Ask Sam | 02.26.10
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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Any chance we could trade kirk to the jazz this offseason for millsap? The way boozer is playing right now combined with his comments about wanting to stay in utah maybe they'll find milsap expendable. they also have the knicks high draft pick so they could always draft another 4 to play milsap's minutes. i think kirk would fit sloan to a T and milsap would be great between deng and noah, at less than one of the top max free agents. then we could use our money on a top guard, or even a guard like foye who i think would be a great fit next to rose. we'd be well under the cap to bring in a few role players to give us solid depth and we'd have the room to give noah and rose their extensions without having to drop any other key players.
Sam: I assume it’s one of the many options the Bulls will be considering. It would be a recalibration for the Jazz, but the way Boozer has been playing he seems more valuable to the Jazz. There seems no way they can keep both given their market size and payroll, and likelihood they won’t be able to move Okur or Kirilenko. The Jazz have over the years made numerous inquiries of the Bulls about Hinrich. So, yes, I can see that kind of thing possible, especially for the Bulls as they would still have money for a max free agent and then can concentrate on a guard rather than Bosh. The issue would seem to be whether the Jazz would take on Hinrich’s deal, which is for more money than Millsap’s. It would seem problematic at this point if they were to pay to keep Boozer.
Looking over the list a few names stand out that would help us to add more pieces to complete the puzzle. David Lee, Luis Scola, Ray Allen, Manu Ginobili, Mike Miller, Marcus Camby (iffy) and Al Harrington (1st big off the bench). While a couple of these guys are long in the tooth (Allen, Ginobili) they would be contributors that we could possibly get cheap (above mid-level) and they would be really nice fits with Derrick. We could then grab a Lee or Scola to play in the post next to Noah. If we have close to 18 million in cap space I think we'd still have enough left over for some end of roster vets.
Sam: Plan F? There will be many, many options, and this, of course, is one, the quantity over quality: Build up depth and a bench with talent. All of those guys would help in some way and would be nice to have, though Lee probably would cost a bit much. You could pick up maybe three of them for $5 mil each and then have money to add maybe Warrick and Murray or Miller, though the traditional NBA formula is you win with stars. So the Bulls will pursue the stars first. Many would view this the Ron Mercer option, though the Bulls with the roster they have now should be in position to get high level players. Camby’s a good one and so are Scola and Ginobili. Not that it matters that much in what you’ve got to do, I think the community would be disappointed if the Bulls went that direction. Fans tend to believe too strongly, in my opinion, there are few other options but Wade, LeBron and Bosh, all of whom could end up staying with their teams. Right now the Bulls are mapping out all the options, and I’m quite sure this is one, if not nearly the main one.
If everyone is going to blow their money this off-season in the free agent market, I'm wondering if a "Plan C" for the Bulls could entail retaining cap flexibility for 2011 and take a run at Carmelo Anthony? I understand the risk in potentially alienating the fans by throwing another season (2010-2011) in the tank, but they'll be a lot less suitors and Anthony has pined to return to the East.
Sam: I actually believe that’s the Knicks’ plan as many believe as you do that Anthony resents being out of the spotlight and not in the company of the so called Big Three because he’s out west with a team that doesn’t get much attention. Plus, Billups and Kenyon Martin are closing in on their end of their careers, making it a perfect time for Anthony to bolt. From the Bulls perspective, I don’t think after the way they sold this summer they can afford to try to ask fans to wait still another year, and then who knows if there’ll even be a season then with a potential lockout. I’m confident the Bulls will use their money this summer, and they probably have to as they’ll have extensions coming up for their young players.
I would be fine with Plan C myself, but it reminded me of my parents lowering my expectations of vacation destinations when I was younger. "Sure, Disney World is great but Indiana Beach is so much closer and your cousin Steve will be able to go then." How big of a difference will their playoff success, or lack there of, make in the eyes of potential free agents? I know money makes up about 80% of your typical free agent's priority's, but I find it hard to believe another solid playoff performance by this relatively young Bulls team wouldn't weigh heavily in some of these guys' eyes.
Sam: Ah, Indiana Beach. Summer nights, eh? I’ve long believed at least being in the playoffs is important. Obviously the Knicks won’t be and are working on LeBron James. So I guess it’s possible, but if I’m a free agent I’d certainly feel better going to a team that at least has been to the playoffs and not feeling I’m going into a rebuilding project. Money matter most, but the playoffs should matter and the Bulls would be better off if they at least can get there and have a decent showing.
I dont want to seem biased, but the way the bulls have been playing i truly think our squad is going to advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs. the way we been runnin the floor were only gonna get better once Joakem gets healthy again. Boston aint getting any younger, Orlando's overrated and i think we could take Atlanta in 7 games. i truely think there gunna make a run this playoffs and Chicago should be the #1 choice for any of these free agents this summer.
Sam: Well, you are a bit more optimistic than I am. First of all, I think the winning of late has been a bit of a mirage given the low quality of opponents. Starting Monday, it’s a brutal stretch with basically every team for the next three weeks with a more talented roster, except perhaps for Miami, and that’s on the road. The Bulls could easily go 3-6 or poorer, especially with Noah so limited. Though I will say Boston looks on the way down and Atlanta is vulnerable because they rely on Josh Smith to be engaged so much. It seems like an Orlando/Cleveland Eastern finals. I was watching the TNT game Thursday night and heard Kenny Smith say he believes the Bucks and Raptors are the fifth and sixth best teams in the East. That doesn’t mean anything, but the point is the Bulls have their share of doubters still and though Rose has been great, the front court is an issue without Noah and just making the playoffs still would be a good season for this Bulls team.
Can the Bulls buyout Lindy Hunter’s contract or wavier him, make him an assistant coach then replace him with Zydrunas Ilgauskas or bring back Chris Richard?
Sam: Ilgauskas is most likely to return to Cleveland given he has family there with kids in school and he’s spent his whole career there and they have as good a chance as any to win a title. So why leave? He is angry with them and feels hurt, but why disrupt your life over pique? The Bulls are going to start giving Noah more minutes, and if he regresses I believe they’ll waive Hunter and bring back Richard or perhaps make a run at another free agent out there like Mikki Moore. The Bulls have some extra money under the luxury tax after the trades, but they want to be in position to make a deal come draft day like they were able to at trade deadline because they didn’t waste money or a roster spot on some of the training camp players.
I’m worried about the conventional wisdom that the Bulls will target Dwayne Wade. Obviously, the Bulls would be a better team with him, but going after Chris Bosh is much smarter (albeit less sexy).
Wade and Rose are not complementary players. If you replace Hinrich with Wade in the Bulls current lineup, you have two guys who need the ball in their hands a lot to be optimally effective, no three point shooters to dish to, and two big men with limited post games. The Bulls would remain a team of drives and 2-pt. jump shots. On the other hand, Bosh would be a perfect fit great on the pick and roll, can score from the post, and leave the dirty work to Noah. Plus, we could add a 3-point shooter at the 2-guard spot to complement both him and Rose. Bosh is healthier and 2 years younger. And with the way Wades game is dependent on going to the hole, I see him aging like Allen Iverson. Hes already missed over 20% of his teams games over his career. Do we see him becoming healthier with age?
Sam: I have heard those arguments regarding Wade and don’t completely disagree. I believe the Bulls long have identified Bosh as the most favored target, and for obvious reason as they’ve long talked about the need for a post presence. So yes, assuming you cannot get LeBron, whom you’d take in a second because he’s the best player, Bosh is the next best option. Though I do hear Bosh has little or no interest in Chicago. Which is why Wade is considered more likely because he is from Chicago and has family in Chicago as well as his kids with his former wife. So he has the strongest reason to return, and I have no doubt if the Bulls can sign him they will no matter the concerns that he may not be the perfect fit. He’s better than what they have, which will be enough.
Whats the deal with Kobe Bryant's status for next year? is he able to opt out of his contract or is he a free agent or what? I just saw this thing on espn that said he could end up on the bulls next year. If only.
Sam: ESPN sure is getting carried away with all my scenarios, though mine look tame compared to the crazy ones I’ve read there of late, including Bosh, Wade and LeBron all accepting small salaries to play together. In a league where anything is possible, that isn’t. Kobe can opt out and there have been some scenarios about leaving the Lakers. This is what it would mean. He’d leave Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom and play for $8 million less per season. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Some years back, before the trade to the Bulls stuff, Kobe’s contract expired and had talks with the Clippers after Shaq left. That was when the love affair with the Bulls started and the Bulls flew out an met with him and promised they’d make him whole, but that season had just the $5 million exception. Kobe said he’d prefer to be in Chicago, but couldn’t take that little as the Lakers’ deal started at $16 million. I don’t blame him and am not surprised and given the huge difference in annual salary, Kobe isn’t going anywhere. But it never hurts to make ‘em sweat. LeBron is teaching him that.
What kind of market do you think there will be for Ray Allen this summer? Will the Celtics re-sign him if they don't have a successful playoff run? If the Bulls were to sign Bosh, could they offer Allen the mid-level exemption?
Sam: Just to reiterate: Because the Bulls will be under the cap, they will not have any exceptions and can spend only up to the cap and then have to fill out their roster to 13 with minimum salaried players. I can see the Celtics moving on and without much of a playoff run. My guess is Allen becomes an exception player for some veteran team over the cap, though, obviously not the Bulls.
A friend works for the Utah Jazz and has heard Boozer say a few times how he would like to be in a Bulls uniform. Do you think this could happen? (Maybe another “twin tower” duo in Boozer and Noah)
Sam: I have heard that one a lot lately, that Boozer wants to play in Chicago. Why not? It’s a major market with a max salary slot. The question is whether the Bulls would want him. He’s played great, especially of late, which also worries you as before this season his games played for the Jazz were 37, 81, 74, 33, 51. So it’s the end of his contract, the one he got when he lied to the Cavs about staying and left when they gave him a release to resign. And now he’s playing his best. He’s 29 when next season starts and can you count on him given his past? It seems to me it would be a heck of a risk. Plus, he’s not much of a defender and when he was on the Olympic team playing for his college coach he didn’t play and sat every game behind Bosh. And that move would be your last major one for the next five years. Do you want it to be Boozer?
I was watching yesterday's Cavs vs. Magic game and with under 2 minutes left wtih Cavs down by 5, LeBron took the ball top of the key and merely played a point guard instead of trying to take over and score. He did that in 2 straight possessions. I grew up watching Michael Jordan so it was really difficult for me to comprehend LeBron's motive as arguably the best player since MJ. Even Kobe would've taken over so would Wade. What is up with LeBron?
Sam: It is the peculiarity with James. He is the best talent in the game, but he is not the ultimate closer. He’s hit big shots and takes the last shot, but also because he doesn’t shoot free throws well and doesn’t seem to have the same competitive zeal as Jordan or Bryant he’s willing to give up the ball. It’s why earlier this season I was speculating he could be a good fit with Kobe for that reason. Some say it makes him more dangerous because he will pass, but for now we’ll never know for sure as he isn’t coached and does the coaching himself with Mike Brown essentially a bystander. As a result, the Cavs end up in too many situations with five guys staring at LeBron holding the ball, so there are times it makes more sense for him to pass. If he gets those championships, it won’t matter how he plays. He could then be regarded as the best ever.
The Bulls have to bring Vinnie back next year, right? The emphasis this past offseason was on defense, and the Bulls are now 1st in the NBA in opponent's field goal %! When you combine that with the development of Rose, Noah, and Taj, and the way he has seamlessly integrated players after a major shakeup two years in a row, shouldn't he be considered one of the better coaches in the league?
Sam: That will be Vinny’s case and it’s a good one. I think you have to look at giving him his final season on his contract if the season goes well and they make the playoffs and give a good showing. But this is a subjective judgment not based on any objective standard. Doug Collins took the Bulls farther in 1989 than they’d been in 14 years and he was fired. Vinny’s in that box now of whether he is the coach to get to so-called Point C. I don’t believe anything is certain yet and it seems clear Vinny understands his job is on the line. Though that’s hardly unique as in just a season and a half Vinny has moved to the top half of East coaches in time with their team. It’s not a job where you consider collecting a pension.
I know Hakim Warrick is here only because of his expirling contract but is there any way that he can remain with the Bulls in the future? I've been a big fan of his because he plays strong and a lot bigger and most of all, has been consistently productive in the limited minutes throughout his career. He can post up and is knows how to put the ball in the basket as well as being an underrated defender and a rebounder. He's a solid veteran bench player and a great spot starter in my opinion.
Sam: I believe it will be difficult to keep him unless the Bulls strike out on major free agents and have money left to go for more role players. They are hoping it doesn’t come to that. I assume Warrick will be looking for more this summer than the Bulls are in position to offer.
What if Gilbert Arenas called you for advice and counsel. What would you tell him about his career plans and prospects, and what situation he should aim for?
Sam: I’d first say to give up the act and get some counseling. Then I’d say to make your apologies and concentrate on basketball and he could come back with the Wizards and be productive. The commissioner has no problem with Gilbert playing next season, and he’s still a high level player and should be plenty healthy and rested by then. What I would be doing if I had a nice expiring contract, say like Milwaukee with Michael Redd or Indiana with Murphy and Dunleavy, I’d take a shot to see how desperate the Wizards are to get rid of him and take a shot, as it were. I think he’d be worth a gamble if you are in a market where you cannot draw free agents.
With all of the free agent money available, do the Bulls have some feel about what free agents will consider coming to Chicago by now? I know there's tampering rules, but it seemed last year that Ben Gordon and the Pistons knew well before the signing period started that there was mutual interest that lead to the quick signing. Do the Bulls have that same understanding for the existing free agents?
Sam: There have been occasions like Ben last year and Grant Hill a decade ago in Orlando. We’d been hearing since January of that year he was going there. The Bulls in 2000 had no doubt they were getting Tracy McGrady. His “people’ assured the Bulls privately, his endorsers said they wanted him there. But in the end, McGrady decided to go to Orlando. So it really doesn’t matter what a player tells you until he is signed. Turkoglu assured the Trail Blazers last season he was signing, and then showed up in Toronto and signed there, supposedly because his wife didn’t like the shopping in Portland. You never know even when you think you know.
I was particularly intrigued to find that Tyrus had a big game wearing a headband and although you mentioned it light heartedly, I think it's worth taking a closer look at. Take a gander at some players who've had considerable success with a headband only to flail when they get traded to a team that doesn't allow it (i.e. the Bulls). Devin Brown was solid in N.O. but has shown significant regression in his time here. Ben Wallace was an all star with Detroit but completely went to sleep when he signed with the Bulls. Tyrus was sporadic with the Bulls and ended up exploding onto the scene in Charlotte. Do you think it's just a coincidence or is it something that really might play a mental and/or physical factor in a players' performance?
Sam: And don’t forget Larry Hughes, who seems back at an All-Star level now that he’s left the Bulls and been able to wear his head band again. There were bigger reasons as the Pistons did a heck of a job covering for a sliding Wallace with Rasheed and Brown hasn’t exactly been a star. It may bother some guys, but you have to figure if it does they are not going to be the kind of players who can come up big for you when you need them. My guess is it doesn’t bother LeBron or Carmelo.
I hear a lot of reports about how moody of a player Tyrus Thomas is and so on. So my question is when teams are scouting players and doing interviews, do they not know what type of player they are getting. Do they not speak to their former coaches and teammates, I would think they do back ground checks, am I right about this? I hear from you and other writers that Tyrus has a lot of talent and never lived up to his potential. What evidence do you guys judge his talent and potential off? Just because he is very athletic? You know how many 18points 8 rebounds games he had in his bulls career? 14 yep only 14 in 3 ½ with the bulls, now to me that doesn’t seem all that talented and not very much potential either. So can you explain to me where all this potential and talent talk come from.
Sam: It’s why scouting is a guessing game in a lot of respects and so often teams are wrong. The Bulls do a huge amount of checking on draft picks right down to psychological evaluations. I’d love to see Tyrus’. I think what happened with Tyrus was management was getting beat up about going for all these so called safe, good character guys who didn’t translate to stars, so they took a shot and did what a team never should do, paid too much attention to what the people in the seats thought. Plus, teams draft too often on so called ceiling, projecting what a player will be rather than what he is, which is why Taj went 26th and Thabeet second. It’s a risky guessing game. With Tyrus, he could jump like few, was coordinated, had a decent stroke on his shot, was fast and active, sort of a five tool guy. But you cannot truly get in their heart and head, and both turned out to be damaged.
True or False, When DRose's career is over, he'll have atleast 1 MVP trophy?
Sam: Tough one. I’d say false. I’ve long said Rose will be a star and probably the best point guard. But point guards don’t often get MVP. I know Nash did twice. Magic did and Cousy and Oscar did one each, but they mostly go to the guys on the other end of the ball. Once the Bulls improve Rose’s assist totals should increase and the need for him to score as much should diminish. If the Bulls need him to be that kind of scorer, they probably will never be good enough to have an MVP.