Ask Sam mailbag | 09.24.10
Sam Smith opens his mailbag to respond to the latest round of e-mails from his readers.
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I hear that some league execs are wondering why is there reluctance on the Bulls part to trade Noah for Melo. This is what I propose to get Melo and please all the Noah lovers. Go get Erik Dampier because he is available. Noah brings 10 pts and at least 8-12 rebounds a game to the Bulls. Erik Dampier brings size and defense which is really all we need since we have Boozer. I would love to keep Noah and get Melo, but to pass up getting a top 5 player in the league is not good business. I ask again why the reluctance?
Sam: Unless that league exec is Mitch Kupchak, then the question would be why all those team execs are so reluctant since they aren't close to being champions. And it sounds like Dampier may be going to Miami. He'd be OK there, but let's remember, the Mavs were only too happy to dump him for Tyson Chandler. I can't wait for the season as the bulk of my mail remains fantasy talk about Anthony, who I don't see coming to the Bulls. And not because the Bulls don't want him or are reluctant. They'd love to have him. The question always is the price. OK, say you do give up Noah. Well, the salaries aren't close and you can't trade the new guys until December. So you have to throw in Deng, whom the Nuggets want no part of because of his four years left. OK, so say you can dump him to a team for virtually nothing, say an expiring deal like Eddy Curry, who you then ship to the Nuggets. Then to match the offer the Nets are likely to make you have to add at least Taj Gibson and a No. 1 pick and $3 million. So that's three of your top six players plus a No. 1 draft pick for a high level scorer who's been past the first round once in seven years. So now your team is Rose, Brewer, Anthony, Boozer and Kurt Thomas. For 82 games? With your main backups Korver, Asik, Watson and Keith Bogans. And you've brought in a defensive coach and then take away two of your best defenders to add an indifferent defender and generally poor team player. I think I'd be awfully reluctant.
I love Noah as much as anyone and appreciate the rarity of his talents but you aren't winning it all this season regardless, so don't you have to consider moving forward with Rose, Melo, Boozer and filling out the roster next year with some decent defensive big men?
Sam: I know everyone just says go get a defensive big man. There were 16 players who averaged at least 20 points per game last season. There were nine who averaged double figure rebounds. So, technically, it's a lot tougher to get a double/double guy than a 20-point scorer. Plus, despite the rumors, if it ever came down to the Bulls offering Noah, the Nuggets would find out pretty quickly Noah wasn't about to resign with them. He's up for an extension and can be a restricted free agent next summer. I know matching facts with Internet speculation and rumor can ruin the fun, but anyone who knows Noah's history knows when he came into the draft he declined to work out for several teams in places that didn't exactly fit his lifestyle. As I recall, Minnesota, Memphis and Milwaukee were among them. Now, I'm sure he would have gone and been a good soldier. But come free agency it was bye bye. So you think after Chicago, he's going to sign an extension in that Denver nut house with the likes of Kenyon Martin. J.R. Smith and Birdman? I'd say not a chance. And why exactly is Carmelo Anthony more entitled to be with a winning team than Joakim Noah? Why would Noah, who can be a free agent as well after this season, agree to an extension in Denver, where he's never played, when Anthony would not? Hello, people! Anyone figure this out yet? Denver is not about to face the embarrassment of dealing Anthony for a player who walks on them as soon as he can. And we know Noah speaks his mind well. Like he said about Cleveland, do you vacation in Denver? Anyone got some new cowboy boots? As I said, I believe it would be moot, anyway, because I don't think the Bulls would deal a player who has emerged as the team's de facto leader as well. But if it ever came down to it, I'm fairly sure Denver would be saying no pretty quickly.
We have to make a trade for Melo. You state the importance of a big man and interior defense to win an NBA title. What about the health of big men in this league? I feel as if 'Melo's health is much better than Noah's, I have confidence in Melo, Rose and Boozer more than Boozer, Rose, Deng and Noah. Big men play an important role once teams get into the postseason, but it would be nice to advance once you get there. I have a hard time believing the Bulls wouldn't be in a series vs. the Heat or Celtics in the playoffs with 'Melo. I keep coming back to Portland's dilemma in the 2007 NBA Draft where they passed up Durant for Oden because of size. I'm pretty sure they would re-do that pick now if they could.
I feel like we are in the same situation as Portland from 2007. Opportunities are very rare to acquire great players like this and pair them together. I feel like the Bulls should take advantage of it while they still can. I feel like filling in a serviceable big man along with defensive glue guys is easier to accomplish than attempting to attract a stud scoring guard/forward to play along Rose. I mean can we really count on a possible trade with Portland for Rudy Fernandez to ease our shooting woes? Make the trade while we still can, Bulls become a top (3-5) team contending every year Melo and Rose are healthy.
Sam: Now this is where I do pause a bit at times, though I don't think the pieces exist for the Bulls to make the deal. The Bulls never had a chance for Kobe and never said they'd refuse to trade Deng. But, obviously, they would have been better with Kobe. And they tried twice to land Kobe. They tried to get LeBron and Wade. We know what happened. The Pistons of 2004 remain an aberration. The Big Three concept is pretty appealing as it's worked for Boston and now Miami looks awfully good. Boston put together supporting role players and Miami seems to be doing it as well. So I can see if you have Rose, Boozer and Anthony, that would be a pretty impressive threesome. As I stated above, I think it would be a big issue for this season with as much as you'd have to give up and no time to recoup. The argument is, sure, you'd be throwing away this season, but look at the future. But with Boozer 29 in November, you are betting a lot on him being the iron man for several years, which he hasn't much proven to be. Yes, I can see if you now matched Boozer with Bosh, Anthony with James and Rose with Wade the Bulls might have the edge. And you say what else does Miami have. Right, not much. So I do pause and say you have to think about it. I agree you need elite stars to win, though the current Lakers and Bulls of the 90's weren't built with that three star thing, but with supporting players to complement the star. Which is sort of the Bulls set up now. I even told Gar last spring he needed to think about trading Noah for Bosh since you always have to think about adding stars when you have a chance. I still emphasize today I said only "think about it." He laughed at me and still does about that one. I've heard conflicting reports — aren't they all — on where Anthony wants to be, New York, Chicago, Anywhere But Denver. Unless you are Kevin McHale, when you trade a star like that you usually want him to not win a championship so you won't look worse than you already do with the bad team you have left by trading him. So maybe they do send him to New York for what's left of their roster and he wins 35 games with a soon to be broken down Amar'e Stoudemire. In the end, I believe the Bulls like the team they have now and don't want to break it up before they see what they have and, in the end, Denver will realize they have no chance to resign Noah even if the Bulls were to include him in discussions. Noah with all those cowboys? Right, that will happen! If Denver would take Deng, sure, but you don't justify beginning any sort of rebuilding with that four year contract and a player with an injury history. Might as well resign right after you make the trade if you are the GM. The fact is the Bulls gutted their roster for last summer's free agency class. It was the right thing to do. But now they no longer have the cap room or assets to really make this kind of deal, certainly not now with half the roster ineligible to be traded for several months. So will Denver wait until February? Well, it would make for easy Ask Sams and Monday trade columns for several months. Anthony, Rose and Boozer are an intriguing threesome. But in the end I don't do the deal, either, assuming it were even possible. And I believe Rose on the career trajectory he is on is good enough to be that lead player for a championship team. It's not like anyone saw Pau as the star to raise Kobe and the Lakers or Pippen in the late 80's to do that for Jordan and the Bulls.
I keep hearing all these rumors about the Bulls trading Noah in a package for Carmelo Anthony, and I have to say I'm a little concerned.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax aren't even considering trading Noah.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that Noah is the heart and soul of this team.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that Noah is one of the best (if not the best) pick and roll defenders in a league that runs the pick and roll 80% of the time.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that Noah has one of the best rebound rates (rebounds per 48 min)in the league.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that Noah is one of the best post defenders in a league where to win a championship you will have to beat the Lakers, a team with 2 low post threats (not to mention Orlando or Boston who also have pretty good big men).
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that Noah will be the centerpiece of Tom Thibideau's defensive scheme (ala Kevin Garnett). Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that with Noah, Deng, and Brewer the Bulls could have one of the most versatile defensive units not seen since the championship days of Pippen, Jordan, and Grant.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that without Noah our backups are Omer Asik and Kurt Thomas. Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that Noah is a perfect complement to Carlos Boozer, in that he masks all his deficiencies.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that Carmelo Anthony is one of the worst defenders in the league.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that you can't win a championship with Rose, Boozer and Anthony playing together on the defensive end.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that Anthony is a petulant, whiny, child who is a coach killer and doesn't understand what it takes to be a champion.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that without Noah the Bulls would have no chance to beat the Heat, Celtics, or the Lakers even with Anthony.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that you can't win a championship by filling a lineup with scorers who can't do much else.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that its not hard to find scorers(there will always be Jamal Crawfords or Caron Butlers available at the trade deadline), but its impossible to find big men who can rebound, defend and run the floor as well as Noah.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that to win basketball games you also need to defend and rebound well.
And most importantly, Please tell me that Gar and Pax realize that by bringing in Carmelo Anthony to play with Derrick Rose you would be creating a potential chemistry nightmare that could wreak this team. I think Anthony would have a hard time deferring to Rose and would try to make the Bulls his team. This would be a horrible situation to put your young point guard in, at a time when he is about to become a superstar and possibly the best PG in the league. As we have learned from basketball history, every championship team had a clear #1 and a clear #2 (Jordan and Pippen, Magic and Kareem, Kareem and Magic, Bird and McHale, Shaq and Kobe, Duncan and Robinson, Duncan and Parker, Kobe and Gasol), by bringing in Anthony you (mess) up that entire formula, I hope that will Gar and Pax realize that.
Please tell me that Gar and Pax will not trade Noah!
Sam: The Bulls will not trade Noah.
After seeing footage of Joakim at Lathrop Elementary School and reading (comments) on what effect trade speculation could be having on Noah, I can't help but recall what happened to the Bulls after those Deng-for-Kobe rumors. Even after the thought about Kobe went away (and it took some time) the team just never could recapture the fire that it had when they swept the Heat the previous playoffs. What can management do to avoid a repeat with all this Carmelo talk? They should especially be careful since this time there's so many new guys (and the guys who are returning are the ones who think they may be traded).
Sam: Guys just have to be a bit more secure — fans, too — but I seriously doubt this will have any effect on Noah because Noah knows he holds the silver bullet in this to kill any deal: He is up for an extension and won't agree to one to a team he doesn't want to go to. Plus, the Bulls have likely made it known to him they have no intention of trading him and this is more media and fan speculation with rumors being circulated by Anthony's agent. In this media era, there's no stopping this kind of media trade talk and fans seem to enjoy it, anyway. The Bulls shouldn't get into a situation where they publicly address all this stuff and give credence to so much of the erroneous and speculative information. I'm told most of the games this season are being cancelled so fans can sit in the stands and watch videos of top players who might want to be traded to their team.
Got to say I'm really disappointed in management for picking up Brian Scalabrine. And to fill an outside shooting role? Seriously? He hasn't hit a shot since he was with the Nets. He's a glorified cheerleader who wore a Celtics uniform the past five years. He doesn't have the talent to be putting on a Bulls uniform. I've been so excited about this offseason up till now. I'd rather the Bulls just put one of the Luvabulls in a uniform since they'd fill the same role and be nicer to look at.
Sam: First of all, he only has been invited to the training camp team to try out. The Bulls have 12 players under contract now and have to add at least one more for the league minimum. That 13th player needs to be someone who will accept not playing weeks at a time and not complain about it. No Larry Hughes need apply. Scalabrine can make some outside shots on occasion, and actually made some big ones against the Bulls in that seventh game in Boston in 2009. But mostly the new coach knows him and likes him and likely is comfortable having him at the end of the bench. It's the least you would do to accommodate a new coach. He's not guaranteed to make it as they'll also take a look at young John Lucas, who by the way doesn't have any guarantee despite previous reports. And then they'll see who makes it, but none will be guaranteed until January to leave flexibility for a deal once the new players are eligible to be dealt in December. Though I personally don't see much change and see this group, assuming good health, being the team for this season.
It seems like with the offseason acquisitions, the Bulls have gone from one of the NBA's youngest teams to one of the league's oldest! All of the new guys are pushing 30 or older, and now Scalabrine keeps that trend going. Given we don't have Hunter on the roster anymore, it still seems like we got old very quickly. Is this a good thing? You know, like getting veterans on the court to help teach the younger guys, or are we going to be an older team that can't keep up with the fresh legs of Wall, Favors, or even the Lopez twins? I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't at least a little bit worried.
Sam: I'm not sure what team you are talking about. All the starters but Boozer, who is 28, are 25 or under. The top reserve, Gibson, is 25. If anything, the team still is a bit on the young side with a mix of 30ish reserves, which is fine.
I wasn't for a Carmelo trade with Noah involved until somebody compared this Bull's roster to the 2007-2008 Utah Jazz, which was a good team but never went anywhere in the playoffs...
C - Utah: Okur, Bulls: Noah
PF - Boozer
SF - Utah: Kirilenko, Bulls: Deng
SG - Ronnie Brewer
PG - Utah: Williams, Bulls: Rose
Both have Kyle Korver coming off of the bench.
I think Williams & Rose is a wash, so that leaves Noah VS Okur and Kirilenko VS Deng. How do those players make this Bulls team better than the 2007-2008 Jazz? If not, does trading Noah make more sense?
Sam: It's one way of looking at it, but the Jazz was in the conference finals in '07 and was knocked out by the champion Lakers every season since then. I'd take being that Jazz team. I'll give you Williams equals Rose, though I prefer Rose. But Noah is way, way better than Okur and Deng is better than Kirilenko, who bordered on emotional meltdowns several times in recent years.
I have a question about the Bulls as they're structured presently. They are without a bonified scoring guard who can also play stingy defense at the 2 spot playing alongside Rose. Do you think as structured now that they can play and win at a pace that would make them a 3 or 4 seed? And if not can they stay in the hunt for higher than a 5 seed if they can't make a deal for say a Rudy Fernandez until the All Star Game or trade deaadline?
Sam: At this point, my sense regarding Fernandez is the new Portland GM is afraid to make a mistake, so he won't do anything. It's not surprising. Perhaps come February, which is why the Bulls would be smart to limit their roster now and not give any more guarantees. A high level shooter who is a good defender is another All Star. Good luck with that. Still, I believe the Bulls can get into the top four as I see Atlanta vulnerable with this stuff bubbling up of Crawford the latest wanting to be traded.
What is Brandon Jennings smoking and where can I get some? It must be really good if he thinks the Bucks can win the Central over a healthy Bulls squad.
Sam: I wouldn't sleep on the Bucks. With or without a toke. The Bucks were fifth in the East last season with two or three starters who were not NBA level starters, like Mbah a Moute, Delfino and Bell. Whether they fit or not as they don't exactly sound like Skiles type guys, but players like Maggette and Drew Gooden are longtime NBA regulars. And in Bogut they have an All Star level center. And we know Skiles gets a lot out of his players. The Bucks will be there all season and now are coming off a season during which they handled the Bulls fairly well.
Since the Bulls lack a starting quality shooting guard and the new owner of Golden State Warriors said he was open to trading Monta Elis, can the the two teams work on a deal that will bring him to the Bulls? I know once you wrote about such a possibility. Do you still think it can happen, having in mind the new situation in GSW?
Sam: There was a time the Bulls had serious talks with the Warriors about Ellis when Don Nelson was running things and the Warriors wanted Hinrich. That's all changed with new ownership and Hinrich gone, and there are no longer any such discussions.
Do you believe in hindsight that the Bulls should have kept Hinrich? I understand why trading him for nothing helped them clear cap space, however, Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans aren't exactly what we had in mind. Do you think Denver would have been interested in Kirk as a trade asset for Carmelo, especially since they're trying to unload guards Billups and J.R.? Perhaps Hinrich would have added some incentive to take him in a package with Deng + draft pick and leave Noah alone.
Sam: It's quite possible, but if the Bulls hadn't traded Hinrich they couldn't even have gotten in the race for LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Yes, they didn't get any. But how could they have explained when LeBron said he was interested in Chicago, but they had Hinrich and thus not enough money to make an offer to two free agents. You can't try out a new wife while the old one waits there to see if the new one works. Wait, bad analogy. I think that goes on. In any case, Hinrich is better than what the Bulls have now, but the Bulls took a shot at greatness, which you have to do. I know, that's what everyone says now about trading for Anthony. But I'd hardly equate losing Hinrich to losing Noah, Deng and Gibson.
Wondering if any of these people will end up returning to the Bulls? Joe Alexander, Devin Brown, Flip Murray or even Jannero Pargo (if his knee is better).
Sam: No. I've seen mention of Pargo back to the Hornets with buddy Chris Paul and Alexander already is there. Brown and the Bulls had quite the falling out last season and Murray may be going overseas.
In the post-Jordan Bulls era, I think Chicago has its most national televised games this upcoming season. So I was very excited to see this. A total of 18 games! Along with the usual several on WGN Superstation. I wanted to see what teams the Bulls would be facing on the national stage. It is quite the mix overall. However I noticed a pattern among the ABC/ESPN games. Of the 11 total, 10 are on the road! That seems too statistically drastic to be a mistake. Right? Could ESPN have a reason to want to see Chicago lose as many games possible on their networks? I know the Bulls never have been respected among the national pundits since Jordan left (especially Sir Charles Barkley) even during the Skiles or Del Negro playoff years. This doesn't seem right here. First ESPN guarantees us for a month that Bulls fans will get two of the James, Wade, Bosh trio. Now this!
Sam: This was the argument I used about the rumors Jordan was suspended from the NBA for gambling in 1993: The NBA isn't smart enough to pull off a conspiracy like that and keep it quiet. I'm certain ESPN isn't.
Loving the direction the Bulls are going in (though I think they may need one more 3pt threat.) But my concern is not with the personel, but with those ancient jerseys. With the success of Rose and Noah with their new teamates don't you think they deserve a new look?
Sam: I agree with the three point deficit, but I think the Lakers and Celtics seem to have made out fairly well sticking to their traditional, conservative dress. Of course, it could be interesting to let Noah design some new jerseys.