Bobby Portis
Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 10.16.2015

Sam Smith of opens his mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers

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By Sam Smith | 10.16.2015 | 2:30 p.m.

Even though he seems to be a bit of a selfish player I just read that Rudy Gay is on the block and the Bulls are thinking about him. Taj is damn good but Bobby Portis looks like a real keeper too.

Would you approve of a Gibson Snell for Rudy trade? I know you like playing the lets make a trade game.

--Tom Pappalardo

Sam: It seems Rudy Gay is becoming the O.J. Mayo of this season. I would be stunned if the Bulls were interested at all in Rudy. I have been stunned before, so stuff does happen. But Rudy doesn’t seem to me to fit in any fashion the way new coach Fred Hoiberg wants to play. Rudy holds the ball, plays slowly in a half court game and is an average at best three-point shooter, barely above 33 percent for his career. So a coach who wants to preach pace, quick ball movement and perimeter shooting would want to add Rudy Gay?

I understand the thinking that the Bulls wing position with Dunleavy and McDermott isn’t nearly athletic enough, and Rudy still is a great athlete and who knows what’s going to happen in Sacramento. So it’s easy to see why he would be available. But there’s also the matter of two seasons after this averaging about $14 million per season. That should be enough to end the discussion. As I go through my argument, I would be even more stunned. As for Portis, you can see how well he’s done already and with that potential and a low salary for several years to come. Pretty much short of Durant—and assuming he can guarantee his health—the Bulls aren’t about to trade Portis.

It seems like with all the shooters the Bulls now have (Dunlevy, Mirotic and McD) they need a point guard behind Rose who will distribute the ball and play good defense (especially since Mirotic and Mc D have their issues on team and individual D). Neither Brooks , nor Moore fit that model. Both pound the ball too much for their own shot and can't stop the other team's point guard. What is the solution?

--Trip Radcliffe

Sam: It’s a valid observation, but I don’t believe it’s a priority for the Bulls if they were to make any changes. You are overlooking Hinrich, who should be adequate to fill in at point guard and run the team, though he isn’t the classic distributing point guard. My sense is more with the way Hoiberg wants to play with a lot of ball movement and drive and kick that they feel they can get shooters plenty of opportunities without a classic passing point guard in reserve.

Rose reiterated in his comments to media Thursday he’s always seen himself as a facilitator when needed; mostly he’d been needed to score. It’s apparent thus far how good Portis can be. But if he were not available, I believe the Bulls would have taken Duke’s Tyus Jones. The Bulls don’t regret their pick, for sure. I haven’t seen all the rookies, but Jones has been one of the most impressive I’ve seen thus far in limited playing time. He has a nice stroke and can pass, though he is small. He would have been your answer. The truth is very few teams have classic passing point guards as backups. Golden State won a title without one; I’m not sure what the Cavs had in reserve and got to the Finals. Freed from limitations, I think Moore will be better and Brooks won several games last season with his shooting. No team is perfect. Though it’s a missing part, I don’t see backup point as fatal.

Portis hit a three yesterday and looked good doing it. Can he hit that shot regularly? His body type kind of reminds me of Tim Thomas but Portis obviously looks much more motivated than I ever remember Thomas being. Do you see any similarities?

--Cameron Watkins

Sam: Certainly not in attitude as Bobby would be the anti-Tim Thomas. Tim was an amazingly graceful athlete for his size. Bobby isn’t quite as agile. Stan Van Gundy likened Portis a bit to Kevin Love for an ability to shoot from the perimeter and get something in the post. That’s a pretty amazing comparison for a guy who fell to No. 22. But all of a sudden I’m hearing a lot of general managers from the top 10 saying they were looking hard at Portis and are surprised he fell that far. Not sure I heard as much of that on draft day.

In any case, it’s a break for the Bulls. There’s some comparison to Paul Millsap with his ability to make outside shots and battle inside, though Portis is much taller. If you want to go to great players, there’s a little of Bob McAdoo with the perimeter shooting, which is better than advertised. The top NBA draft sites, like, had Portis likened to Greg Monroe at the draft, but that’s off as Monroe is mostly a post player with limited range. Portis always has said he likened himself and his game to Kevin Garnett, though he isn’t the playmaker Garnett was when he came into the NBA with an unusual feel for the game as a teenager. Garnett is more a face up player like Portis. For five preseason games, those are pretty heady comparisons. Perhaps we should wait until he plays 10 minutes in the regular season.

Is it my imagination, or are the reserves playing with more "enthusiasm" than the vets? Starting to fall in love with Portis and McDermott. There may be some limitations, but it is impossible to ignore their upside.

--William Kochneff

Sam: It’s all a process, which we hear often. Obviously with Rose out and Noah and Gasol each missing a pair of games, it hasn’t been a regular group of starters. Of course, the Bulls basically haven’t had one the last three years, either. Hoiberg came in obviously committed to change from Tom Thibodeau. After all, if he didn’t need to change Hoiberg likely wouldn’t be coaching the Bulls.

Anyway, that meant limiting playing time in the preseason and taking a harder look at more players. So when you do that it’s difficult to sustain that “enthusiasm.” I thought the Bulls predictably had it for the home preseason opener, which was their best game thus far.

Then came many different combinations and caution with Gasol, then Noah after he fell hard and Taj Gibson until the fifth game. Plus, Dunleavy is out for two months. And Hoiberg seems to want to develop McDermott into a reserve, sixth man role for a scoring boost off the bench. That makes sense with his hope he can get production and/or consistency from Mirotic and Tony Snell, the latter who went out with a sprained ankle. So perhaps make a better judgment after the games from later next week right before the regular season begins when he’ll be trying to if not win the game have his regulars playing down the stretch.

Kinda funny huh... we want offense and now we want defense. Those people who are criticizing Coach Hoiberg know nothing about basketball. Every coach has its system, basically we are the same team adjusting to a new system plus we dont have the full starting 5 playing yet. I wont be surprised if some one would suggest to get coach Thibs as an assistant coach.

--Rollen Decuzar

Sam: And I heard Thibs isn’t really doing much. Defense is overrated except when its underrated. Huh? You can play good defense giving up 100 points per game. Just score 108. Margin of victory is a much more important statistic. Actually, Golden State did give up 100 points per game last season.

Obviously, there are measures these days to factor in speed of the game and shots and possessions that belie the notion of how many points a team yields. The Bulls have given up a lot of points in the preseason, but that’s more a function of so many different lineups and playing faster and shooting more threes early in the shot clock. Thibodeau played defense first, calling every play, having the offense walk the ball up so that two guards and maybe a forward always were in position to be back on defense when a shot was taken. A few teams played that way, like Charlotte and Memphis. They’ve been good, at times, if not ultimately successful. The Spurs used to play that way, but credit Popovich, who adjusted over the years-—though not without some kicking and screaming--to his faster personnel.

Just because the Warriors won last season doesn’t mean every team is in position to play the same way using varying size lineups and shooting plenty of threes. It helps having Curry and Thompson. The Warriors adjusted to their personnel and had good size with Bogut and Ezeli. Thanks to Thibodeau, the Bulls do have a good defensive base and players who appreciate the success. They’ll be much better defensively, and I suspect by next week since Hoiberg will begin to limit the rotation some.

I'm thinking that Portis is the future of at least the back up PF position, as he learns from Taj and Gasol. He has the hustle that Taj brought into the league from day 1, has a great attitude and competitive edge, and seems to have slightly more offense than Taj did at the beginning. Not sure if Mirotic is our future starter or not, hopefully he gains that consistency and toughness needed for 82 games.

The point I'm trying to get at is that I hope that with Bobby lurking in the background, it will force Taj to elevate his game, which will hopefully open up some trade opportunities for the Bulls, if he is playing well and healthy. Not saying to get rid of Taj for anything bad, or to look to do so immediately, but I think it's time to move forward, and Taj is already 30. Then again, I could be wrong, because if we lose Gasol after the year, we don't want to be left with just Mirotic and Bobby, unless they do have a stellar year. I guess, you can probably see my confusion. I'm trying to work out what happens with the PF role here, too many options to consider.

--Daniel George

Sam: Is this Gar again? Embarrassment of riches? Well, not quite yet. But two weeks into preseason there haven’t been many things sorted out, Portis’ impressive rookie play only complicating things, if having another good player can be considered a complication. I don’t see Hoiberg dropping Portis just because he’s a rookie. But it’s not an easy balancing act for a rookie coach to decide between the production of a rookie and the reliability of a veteran.

The Bulls have five potentially productive front court players in Gasol, Noah, Gibson, Mirotic and Portis. Hoiberg has leaned toward starting Gasol and Mirotic thus far, and if he wants to build minutes as the season progresses like Popovich does with the Spurs, maybe you can play five guys. It’s 96 minutes and if Portis gets 10 or 12 to start and you keep everyone under 30 it may not be an issue, at least to start. Plus, given the history of injury and surgery with Noah and Gibson it also suggests not all five will be able to play all the time. It’s just one of those questions that haven’t answered themselves.

So Hoiberg will have some decision making next week. Though he’s also said this will be an evolving process and the rotation at the start of the season doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the rotation in December or March. Plus, Tony Snell hasn’t shown quite enough yet to demonstrate he can be a reliable starter on the wing while Mike Dunleavy is out. And if you play McDermott with Mirotic and Gasol, what does that mean for your defense? So yes at some point the strength in the front could be used to make an acquisition to firm up another area. Which, at the very least, is going to make this an interesting season with much to watch for.

And while Hoiberg, unlike many first year coaches, is not getting a lottery team, he is taking over one with considerable potential that will need to be managed shrewdly. It’s not going to be easy to accommodate the need for veterans to gain their rhythm and with a core of solid reserves to develop their confidence and become important producers.

Nate Robinson signs with the Pelicans. 1 yr unguranteed deal. Will be cut when it comes time to guarantee it most likely.

--Mike Sutera

Sam: Probably just in time to fill my mailbag with demands to pick up Robinson. After I’ve taken the joy out of all the requests to resign Ben Gordon.

And, yes, this has been a Derrick Rose free Ask Sam. Imagine that.


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