Ask Sam Mailbag Early-season Bulls takes free agent optionWe
เวลา:2023-01-01  ผู้เขียน:

It seems to me that the league has more balance than I have seen in a while

Sam: Which in theory is a good thing for the Bulls in that as weve been starting to see there really are no more super teams. Yes, some teams like Boston are beginning to space out a little bit, but the Bulls do have a win over them. So if the Bulls beat Boston and Boston beatsThe thing is its not like theres hardly anybody anymore you feel no way you can beat them. Of course, the other side of that is to better watch out from behind as some of those Pelicans, Kings, Thunder, Magic and Trailblazers are going to give you more problems than before as weve seen already with a Pelicans season sweep of the Bulls. Though take the redevelopment of the Trailblazers as a positive since the Bulls now should get that No. 1 draft pick next June. And just in case things go really bad, they do have that top four protection on the 2023 pick to Orlando from the Vučević deal. So they could be in the Wembanyama thing after all, but that would be a really bad season I cant see coming. Even if you fall a bit behind, I dont see much fatal this season with the way most teams have shown varied vulnerabilities.

Brian Tucker:I dont think this whole running it back idea is working out so well. Sure, Zach may still be getting comfortable coming off of surgery.And sure we have been without Lonzo. And Coby and Andre have missed time.But we see good teams rally and play well and still win games when their top players are out. The Bulls arent doing that and dont even look like they are trying to step up against good teams.Whats up with that? My two lines of thought, of which I havent decided between yet: 1) Maybe AK should think about selling DeMar and Vuc for expiring contracts and young talent, and join the Wembanaya race to the bottom. Otherwise were looking at a middling team who could be good enough for a low playoff seed and 1st round exit. 2) Or is the team just stuck and coasting until Ball is back and they can make a late season run and perhaps be a playoff threat.

Usually Im the optimist for winning now, but maybe the Bulls need to embrace the tank.

Sam: Its too late for giving up. Plus, they already tried that. I wouldnt want to go through that again. You basically cant trade because of contracts and signings until mid-December, and while the Bulls havent been good enough this season, theyll win games and are too good to be too bad. Plus, with Vučević a free agent after this season and DeMar after next, theyre hardly about to give up so the team can get a better draft pick to replace them. I think its all about column two, that they havent been able to run it back without Lonzo, and that when they can it will be different and its about getting hot, and with Lonzo late and a healthier Zach, why not them.

Andre Saw:I understand that Lonzo Ball is out and, there are a couple new main pieces to the bench at least that needs time to fit. However, after watching this team so far this early part of the season, I am beginning to wonder if Coach Donovan has taken this team as far as he can and a new voice is needed? Your thoughts on when it is time for panic mode?

Sam: Not yet. I wouldnt put it on Billy although everyones answer always is to get a new coach. The problems with the roster, which include health issues outside of structure, tend to loom larger. They really dont have a point guard when Dragić doesnt play, theyre short on two-way players and perimeter shooting. It appears like Billy is doing all he can to keep them in position and seems to maintain a positive attitude and the respect of the players. Interim coaches generally are a terrible idea, and did anyone mention that its early?

John Jenkins:How much should we be concerned about the teams early performance? It would appear that, at least on paper, our off-season additions should be bringing greater success. Is Balls absence that much to blame, or is it more a combination of things?

Sam: Im concerned. Im sure they are, as well. Heck, I had them top six. And theyre just two games out of sixth! See; feel better? Obviously playing without Ball is a loss, but there does seem more than that. I know DeRozan scoffed at the preseason talk of not having that kind of season again, but hes not, in part, because teams arent going to let him. Its not his fault. Teams attack your strengths. The offseason additions were excellent, but just not enough since the major question was the LaVine extension. That obviously ate up a lot of the salary cap, its what they had to do or risk losing him for nothing in return, and hes obviously not at top performance yet. So I go with combination.

Bill Tait:What are your thoughts on the Bulls taking a chance on Kofi. Marko Simonovic and Tony Bradley cant seem to make the rotation. Kofi and Ayo played together at Illinois, hed be an instant fan favorite and would seem to fit a need for the Bulls. Im surprised hes not in the league right nw. Or am I totally wrong about him and hes just not that good?

Sam: His situation reminds me a little bit of Jahlil Okafor, who I think is in the G-league now giving it another shot. Just that Kofi came along a bit later, so he went from lottery pick to no pick. Theyre ideal illustrations of the way the game changed. And the way the Bulls play are a part of that, though in a somewhat different way. No, obviously thered be no chance Cockburn could play for the Bulls if Bradley cant even get in the game. There are games youd think Bradley could play some the way the Bulls had their worst losses to big front line teams, like the Cavaliers and Nuggets. But Billy Donovan seems committed to trying to play a faster, smaller switching game, which I acknowledge is a lot of the NBA these days. Of course, a lot of his players dont do that, but thats another issue. You can try other ways like the Nuggets do in the half court, but then you need real three-point, catch-and-shoot threats, which the Bulls dont have. At one time a big man who could maneuver in the post like Kofi was a sure NBA player and potential All-Star (see Kevin Duckworth). No more as many of the big guys now are more athletic players who can switch, players who once were power forwards. But you also need a shot, which cancelled, as it were, guys like Kenneth Faried, who went from all-rookie first team and USA Basketball to all-China. Kofi probably has a career outside the NBA and apparently is starting in Japan.

Joseph Austin:Normally, I write to you about possible trades involving the Bulls. However, I came across a list of 5 current free agents that could offer some incremental improvement to the Bulls that shouldnt disrupt any chemistry on the roster: Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Eric Paschall, Jared Butler, and Nemanja Bjelica. From what I have read, these 3 players would give the Bulls some more 3 point shooting and wouldnt cost the Bulls anything much more beyond minimum salary.

Sam: I read recently Howard went to play in Taiwan, so hopefully China isnt ready to make an aggressive move. From the Bulls standpoint, one issue is where they are regarding the luxury tax. I think they are right up against the line. If you go $1 over you lose the distribution from the tax paying teams, which probably was about $15 million last season. None of those players would make any substantial difference for the Bulls, so it would hardly make sense to basically be paying $17 million (veteran minimum and lost distribution) for a player maybe not even in the regular rotation. If they could get a difference maker, theyve said theyd make that financial sacrifice and I believe they would. I wouldnt, either, for those players. Howard reminds me of the Kareem syndrome. Kareem was one of the five greatest players ever and maybe the brightest. But he was so difficult with everyone during his career that when he was finished no one wanted him around. I think its similar with Howard, who certainly is good enough to be in the NBA. I judge that on the DeAndre Jordan test. If Jordan is good enough to be in the NBA, then Howard certainly is. In Carmelos case, I read another team from Taiwan was interested in him. Hey, its a $1 million. Given his age, disinterest in defending and seemingly somewhat of a belief hes better than he thinks he is, hes also probably not worth the trouble. Veteran coaches always will tell you the most difficult thing is to coach a superstar when he no longer is. Better to have a hungry G-league guy wholl listen to everything you have to say. I like Bjelica also as a hometown buddy for Dragić, but I think hes signed in Turkey and also well in time for Thanksgiving. I know, that was really bad.

Alejandro Yegros:Billy was saying how the Nuggets were playing harder, but Im not so sure thats the issue. I think its about how iso-heavy the best Bulls are. In my opinion, players dont move on offense because its not unreasonable to stop moving when DeRozan and LaVine rarelypass it. With the Nuggets, Jokić brings out the movement in everybody because people know theyre going to get it

Sam: So just get someone like Jokić. Wish Id suggested that. Billy did acknowledge your premise for that game, and it does again go to the absence of Lonzo Ball, though they try to limit the excuses. Everyone has injuries and all that, but Derrick Rose was a big one. Some are bigger than others. I saw where the analytics police noted DeMars time for holding the ball was less this season, which is also why the analytics are more tool for spread sheets and better for bettors than participants. Because analytics tells you trends and tendencies instead of cause and effect. Last year this time teams still thought he was San Antonio DeMar, which meant, Oh yeah, I remember that guy. Still in the league? This season its been, Get that guy! He doesnt miss. So teams have jumped him quickly, forcing the ball out of his hands. So the assist numbers often look good, but come more from dropping the ball off because of a double team than looking for someone in a shooting position. Its about the difference between the eye test and eying a formula. Its become something the team needs to make an adjustment, and as much as we may not like it, it can take awhile.

Brodie Larsh:Do you think skipping college seriously hurt Lebrons career? Do you think Thibodeau was a major reason he choose to play in Miami over Chicago in 2010? Other than the Olympics, hes never really played within a system or under a strong coach. If Lebron would have had a great coach at some point, he might have been the GOAT. Imagine the career he would have had, and the type of player hed be, if he was drafted onto the 2003 Spurs under Pop (something terrible would have had to happen to the Spurs as they finished 1st in the west that year), or some other scenario like that.

Sam: Since I still end up in those debates about he or Jordan as the best ever, Im guessing he didnt make that big a mistake. The dirty little secret with LeBron, and as hes had such a great career its difficult to debate or challenge, is you really cant coach him. On the good side, hes such an intelligent player he doesnt need much direction. On the negative side, he doesnt do well with authority. Unless hes agreed to it. He became so big and valuable quickly he became the ultimate Faustian bargain for teams in which you basically give up your authority for his presence. Its also why he walked away from Miami after such success because they wouldnt let him run things. Now entering late prime its not as worth it because he cant change as much for your team. Actually, because the Bulls had Thibodeau, LeBron was closer to coming than he would have been otherwise. He liked Thibs a lot and why the Bulls were so convinced LeBron was coming was after ownership and management met with LeBron that summer in Cleveland, LeBron asked to speak with Thibs alone and they talked strategy for more than an hour. The Bulls never figured out what exactly happened other than LeBron said he made a commitment to Wade and Bosh to play together. The Bulls the way the salary cap was couldnt create enough room for LeBron and Co. without dumping Rose and Noah. The cant-believe-it part was after giving away Kirk Hinrich for nothing to create more salary space, the Bulls tried to do the same and give Luol Deng to the Clippers for nothing and throw in another pick. The Clippers wouldnt take Deng saying they could do better in free agency. The Clippers instead used the money they could have used for Deng in his prime for Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye and Brian Cook. Yes, they were the Clippers. And the Bulls didnt have a starting lineup of Rose, Wade, James, Bosh and Noah. It was that close. Coached by Thibs.

Alex Rose:Ive always thought Williams defense was overrated, but now I think hes the best man-to-man defender in the team. I know Green/Caruso get more deflections, but as far as stopping the man in front of you from scoring, is it accurate to say Williams is the best? Hes improved.

Sam: He doesnt get as much credit for that because for all the fan and media talk about defense they want to see numbers. His arent going to be much for awhile, but he does make a nice effort on defense. But when you are not winning, critics dismiss the defensive part. I always said that about Scottie Pippen, whom the Sacramento Kings were trying to get before even the Bulls. But the Bulls jumped just ahead of them in that draft. Pippen certainly was a difference maker for the Bulls champions, but what if he went to a Kings team that never was winning 30 games? You dont get all-defense honors when you lose by 15 instead of 30. If Bobby Jones werent on the 76ers hed be Robert Covington instead of being in the Hall of Fame. Williams is improving, but not everyone notices.

Randall Sanders:Did I miss an injury that may have taken place or something ? Talking about players (Terry) in particular being sent down to the G-League. I see he played against Denver scoring 5 points. That was a quick turn-around?

Sam: He played the doubleheader, Windy City in the afternoon and a few minutes late in the nighttime NBA blowout. So the league via the players association got rid of four in five nights? But not doubleheaders? He said he likes to play and was fine with it, and I can see that since he rarely plays in the NBA. Im a G-league advocate and believe teams make mistakes by keeping guys on the end of the bench for weeks on end. I see the Warriors sent Wiseman to their affiliate for they said at least three or four weeks. I feel like Terry desperately needs that, and OK no steak and lobster or staying at the Ritz. But it is more fun to play, which at least you get to do in the G-league. And you still get an NBA salary. Ive seen more development from players after playing in the G-league than with the development coaches teams have. Theres never a replacement for playing against someone who wants to beat you.

Parker Lerdal:Will ex-Bull Max Strus be traded this season to exchange the other players like Jae Crowder?

Sam: Theres been speculation about that, though I doubt Miami would give up Strus as valuable as hes become to them. Now Duncan Robinson.The Crowder thing remains a mystery and as Ive mentioned before its wrong to me to let or send guys home for the season. Why the heck isnt he playing? Im not sure how its done and trading doesnt really get going for another month, but somehow I see the Marquette product Crowder ending up back in Milwaukee.

Mark Worth:There was a report the Milwaukee Bucks supposedly have called numerous teams to gauge the trade value of Grayson Allen.

Sam: So if Alex Caruso doesnt need a roommate, maybe thats the trade for Crowder.

Larry Jurkens:I tuned in for a little bit of Iowa basketball and Bobby Hansen on the radio call last night, and was surprised to see Reggie Theus coaching Bethune-Cookman. That got me to thinking and wondering what kind of a guy he was. I recall watching his first appearance on TV as maybe a freshman at UNLV, he was a defensive stopper, really put the clamps on Phil Ford as they were trying to do their four-corners thing. Im guessing he was not known for his defense in the NBA... but he could play!

Sam: So thats where Bobby is. Good guy. Reggie, too. Reggie is one of the most unappreciated Bulls in franchise history because of the era he played in, right before Michael Jordan came and in a series of losing seasons. Though when the Bulls did make one playoffs then, Reggie was spectacular in a first round upset victory with 37 and 11 assists in the clincher. He was a big time producer, a player for this era, really, a 6-7 guard who could pass well. The Bulls sure could use him now, ad he doesnt look bad at 65. He loved with what was described as matinee idol looks being a Billy Dee Williams doppleganger (check him out; 80s movie star). Reggie was runnerup for rookie of the year, twice an All-Star in six Bulls seasons, a player who Id compare with Zach LaVine for skill and impact. Reggie was the most popular Bulls player of the era, a city regular who could be found at the most popular downtown restaurants with fans every night. He had a sideways thing with coach Kevin Loughery and was mysteriously benched while riding an NBA streak of 429 straight games played (yes, they did that back then). GM Rod Thorn then basically sentenced him to NBA oblivion as Theus was traded to the Kings for the rest of the best part of his career. Playing these days Reggie would be one of the elite in the game. Heck, he was then.

Carlos Ramos:How would you describe Zachs career as a Bull?

Sam: A modern day Reggie Theus? There have been only eight players in franchise history who have made more than two All-Star teams, as Zach has. Top 10 in franchise history? Or close? Hell always be compared for the Jimmy Butler trade, but considering Butler is with his third team since that trade and Zach has remained loyal to the Bulls and has been a multiple All-Star, Id say the deal has worked out well enough and Zachs Bulls history should rank among the best.

Art Alenik:In recent years, the Bulls have had few two-way players.The last really good one was probably Jimmy Butler. Now theyve got a more extreme situation, where all of the offensive players start and all of the defenders come off the bench.This is where Billys job gets tough.Its not Xs and Os.He needs to figure out how to balance his line-ups for offense & defense... and he needs to get them psyched up to play!Time for a team meeting, or some individual player-coach meetings?

Sam: Well, the Celtics had a big team meeting last year after the Bulls bashed them, Marcus Smart called out Tatum and Brown, and pretty much since then theyve been the best team in the East. Are you on to something? Donovan seems to have made clear with his comments about energy being a choice and all that you have to be a professional and want to compete. Not that I think hes transferring blame, but theres only so much a coach can do. If you need multiple motivational speeches, you need a new roster. I get the dilemma. Javonte Green clearly outplayed Patrick Williams in preseason, so youd say Green starts. But they needed Williams size, so he started. So another energy guy goes to the bench. But as you note the defensive guys being sort of one-way cant score enough, and Caruso is having an off year offensively without Lonzo. Donovan has put LaVine with them this season to try to balance things like he did with DeRozan last season. But the lack of two-way guys is an issue I dont have that many answers for yet. As well as the lack of playmakers. Most teams close games with their best playmakers, and the Bulls just dont have enough. I doubt a meeting helps. Perhaps more of a blend, but who among DeRozan, LaVine and Vučević are you bringing off the bench? Ive long believed its an offensive-oriented roster, so Im for firing away.

Michael Queen:How bad do the Knicks look; 145 to OKC? In todays NBA style of play they give a guy like Mitchell Robinson 4 yrs 60 mil. Refused to give up Grimes and multiple picks for Donovan Mitchell. Grimes gets hurt in camp and since his return he looks awful. Evan Fournier another player who was a stat stuffer on a bad Magic team for years and got a huge deal from the Knicks. Think Leon is sharpening his knife and getting it ready for Thibs?

Sam: As we say in the Eastern Conference, go west to get healthy?The Knicks did get a break with Jokić out in Denver Wednesday, but its true everyone, including Donovan Mitchell, believed he was headed for the Knicks. I find it difficult to believe it was only about Grimes, now benched. The way Mitchell has played this season has to hurt. Yes, the Knicks GM was once Thibs agent, so that cant be too comfortable. But I guess when you assemble a poor roster what else would be the answer than to blame the coach. I doubt Thibs got dumber. He still knows what hes doing and is one of the better coaches in the game. They could do worse. And likely would.

Mike Sutera:Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is having a breakout season and is in Year 1 of a five-year, $172 million extension. Following the Donovan Mitchell trade, there was speculation that Gilgeous-Alexander could be the next star player to seek a new situation. There was a report teams are monitoring Gilgeous-Alexanders potential availability as he may be on a different timeline than the rest of Oklahoma Citys core and as was reported, You keep hearing that Shai is frustrated with the losing. Trade?

Sam: They both have denied that, and from OKCs standpoint youd say at 24 they have the first piece to build with, and some of their young guys are really starting to look better like Giddey and Pokuševski. But you never know what they are thinking in OKC with all those picks and all those skinny guys on diets. The speculation was theyd dump another season for a shot at Wembanyama. But Gilgeous-Alexander is emerging as one of the best players in the league, and a dozen teams would be bidding for him if he were available. But how many picks do you need? And they have Chet Holmgren out injured this season, who is Wembanyama lite. Unless SGA were to make a fuss or question Sooners football, I dont see why theyd listen to any trade talk.

Victor Gonzalez:This summer I thought the Bulls should have gone for Durant offering LaVine.

Sam: Since Zach was coming off knee surgery there was no way any team was going to look at him in trade at the time. I assume like everyone else the Bulls kicked the tires when Durant started talking about firing the staff and management, but the Nets obviously decided to keep him. Now the question remains with Irving and whether with a new coach and a better defensive ethic without Irving if theyll let him return and whether theres a trade, a buyout. If I were Irving with all the bucks hes banked so far, Id take the big buyout to try to reestablish value with the Lakers. It seems in their situation its the only way hed be able to get a new big time deal after this season when he becomes a free agent. Coaches around the league have been calling their GMs beginning them not to trade for him.

Dan Slesnick:Billy made a point earlier in the season to say that he wouldnt call plays for Patrick Williams. Why not? This seems totally backwards to me. Our star players are the ones who can create their own shot and therefor dont need as many plays called for them. Right now, teams are loading up on our stars, who are already ball dominant. Guys like Pat and Ayo sometimes get caught watching. The offense gets stagnant. Wouldnt it be more effective to call plays for Pat early in games, get him engaged, get the Bulls to run more offense instead of iso ball, and force defenses to worry about someone other than Demar/Vooch/Zach?

Sam: Donovan has started some games and third quarters with play calls for Williams, but Williams tends often then to pass the ball. Everyone preaches being unselfish, but sometimes you have to be a jerk. The Bulls actually dont have one, which I guess is good for marketing if not the game sometimes. It does look sometimes like Patrick freezes when he has a play go to him and begins to think instead of react. They probably want more react. Patrick just doesnt seem like he has natural NBA reactions as much as NBA size at this time. But he is young. I think more its that the coachs point is he wants the ball to call plays, that the ball finds energy and all that thing. Thats the random thing that Donovan has talked about, though you may have heard Donovan lately saying things like as long as Williams sets those screens and moves that works, suggesting the coach feels Williams still isnt ready to be overloaded.

Michael Murden:People who know a lot more about basketball and evaluating basketball talent than I do say Wembanyama is a generational talent for whom its worth sacrificing a whole season.I just see Kristaps Porzingis.Am I missing something?

Sam: The fluidity, the handle, the lack of being put together by Geppetto.

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