Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 05.24.2013
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I was wondering what your thought about Roy Hibbert. He's having a good playoff run. But, I just read about how could he not be in on the last play of the game.
Sam: I’ve really never been much of a fan of Hibbert’s, though he is a very personable and particularly nice guy. Just moves so mechanically. I sort of winced watching him. Kind of reminded me of the Peter Boyle monster character from Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein the way he ran. But he’s surprised me the way he throws in some shots that do look as unlikely as many of Joakim Noah’s. And his block on Carmelo Anthony in Game 6 was the winner. His coach, Frank Vogel, called him the best rim protector in the NBA. And then took him out the last two plays against Miami in Game 1 when LeBron made two layups to win the game. It obviously was a huge mistake, but it happens. Everyone makes mistakes. It ended up being the story of Game 1 even as Vogel seemed to first admit it was a mistake and then said it wasn’t. Vogel’s done well with the Pacers, but he comes across in general conversation as an unusually pompous guy for having done so little thus far, especially compared with Erik Spoelstra. You get the sense with Spoelstra he believes there’s a lot to learn and with Vogel a lot you should learn from him. But it does set up a good series as that sort of game less than deflating does persuade the Pacers, if they didn’t know it already, that they can defeat Miami. And like the Bulls did with half their rotation out, it exposes Miami as a team less building to multiple championships than hanging on to perhaps get one more.
Do you think the Bulls can potentially draft Dieng out of Louisville? He is 6'11", he can rebound, block shots, and has a reliable mid-range jumper. He could potentially be a poor man's Serge Ibaka.
Sam: I did an early mock draft Tuesday after the lottery drawing and had the Bulls at No. 20 taking a shooting guard from San Diego, Jamaal Franklin, though mostly on a guess on the notion the Bulls most need to get a shooting guard/wing player in case they don’t resign Marco Belinelli and a backup center. I haven’t heard how the Bulls feel on prospects as yet. Someone like Dieng is certainly possible as a backup center. Thibodeau, though he hates when I mention this, isn’t quick to use draft picks. And I do think the Bulls will have a serious chance to make a run next season. Plus, young big men tend to take the longest to develop and adjust to the NBA game. I’ve seen Dieng a bit and while he appears to have defensive instincts didn’t exactly stand out and make you stop. If I were picking I’d go with the perimeter player closer to playing and go for a veteran big man, even one from Europe who is more ready to contribute immediately as I don’t see next season as a developmental season for the Bulls.
After the way the Bulls played in the playoffs without Deng, do you think the team would consider trading him this offseason? Obviously they would want to keep financial flexibility for 2014 since he will be a free agent then anyways. So how about the following deal: Bulls send Deng and their 1st round pick (20th) to the Clippers for Jamal Crawford and Caron Butler? Crawford makes only $5 million a year and would provide another shooter that can create his own shot. He can also handle the ball so Rose can play some 2 guard. Caron Butler can provide scoring off the bench and will be a FA after the 2014 season when his $8 million salary will come off the books. At that point, they can amnesty Boozer and create about $24 million in cap space to bring in a player to put with Rose, Noah, Butler and Crawford. The Clips get a 3rd scoring option behind Paul and Griffin as well as improve their perimeter defense.
Sam: Poor Lu. He’s Wally Pipp every year. He’s the guy who got sick and then Lou Gehrig played 2,134 straight games for him. The suggestion du jour has been again to trade Deng. Let me say for now I’m opposed and would like to see this current Bulls team get a chance healthy to see what sort of run it can make. Next season could be its last time as comprised. I do understand the suggestion about Deng and I’ve gotten quite a few like it this week, including various trades for draft picks from the Kings to Mavs. I don’t think there’s going to be much interest in Deng given he will be an unrestricted free agent after next season. And teams will look at it that if the Bulls are trying to trade him and don’t think they can keep him what chance do they have. So you don’t give up much for one year rentals, especially if you are not close to a title. On this one, I assume the Clippers want to keep Jamal as he’s the only guy on the roster other than Chris Paul who can create a shot, which isn’t what Deng does. Plus, I don’t see the Bulls taking a step back moving Deng for a pick in a weak draft. I don’t see how dumping Harden has helped the Thunder and though the Grizzlies have done well I still think Rudy Gay would have helped. If Miami is vulnerable next season, as I believe they are, I’d like to have Deng around plus Butler for defense and also have injury protection, which we all know the Bulls need. You can’t keep playing for some uncertain future. The Bulls have held onto these futures like Mirotic and the Charlotte pick. Yes, I know they could lose Deng in 2014. But I would worry about it then and next season try to be as strong as I could be given the salary constraints, which already are difficult. Yes, perhaps you can trade Deng for a draft pick and then maybe have money to keep Belinelli and Nate Robinson. I could see that, but I still prefer going forward with Deng.
Am I wrong to think it might be worth taking a flyer on Seth Curry? I’ve seen mock drafts where he is going undrafted, and it seems to me that the Curry blood lines are worth a gamble.
Sam: Well, he isn’t a horse. Not being considered a top 60 in this draft suggests some issues. But these GM guys don’t get it all right. He’s not fast, an undersized shooting guard. But it is a family of shooters if that translates. He’ll probably be a good free agent summer league pickup. The Bulls have No. 49 in the second round, so perhaps if only to have him get everyone autographs from his brother.
I was reading some debate over the NBA and was thinking... hoes the league changed [a lot] this past couple of years? We are now seeing people talking about building the teams around Carmelo and LeBron at PF. Is the league so low in talent at PF and C spots? For me it's almost absurd to see someone say that the Knicks should build around Carmelo at PF. Is this for real? No more room for long, tall and tough guys in the league? That Karl Malone, Tim Duncan type of player with real post moves? We now have small guys with turnaround fadeaway shots? The game is changing because of the lack of talent with size or what?
Sam: Kevin Durant is seven feet tall and basically plays guard. The issue, which is well known, is players refuse to be coached at a young age. Which means they have the power like never before. And not like it was perfect before, but if you were tall you played center. Now if you are tall and the coach wants you to be center and you don’t want to be you transfer schools (it used to be assigned by district according to where you lived) or you have your shoe company representative fire your AAU coach. Rebounding doesn’t even equal rings anymore. It certainly doesn’t equal MVP votes and commercials. The chicks dig the cross over dribble. Yes, there have been rules changes in the notion of flow which gives guards more freedom to work and shoot and score, so slightly built guys like Stephen Curry can excel. A few years back not only his ankle would need regular surgery. But the fact of the game remains you play inside first and a valuable big man is more valuable than any other man. Jordan and LeBron are exceptions, which is why they are two of the best ever. Otherwise, interior size still has led to titles.
I've been following the supposed comeback of Greg Oden since the beginning of the season, really rooting for the former number 1 pick to make his way back to the NBA. We all remember how exciting he was at Ohio State and he did show some promise in his time playing in Portland before the knee injuries. Do you think if Oden can show that he's ready to come back that the Bulls should look at signing him? The idea of him coming off the bench and playing reserve minutes could be good.
Sam: It does remain intriguing to consider the possibilities regarding Oden. I’m fairly sure he’d never consider a minimum deal as someone likely would bet a few million on him. I’ve generally heard he wants considerable money or a team where he can see being a starter, neither of which the Bulls could offer. I’d suspect if he takes a minimum it means teams don’t believe he can return because if he really could someone surely would offer him a few million for a reasonable look.
I am hearing that Charlotte may actually want to move down in this draft as they were looking at players that will most likely be picked between 10-20. Any chances that the Bulls will move up from number 20 into the top 5? I would think maybe they give up the 2016 pick (as I would most likely predict Charlotte will be better after receiving 3 of the next years top draft picks for 2016 to be unprotected) and Deng for this years Charlotte pick. We could then pick up McLemore, Shabazz, or possibly Victor Oladipo. Any truth to this?
Sam: When you are as bad as Charlotte and don’t want a player it suggests the draft is worse than we think. I assume if Charlotte were thinking to move down it would be to get some young players to move forward. And certainly not a veteran rental. You never know, but given Charlotte’s situation my sense is the Bulls intend to ride out that 2016 pick as their last big shot at a high lottery pick in hopefully a draft with more talent.
Do the Bulls have any chance of signing Mirotic? I think the biggest upside in the current draft would be Pitt's center Adams and the 6'9" Greek, Adetokoubo.
Sam: I’ve gotten more questions about Mirotic as he got his league MVP award this week. Given his draft status and the Bulls salary situation, he cannot come without actually losing money because of his buyout before the summer of 2014. At that point, the Bulls will need a salary cap exception or room under the cap to sign him, which is why they’ll likely not add anyone this summer. If they do for a contract more than a year they might not have money to make an offer to Mirotic and then he’d just stay overseas as the Bulls have his rights. He is paid very well in Europe and is very young. All indications are he wants to come to the NBA, but he’s hardly likely to unless he gets a decent contract.
What do you think of the idea of the Bulls going after Blatche as a back-up? He's playing for a league minimum right now. Every time the Bulls played the Nets he did pretty and give them some trouble.
Sam: Like Blatche, eh? He’s a bit of a head case, though you can handle one with a good group. He’s more offensively oriented and doesn’t seem much interested in defending, which is not the sort of player Thibodeau tends to like or use. But I believe he played for a minimum so he wouldn’t have to again. He probably earned himself a bit more, and the Nets seem most likely to bring him back as they can pay in valuable minerals the owner has dug up when they are needed.
When, if ever will contracts fall in line with the new salary cap? Many teams are filling out half their rosters with minimum salaried guys because the other half contains contracts signed before the new collective bargaining agreement that are paying guys too much. Not Derrick Rose or LeBron and the max deals, but will we see guys like Boozer and Deng take a pay cut so a guy like Belinelli can get a multi-year deal? Or will another team pay $12-$14 million a year for them and fill their roster out with one year minimum guys?
Sam: The landscape is changing and the players are going to be in for some rude awakenings. The NBA is beginning to mirror U.S. society in which the wealthy are getting wealthier and the lower and middle classes are being locked into much less than what was at one time the mythical American dream. The income gap in the U.S. is becoming greater than ever. Consider the cost difference now between your house assuming the bank hasn’t taken it and a rich person’s house and the same difference say 25 years ago. The NBA is evolving similarly and would have been even more disparate if not for the ceiling put on salaries. I recall Michael Jordan saying many times privately the Bulls couldn’t pay him enough, much like something LeBron James said this season. And it’s mostly true. Everyone comes to see the star, but you also can’t have a team that way. Imagine if players could be paid now what Jordan made in 1997-98, which was $33.4 million. If Miami paid just James and Dwyane Wade that there was no way they could have a team. It really is a good economic lesson for fans who keep demanding more stars. The more you add, the more you have to reduce your roster. Which is why many hope the Pacers succeed. They pretty much don’t have a so called star. I’d say the way Wade is going Miami will have only one in another year. But that’s another issue. Can you win only with so called “max” stars, or can you win with five good players. Players, like anyone, will seek as much money as they can make. They’ll judge themselves, like all workers do, according to fellow workers. Your salary is basically good until you find out the guy next to you makes more. Anytime you have a so called star player he’s going to want to make the most he can. So, no, contracts are never going to fall in line with the new labor deal. The landscape of the NBA is going to be teams with four or five players making maximum or close to salaries and seven or eight players making minimum. It’s about $1 million, so it’s not bad. But like in society in general, the NBA middle class is about to disappear. Many players making $3 million and $4 million will become minimum salary players, or they’ll gravitate to poor teams that don’t have stars and can pay them more. That’s likely with guys like Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli. No, Boozer and Deng aren’t voluntarily taking pay cuts, and why should they? Why don’t Rose or LeBron or Durant take cuts? After all, without teammates they can’t win a title. NBA rules also changed years back where players cannot cut their salaries anymore until their contracts expire. Everyone will, as they do in the rest of the world, get the best deal for themselves that they can. Then the team will have to figure out the rest. But expect huge income gaps on every team between rich and “poor,” which doesn’t exactly make for great team potential.
Chris Copeland’s agent told espnnewyork that he envisions Copeland's value to be in the $3.5 to $5 million range and mentioned the contract Novak got at 4 yrs $16 million as something Copeland deserves. One decent game from a 29 year old rookie who is a crap defender, low basketball IQ, and who basically takes a lot of bad shots? What will Nate Robinson get if Copeland does get $3-$4 million per? $20 million?
Sam: We assume the Knicks have figured out as they couldn’t even use Novak in the playoffs that it was a mistake. But that’s the shock many are about to get, that instead of everyone having their salaries raised because someone stupidly overpaid a player it will be a few guys who just got lucky in a financial sense. Of course, given these are the Knicks with crazy contracts that will have the team headed on a downward spiral for the next three years we can only sit back and enjoy Carmelo hitting his goals of reaching the second round of the playoffs in what apparently is his one upsmanship with Tracy McGrady. Some guys like Kobe aim for Jordan. And some guys aim a bit lower.
Many have written to you (and others) about how great a coaching job Tom Thibideau has done. I tend to agree and wondering as we look ahead to free agency this summer if it wouldn't be worth while to take his ability out for a spin a bit and see what impact he would have on a player like Nick Young. If he can manage Nate and bring out the best in other marginal players, would he not be able to do the same for players with a lesser ethic who've perhaps not benefitted from a good culture and team atmosphere?
Sam: Instead of terminal head cases, shouldn’t the Bulls try getting Thibodeau players he’d like and enjoy coaching? Of course, it is possible as the way Young burned through yet another team and coach with his disinterest in defense, passing and the play book he seems likely to end up looking for a minimum contract. Or maybe going to the Knicks, having two good games and the fans demanding he get $10 million.
I think the best part about this season was the emergence of Jimmy Butler. He came with a lot to prove and boy did he do just that. But I think everyone's jumping the gun a bit with the idea that he should be a starter next year. I personally see him as a Ginobili-caliber 6th man, one of the best in the league if he continues developing. He came in to replace Ronnie Brewer, which to my surprise he did, but now everyone's going overboard thinking he can suddenly be our starter at the 2. People are even saying he should replace Deng. I don't think you can make that kind of decision based on a few months of play. Defensively he is as solid as Deng and makes for a fine stopper in any circumstance, but offensively, he hasn't done anything but gain confidence. I feel like if we got a 2 who could create his own shot who starts, we could have something really special with Butler coming in to back him up off the bench.
Sam: Me, too, and the Bulls as well. The problem as I pretty much went into is the fantasy acquisition days are over. Jimmy will be a starter because the Bulls likely will have no one better. It’s going to be a major luxury to have a deep bench and having someone of Butler’s skill level on the bench will be rare. Manu effectively is a starter, though his minutes are curtailed for health reasons. Sure, if you can pick up a Danny Green type and insert him as a starter, perhaps. But Butler is proving too talented for a limited role. Actually, you can see a Bulls defensive lineup at times next season of Hinrich, Butler, Deng, Gibson and Noah which would have a strong man defender at every position, a league rarity.
I have a picture of Nolan Smith wearing a Bulls hat while walking around Duke's campus back in April. First off, I thought it was interesting that he was wearing another team's hat. Second, I know there have been some reports linking the Bulls to him. Do you think it's a possibility that we sign him?
Sam: The Bulls are pretty deep at point with Teague having to play this season and based on what I saw no reason why he cannot help. But Smith with a basketball family and doing well in the D-league and probably at a minimum fits the job description.
What are the odds the Bulls strongly consider bringing Korver back next year? Thibs has expressed a need for shooting and Korver is the first name that pops in my mind. It's well known that Korver enjoyed playing for the Bulls so you know he would be open to it.
Sam: Kyle will be in demand by a number of teams this summer as a free agent after a very good season with the Hawks. He will not be with the Bulls next season.
Have you kept in touch with any of the "role" players from the championship years that I've listed below? If so, could you tell me a bit about what they're doing these days? Cliff Levingston, Will Perdue, Scott Williams, Bobby Hansen, Trent Tucker, Jud Buechler
Sam: I do like to keep up with many of those guys. Cliff has been around living in the Chicago area again. He’s done some minor league and high school coaching and does some teaching in clinics under Good News Basketball (his nickname). Will does broadcasting for ESPN and where he lives in Louisville. Scott was a Suns broadcaster for about five years and coached in the D-league last season. Trent has remained active and successful in the community in Minneapolis and is a school district director now and does some broadcasting. His annual golf and tennis tournament is a favorite for players. Bobby used to live near me in the west suburbs of Chicago and I’d see him in a golf business. I think he still does Iowa basketball broadcasting. Jud lives right by Steve Kerr and their families hang out a lot. Jud surfs quite a bit, I’m told, and he’s been involved with kid kids’ sports in San Diego. As for some others, Darrell Walker is on the Knicks bench and a head coaching candidate around the league. Ron Harper I think is back in New Jersey and has been trying to get into coaching. I ran into Dickey Simpkins at a retired players event and he’s been a motivational speaker and running a basketball company. I saw Rusty LaRue at summer league a few years back and he’s back as an assistant at Wake Forest, where he played. Craig Hodges I think is still in Long Beach and was working for the Lakers until Phil Jackson left. One of my favorites was Brad Sellers, who wasn’t on a title team but has been one of the more impressive. He went into politics and was elected mayor of Warrenville Heights, Ohio, where he grew up near Cleveland. The city has prospered under him with thousands of new jobs.
Do you think [the] Kings would trade Cousins for the right price?
Sam: I have heard with the effort to get the new arena and all the extra money and thus cutbacks on other necessities they are a bit short on jockstrap supplies. So for a box I think it’s possible.