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Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 6.17.2016

Iggy is hurting now. Need Curry and Green to wake up in game 7.
Mike Sutera

That’s what truly defines greatness, and LeBron was great in that way. The way he padded his stats driving for layups at the end of Game 4 with the outcome decided was embarrassing. It’s what truly separates him from players like Jordan or Kobe or Bird or West. He’s probably more talented overall, but he doesn’t want to take over he game often enough when he has to. The defense many made for years with LeBron not wanting the last shot was he was making the right basketball play. It’s not when your team needs you to carry them. That’s why you are greater than the sum of their parts. You play with them for three quarters, and then you carry them home. LeBron demurred too often from that obligation. He didn’t in Game 5 and 6, and that’s why the Cavs suddenly have a chance when most, including me, figured they had almost no chance at all. This is good stuff.

I wanted to know your opinion around this rumored deal between Wolves and Bulls regarding Butler. What I've read in multiple news outlets is Wolves want to offer no.5 pick and a role players for Butler. I can't see the Bulls accepting that deal. I've read the Bulls would only consider a package with Wiggins and the no.5 pick for Butler. That to me sounds like a great deal for the Bulls and I see more upside in Wiggins than Butler, but I don't see why the Wolves would pull the trigger on that one. What are your thoughts on this? Not only if there's any truth to this, as well as if any scenario is acceptable for both teams.

Jay Ernani

First of all if the Bulls were looking to trade Butler, which I strongly believe they are not, then they certainly could do better than No. 5 in a two or three top player draft. I’m sure the Lakers at No. 2 would prefer a two-time All-Star to another teenager years away from making an impact, and probably the 76ers as well with all their young guys. So if you were the Bulls and you were talking to the Timberwolves –and I assume the Bulls missing the playoffs have to explore options with every team—this is what you’d say: We have a two-time All-Star and a player who has a good chance to play for USA Basketball in the Olympics. Is that in Zach Lavine’s future? Probably not. The No. 5 pick? Probably not, and if so, maybe in five years. Andrew Wiggins is closer, but really not even close to being an All-Star. OK, he can make a national team, but not the U.S.’s. So Wiggins, sure, but you’d have to add way more than him given Wiggins is two to three years away from even being at Butler’s All-Star and all-defensive level. Plus, Wiggins has yet to even play in one meaningful game in his NBA career compared with Butler. So maybe Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng since Minnesota has three centers and the No. 5 pick. And the Timberwolves still would be getting the best player in the deal and the biggest uptick in the short term. If the talks started there maybe the Timberwolves also have to throw in a future draft pick and then you may have something. When you read a rumor like that you can begin to take it seriously. Butler for No. 5 and a role player is not even worth mentioning as serious other than a team oriented leak to curry favor with media and maybe try to embarrass another team by putting their top player in trade discussions.

The rumor of Jimmy Butler being traded make me nervous. I do not know what management wants to do if they act on this. Losing Butler means missing the playoffs, and the next few years trying to rebuild. I cannot do another rebuilding as a Bulls fan. From 1999-2008 it was rough. Finally got a competitive team, then things fell apart. Im hearing a Wiggins and a 5th pick for Butler? Not saying Wiggins is bad, but hes the type of player that still needs to develop. And then hope in 2 years the team is a contender? I hope the Bulls have a win now mentality. Not another project that may not even work out. Likely losing Gasol and Noah anyways. Will Butler be in a Bulls uniform next year?
James Phoenix

Though the Bulls don’t have a great history in free agency, it’s still better than most. Boozer was an All-Star and Olympian when he was signed; Pau Gasol was offered deals by the league’s best teams. Free agents do come to Chicago. LeBron didn’t. Remember, Kobe Bryant was practically begging the Lakers to send him to Chicago. The center situation is an issue coming into next season, as I’ve discussed in previous Ask Sams. It will remain so as we head into July. But given the generally unspectacular nature of the East—sure LeBron is great, but into his 30s now, and Kyrie Irving always has stumbled against Derrick Rose—competing soon doesn’t take too much. I expect Jimmy to be a big part of that. The Bulls will get a good draft pick, they have young players who have talent in Mirotic, McDermott and Portis, and they should be able to add a good free agent. Who isn’t that enough against? Atlanta? Toronto? Indiana? It will be like last season again in that going into the last month of the regular season you could be ninth or third. But with substantial salary cap flexibility of perhaps $60 million or more after next season, I see the Bulls able to build from what they have rather than tear down.

If Bulls go along and trade Rose/Butler, you can kiss the playoffs goodbye. Not every point guard suddenly plays like how Rose plays whenever he's not injured, and not every SG/SF plays like Jimmy's done the last 4 or 5 seasons now. So trading shouldn't be in our favor regarding them two.
Kieron Smith

If you were getting a starting point guard, sure, but if you’re not—and who’s giving a starting point guard or center for a one season risk with Rose?—why would you give up what promises to be a good season from Rose. Maybe you’re cynical and say he’s just doing it for free agency—I don’t believe that as I’ve seen nothing but his motivation to regain a healthy career—and if you do, OK, why not take advantage of that? Rose and Butler both averaged 20 per game in the playoffs in 2015. There’s no reason they can’t do that again. I know all this can’t play together stuff, and Fred Hoiberg’s system. But I know from Hoiberg’s team at Iowa State and philosophy that he prefers to adjust to his players' strengths. Rose shouldn’t have played the first month after his facial fracture, but he did. Butler probably came back too soon after his knee injury and wasn’t the same post All-Star break. I’d like to see them take a shot at one more full season together.

I’m reading all these trade Rumors about Butler and I’m asking myself the question: First of all, these are just rumors and the idea of trading butler could be bitter/sweet depending on what they get in return and how those players turn out. Anyway, the question I ask myself is: Why would the Bulls trade a potential superstar player with a very friendly long-term deal moving into the future just to make players happy such as (Rose-Noah-Gasol) who are not part of the Bulls long-term (and for that matter short-term with Gasol) Plans anyway? They have the 14th pick this month plus cap space to add a decent player this year and even more cap space (over 30 million next off-season when Rose & Gibson come off the Books). Chicago would still be an attractive place to play for free-agents in 2017 with Butler-McBuckets-Felcio-Portis-The 14th pick this year along with Mirotic ?
Randall Sanders

I just read a piece (from a fan, not someone with an editor) that laid out some stats for Rose this year. While examining the period from New Years to April (when the elbow injury happened) it turns out that Rose shot 40% on spot up 3s during that time. This got me thinking about his fit with Jimmy, who modeled his game after Kobe and MJ. Both those players lived in the paint, had point guards that were good spot up shooters and who mostly handled the ball long enough to get them the ball in their spots. Also, both were strong defenders. Rose apparently can hit spot up 3s pretty well now. He can defend too. Pax knows it and that's why he was so upset at the end of season press conference. I think he's still good enough to be the top dog on a good team, but for this team maybe it's better if he plays that role vice the, "your turn my turn" stuff that's been happening so far.

Wesley Davis

I’d still take my chances with Rose and Butler and mid range play if the Bulls cannot find a shooting guard now and can’t move Jimmy to small forward. The wing positions are fairly interchangeable, anyway. Jimmy’s an established two-way player who can guard the league’s best scorers and have an effect. Trade him and who’s doing that? Which is enough reason not to. Rose still has that explosive burst, and it should be better coming off this summer with no injuries at the end of last season. Two pointers still count. The Bulls used to average about 110 per game without shooting many threes. The Celtics averaged more than that and shot none in their dynasty era. The Rockets adopted this shoot-only-threes thing a few years back and have continued to regress. Shooting those threes are great as the math works for you, but only if you make them and don’t get beaten on fast breaks all the time with those long rebounds. The Bulls have three-point shooters in McDermott, Dunleavy and Mirotic. Butler and Rose are scorers. Butler gets to the free throw line enough to offset the difference in three vs two, and Rose can improve on that. Rose has shown he can defend as he’s had big games defensively against the likes of Irving and Wall, among other top guards. The Bulls made a point of asking him to do more on that end, and he’s always been a willing teammate. I expect him for a lot of reasons to be more tuned in this season, if also because it feels a lot better to play when you feel a lot better.

We’ve speculated about the possibilities of Butler and Rose as an elite backcourt. With Butler’s scoring ability and defense and Rose’s speed and power there’s no reason to believe they cannot. You always hear this dislike issue, which is a fallback when things go bad. Some of the best teammates in NBA history barely got along, from Cousy and Russell to Kobe and Shaq, and they produced many titles along the way. Just respect the other guys’ play, and there’s no indication Butler and Rose cannot do that.

Is the post up game not reliable anymore? Can it be revived?
King Berango

Make up call on Green for not suspending him when he actually did something
John Leichenko