a stud shooting guard. Can you please remind everybody of 2009, when the Bulls passed on Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, and Darren Collison because we already had Rose? And then drafted Taj Gibson even though Wayne Ellington was available to be our starting SG for the next 10 years? How did that one work out? In a draft, especially #29, you take the best player available, period. Lawson or Holiday probably would've been the trade chip we needed to land one of the coveted players that keep alluding us. Teague is about building for the future, and no one available at 29 is going to win us a title next year anyway.
Sam: Actually, most of the mail I’ve received regarding the pick was fairly positive. I did get some regarding a shooting guard pick, but with Jenkins and Cunningham off the board, who did people want? The Bulls did try to move up, I know, but couldn’t make a deal without making it a stupid one, like giving up Deng or Noah to get into the teens and not the lottery. No way you’d do that. There just wasn’t a guy there worth taking better than Teague, and, yes it would have been nice to get one of those point guards, though none would really have had the chance to develop behind Rose.
I’m very relieved we’ll wake up Friday with Luol Deng still a member of the Bulls. I know he’s not everything you want out of a second scoring option, but this year (barring a long surgery recovery) he’ll pass Horace Grant in games played, Chet Walker in points, and Bob Love in rebounds as a Bull. Even before the Rose era, he was probably our best player sweeping the defending champion Heat with Shaq and Wade. His place in franchise history is really getting up there, and I hope in the coming years there will be no more shopping him for mid-lottery picks. He was a 7 pick that panned out about as well as you could hope.
Sam: Good point, and I think Lu would make the same one and is certain to be reminding me of it soon.
Any idea if Jerry Sloan will land anywhere? You mentioned how great Phil Jackson to the Thunder would work what about Jerry. If anyone can actually make Westbrook a PG it would be Jerry. Plus he is not afraid to hold guys accountable. Don’t get me wrong Stockton and Malone were great but Jerry has never really had the buzz saw. I would love to see what he could do with top level talent.
Sam: He’d love to get back in. Maybe Portland if Brooks reups in Oklahoma City. The thing about Jerry is he loves the game and it doesn’t matter to him whom he coaches. After all, he’s in the Hall of Fame. It won’t affect his legacy.
With the draft being as deep as it is, what are the chances the Bulls sign an undrafted rookie or two to round out the bottom of the roster? Maybe they get a real diamond in the rough, like Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas (drafted 60th, so one spot away from being undrafted.) Plus, these picks are relatively inexpensive and low risk to the team that invests in them.
Sam: I think they’ll try to bring players like that to summer league or camps they’ll have in the summer. Maybe someone like Northwestern’s John Shurna.
Have you ever thought "What if" Ben Gordon would have taken Bulls' offer and stayed? Would the Bulls have been better off or worse than current roster? The Bulls might not have had enough money in 2010 to sign Boozer if Gordon had stayed so they would have not had the 47 million dollar burden today. Gordon would have been off the bench to give a scoring punch against Miami that the Bulls have badly needed the last two years. You had told fans repeatedly that money should be the last factor when an NBA player choosing a team to sign when they have the chance. You also questioned what the player can buy with the extra money, otherwise they couldn't buy with what they have already have in millions? Look at Ben, he was from a professional NBA playoff team, the Bulls, to D-League Detroit, and now to a high school team Bobcats. Where is his fun, the excitement, the respect, the value that every reasonable person will ask him or her self from time to time? Do the players ever regret the extra money they got?
Sam: They never admit it, but Ben effectively ruined his career with that decision which was more about his ego as he turned down $50 million from the Bulls because Deng, whom he felt he was better than, was getting $57 million. Ben got around $60 million and as I pattern a lot of my dress after what he wears, I don’t see how he’s spending the money. As for the Bulls, it would have complicated their free agency and maybe they wouldn’t have gone that way. They would have been severely criticized as most fans would have said they blew their chance for LeBron, Wade and Bosh, etc. They weren’t coming, but you don’t find out until you get in the race. Ben would have been the best offensive weapon opposite Derrick, the only other Bulls who truly would have created space. Could Thibodeau have made him a better defender? That would have been an issue. I had hoped Ben would stay. But I also wouldn’t have paid him that much, and it’s obvious Detroit regretted it as well.
Don’t the Bulls have their backs against the wall with the luxury tax? I am assuming Jerry Reinsdorf will not allow the Bulls to pay the luxury tax in 2012-13 and that the luxury tax limit is likely to stay at around $70 million. If they are unable to make a trade to move some salary, they will have about $65 million committed to Rose, Hamilton, Deng, Boozer, Noah, Gibson, Butler and their first round pick. That leaves them only $5 million to work with to find a replacement for Rose and fill out their roster. That is without Asik, without giving Gibson a new deal, and cutting Brewer, Watson and Korver. I just don’t see how they will even be able to match any offer that Asik gets, and the only free agents they would be able to sign would be minimum salary guys.
Sam: I actually do expect them to pay luxury tax next season as all indications are they will match about anything for Asik and are not going to have a minimum salary point guard.
Shannon Brown is an unrestricted free agent. Any chance we can coax him back home?
Sam: The Bulls had him at one time, albeit briefly, and it didn’t go well, though, yes, he has matured some since then. But if the Bulls go into free agency at all, it would be for a point guard.
Seems like the optimum time for a Bulls reshuffle. With the current roster and injuries, the Bulls will be just good enough to make the 7th or 8th playoff spot in 2012-2013 and out in the second round - AKA no lottery pick in the 2013 draft. Unfortunately, no better news in 2013-2014 –even with everyone 100% the Bulls still won't beat the Heat or Thunder. And after 2014, Deng says bye-bye because there’s no way the Bulls pay him another $12M/year under the new luxury tax rules, but someone else will. The smart money starts over right now. And the even smarter money keeps Rose on the bench for all of 2012-2013 to let him heal 100%. Bulls Fan since Year 1 – I knew they should have drafted Cazzie Russell instead of Dave Schellhase
Sam: I don’t sense the Bulls are going that way. And, yes, I agree they aren’t bad enough to miss the playoffs. So my guess especially as they made no big draft day moves is they come back as is for 2013-14 and try to find a bargain shooting guard post Hamilton in the interim. There’s always a possibility they do a deal next season depending on how things go. If things go badly next season, there may be more urgency. But the Bulls seem to believe at least for now they will be good enough to make another serious run in 2013-14 if they don’t do anything too drastic. Cazzie was the first overall pick that season of the Knicks. By the way, Cazzie and I were in the same national guard unit in New York City, the famous fighting 69th from the World War I movie. New York never was invaded in those years, though Times Square wasn’t too safe.
Come on, Minnesota just swapped the 18th pick for Budinger. the Bulls can't swap Omer for the 9th or 11th pick?
Sam: There’s something here a lot of people don’t understand about being a restricted free agent. The Bulls could only trade Omer in a sign and trade, which would require his agreement. Then he’d have to accept a mid level each season instead of the more money he could get if someone would make him an offer. So why exactly would he do that? Oh, right. He wouldn’t.
What [do] you think [about] signing Brandon Roy for a minimum deal if the Bulls find him healthy enough? Have the Bulls gotten any word that he would be interested in the Bulls? I see that the Bulls [are] the best contender that seems interested in picking Roy up so do you think he will realize that and try to sell himself?
Sam: I heard the Bulls talk about him last year if he were to get an amnesty. So I assume they’d still be interested, assuming he could play. After all, he did “retire” for medical seasons. But he’s talking about even with that big settlement of chasing the most money and a multi year deal. These guys are amazing. If he’s thinking that way, the Bulls figure to be out.
I get really irritated whenever Deng's name comes up in trade talks. When he signed the big contract, everyone complained that he was overpaid. Then he worked his way to become one of the best all around player, a great rebounder at his position and a premier defender. He's also earned the respect and become an All-Star. What more does everyone want? Next to Rose, he's probably the most important player but often gets overlooked since nothing he does is fancy. He's such a reliable player in so many aspects and most of all, he's only 27. If we get a rookie, it'll take years to develop plus there's no guarantee that he'll even be a good player or not. We get the sure thing with Deng and for what he brings, he's earning every penny of his salary in today's NBA standards. If he leaves, who's gonna shut down LeBron and Kobe? At 6'9, he's so versatile and it's not easy to find someone like that these days.
Sam: So does Lu. But because there’s a rumor or speculation doesn’t mean anything is going on, and basically nothing was with the Bulls regarding trading Deng. It’s just more fantasy talk and other teams expressing interest in Deng, and that’s hardly unusual. As the Bulls used to say, everyone could be traded but Michael Jordan. Kareem was traded, Wilt was traded, Oscar was traded, Barkley was traded, Monroe was traded, Frazier was traded, Erving was traded. I’ll be explaining this to Lu when I see him next season before he starts giving me grief (good natured, I think) again for coming up with trade scenarios.
Do you think Deng might become a better player from playing the whole season with one hand?
Sam: If so everybody is going to have to change their scouting programs and beliefs.
What are the chances of the Bulls resigning John Lucas III? He is a hard worker and seems to have a beef with LeBron, I think he is someone the Bulls should really hold on to.
Sam: I think they will. John is trying to get a multiyear guaranteed deal after the season he had. Who could blame him? That’s what guys like him should do when they finally get a chance. But I question whether he will, I don’t see the Bulls doing that, either, and if he doesn’t have a better deal I assume he comes back as he’ll get a lot of playing time. I don’t see him as a starter, but he could be a nice No. 2.
Do you think the Bulls could negotiate with Deng, Rose, Noah, and Boozer to restructure their big contracts to freeup money? Using the money to go after a free agent like Eric Gordon and possibly signing Taj and Omer? Add an extra year to their (Deng, Rose, Noah, Boozer) contracts in the later year of them.
Sam: I get questions like this occasionally. Under NBA rules, players cannot restructure or change contacts in any way. The rules are vastly different than in the NFL, where there are few guaranteed deals.
Would you rank this Heat team as the poorest NBA Championship team of all time? In this shortened season, they had the benefit of playing a beat up Knicks team with a new coach, a starless and inexperienced Pacers team, had a lot of trouble with an ancient Celtics team, and missed out on playing the best team in the East in the Bulls and also missed Dwight and the Magic, who always give them problems. Finally, they beat an inexperienced Thunder team with their star on the bench in foul trouble for much of the series, due to the unprecedented favoritism by the referees that they enjoyed the entire playoffs. All in all, it was the easiest path to a Championship I've ever seen and I think they are despicable and arrogant to be beating their chests and calling themselves Champions. They will never win another and they have disgraced an otherwise great sport.
Sam: Is this really Dan Gilbert? Look, they caught some breaks, obviously. But they had the MVP and he played great. That’s usually enough to get you off the bottom. I always felt the worst title team I saw was the ‘94 Rockets. Yes, they had Hakeem. But also Kenny Smith, Vernon Maxwell, Robert Horry and Otis Thorpe with a combined, I think, one All-Star appearance among them in their careers. The 2004 Pistons were down there along with the 1975 Warriors with Rick Barry and four guys (how they beat the Bulls is still shocking) and maybe the ’79 Supersonics.
Perkins announces he played through a groin injury. You must be shackled with guilt for calling him slow.
Sam: I’m starting to get over it. How pathetic was that to make a post series excuse like that? Remember when he was a tough guy? By the way, I was saying he was too slow to play before his alleged injury. And if he was hurt and not producing, then why was he out there so much? Did he not tell the team?
What about a trade for Jimmer Fredette? If the Bulls don't expect to win one next year, would it be worth while to see what kind of scoring threat he could be on a decent team?
Sam: I’m not sure what the Kings will do with him and I do like him some. But given he’s inexpensive and the Kings have mostly been trying to shed salary, I assume they hang onto him until they have to pay him.
Teague obviously is a pick with a very high ceiling, but obviously the Bulls have a former MVP ahead of him that they hope returns to that level. Doc Rivers during the draft stated that this league with the new rules there has become less of a difference between a point guard and a 2 guard. Although both Rose and Teague sound undersized with their height as 2 guards, both players have tremendous wingspans and verticals. Do you see these guys ever playing together?
Sam: Yes, I do. The Bulls did sometimes with Rose and Watson, and you see a lot more small, two guard fronts in the NBA these days. Thibodeau, of course, is not a big fan as he likes the defensive component and the Bulls generally don’t want Rose guarding the tougher, bigger guard, and certainly not returning from surgery. But it’s something you can look at in short spurts that makes sense.
As I was reading through your pick by pick analysis of the first round of Thursday night's draft, you mentioned that #4 pick Dion Waiters didn't start. I journeyed over to Syracuse's Men's Basketball stat page and, sure enough, 37 games played and 0 games started for Mr. Waiters this past season. How can a top 5 NBA draft pick not even start for his own collegiate team? Sure there's potential, high ceilings, raw talent, etc. Is he the NCAA version of James Harden?
Sam: I don’t think the non starting part is a huge red flag as college coaches can do whatever they want and no one much notices. Plus, the kid did finish games. It wasn’t a great, great draft after No. 1, but he seemed out of line to me. I don’t see much high ceiling as a combo guard. Pro scouts tell me he’s talented, and I assume that. But if there was a surprise from a month ago and where players were expected to be selected, he was a big one. I’m not a big fan.
With Derrick Rose out for much of the regular season, if not all of it, how do you think the Bulls will play as a team? Do you think that in Derrick's absence the Bulls won't be a threat anymore to the league? Do you think they'll be able to maintain being the top seed? And do you think the Bulls will make a run in the playoffs?
Sam: The consensus seems to be the Bulls would be a playoff team, but in the bottom half. I don’t think I’m being a homer here, but I think they could be a lot better than that, less that Rose isn’t important but the East is so weak. Yes, you can put Miami back in the Finals. But who’s No 2? It’s like Thursday’s draft. There’s one and then who? The Pacers are OK, but hardly fearsome. The Hawks? OK, but going through a transition again with a new GM. You want Joe Johnson? Come and get him. The Celtics are rebooting some, you assume as Garnett probably returns but not Ray Allen. And with no real size. The 76ers? Would they have beaten the Bulls if Noah were OK? Knicks with Amar’e and Carmelo? It won’t be easy or sure. They could finish seventh. But they also could finish second. It might be a fun if not ultimately fulfilling season.