Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 06.27.2014
Sam Smith of Bulls.com opens his Ask Sam mailbag and responds to the latest round of emails from his readers
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
Kudos to the Bulls for trading up to draft McDermott. As you've pointed out, it's hard to trade up from the middle to the lottery without giving up a good player. Leading up to draft, the knock on McDermott has been "who's he going to guard" because he's said to unathletic. However, based on the predraft combine, his vertical, sprint and agility results are slightly better than Melo's, and pretty much crush Korver's and Dunleavy's - two Bulls that have played well under Thibs. Where did the too-slow-to-guard-3's come from?
Sam: That darn media. But good point regarding Anthony. And here’s something else the Bulls should consider regarding Anthony. Yes, he scores a lot out of isolations with considerable standing around. But since coming to New York, he’s been most effective as a power forward being a mismatch because he can be too quick for fours. When played against threes he’s had trouble. The big scoring numbers make up for overlooking the deficiencies and the mess around him so everyone can say he got his. Remember, he’s also a 45 percent overall shooter who turns the ball over a lot and isn’t in great shape at 30. And when things went badly he basically left two teams if he leaves the Knicks. Buyer beware. As for McDermott, he’s no Anthony as a scorer. But if Anthony can guard small forwards, McDermott will have no problems doing so. And with the Bulls you cannot ask Taj Gibson to defend small forwards. So if you want Anthony he better be able to. I’d say his defense given his age and studied disinterest over the last few years would be much poorer than McDermott’s.
I think the Bulls should do whatever they can to get Anthony. Yes, you point out that with the Spurs model of having a deep rotation has led to rings so there's no need to necessarily have a super-team to chase a championship. Though I think it's different with the Bulls because without Rose there really is no one to carry the scoring load for periods of time when they go cold. The Spurs, on the other hand, can go to Parker, Ginobli, Duncan and now Leonard in most circumstances to get points when they need them. So it's not really all that fair to say that a team of quality role players can lead to winning of the highest order because while the Spurs do have that and an all-time great coach, they do have something the Bulls don't: offensive firepower from multiple players. As constructed next season, even with Mirotic and McDermott, Rose is still the only player in my opinion who can go out and score when we sorely need it. I would much rather have a second player who can really minimize our scoring droughts against tough defenses, and that player is Anthony. Even if that means gutting a little of our roster to do that.
Sam: I don’t disagree; part of my job is to point out the plusses and minuses as they still are not allowing me any say in final decisions, as short sighted as that might seem. I have long written even amidst criticism during his various pouts that I think Anthony can be a good team player and by most accounts is a decent guy. My general thinking is you judge people by their actions, and Anthony’s have been a mercurial nature in which he takes the most and then when it doesn’t work out wants the easy way out. He could have taken a shorter contract like James, Bosh and Wade and been able to be a free agent in 2010 and hooked up with them. But he wanted every last penny and security from Denver; they gave it to him and once he was comfortable decided he wanted out. So the Knicks do everything to get him with his approval and now he wants out again. Say Rose were hurt or Noah, and they have been hurt. Can you count on Anthony not to go off again and say this isn’t what he imagined and he wants out again? After all, this is what he’s done twice. The Knicks had injuries last season to start when Chandler got hurt after a 54-win season. That’s not exactly years of suffering. But then he’s looking for something new again. What makes you think he won’t do that in a year after signing with the Bulls? He may not; he may love Chicago; the team may be great. But if the team isn’t, is this a guy you can count on to believe “We have enough to win with what we have.” We usually find appealing what is attractive on the surface. But you also have to know what they are like. And whether you are being used.
Dear Chicago Bulls, please don't pursue Carmelo Anthony! We now have a perfectly balanced team as we bring over Mirotic, sign a backup PG, and possibly another shooter. Thank you,
Sam: Dear Matthew, thanks, anyway, but we’re in a ‘melo mood.
Maybe Embiid and Saric will turn out to be significant NBA players, and maybe those two plus Noel, Carter-Williams, and whoever the 76ers draft at the top of the next draft will turn into a Spurs-like group of unselfish stars. For now, though, they aren't trying. They're using an accounting trick like the one in Mel Brooks's The Producers – if you lose badly enough, it's a kind of winning. The bad faith of it makes me yearn for something like European relegation – if you're going to field a developmental league team, you should have to play in the developmental league, and you shouldn't be able to collect the revenues that come with full-on competing against major league teams. Can you see any way to penalize Philadelphia for what seems like a kind of cheating? They're playing by the rules, but it sure feels as if they're violating the spirit of competition.
Sam: It is awful. You hope, as Jefferson did, that people will appreciate having the best system and do the right thing. Alas, he was disappointed as well. The 76ers’ GM comes out of the Houston school of personality. The Rockets made about 50 deals in a few years and were going nowhere—Asik and Lin literally were their future—until the Thunder had a massive brain lock and handed them Harden. If they hadn’t, Howard never would have gone there. But whatever works in sports and it worked. Red Auerbach didn’t play by all the rules. But the 76ers now are pursuing the same strategy of making as many deals as possible and going for multiple draft picks in the belief that someone else will go nuts and hand them a star for a bunch of bad draft picks. The insult is the brazen way they refuse to compete. It’s hard to believe a savvy sports community like Philadelphia will fall for it.
After thinking about the horrific draft day trade the Bulls made, the only conclusion I can come to is that the Bulls really like McDermott. The Bulls actually negatively impacted their cap space by taking back Tyrus Thomas (I mean Anthony Randolph). Which means the Bulls are stuck with him unless they pay someone with cap space to take him. And all so they could give the Nuggets a better player at 19 then they got back at 11. I don’t see it but I sure hope that Gar/Pax are right on McBuckets, because it looks like he and Mirotic are going to be your big offseason acquisitions. Which means the Bulls will be one of the least athletic teams in the modern, small-ball, above-the-rim NBA.
Sam: Well, that’s a downer. The Bulls are about even financially from where they were to pursue Anthony, so I don’t see a big issue there. Anthony, by the way, isn’t a great athlete. But the athlete point is interesting. The Spurs are probably one of the least athletic teams in the NBA. Yes, Leonard is an athlete and had a great Finals. But many forget he was having a relatively poor season with a dozen games scoring in single digits before New Year’s and then getting hurt and missing more than a month. The Spurs had great success playing guys like Diaw, as ground based as you can be, and players well into their 30’s who could hardly be termed great athletes. The Bulls finally got a top 10 player in a strong draft.
I thought it was interesting that in the last two drafts the Bulls didn't go after a backup Center for their bench. With the history of injuries on this team as well as the tendency to reach the playoffs and find the tank completely empty for a lot of our players, how hard would it have been to draft a seven footer in the 2nd round who can come in and play up and down the court for Noah? Especially now with the possibility of Anthony coming to the Bulls. If we have scoring it means we can actually blow out teams like the Kings or Magic instead of playing every team to the wire during the regular season. And that means you can let your bench play (like the Spurs do) during the regular season. Why continue to get 40 year old players like Kurt Thomas and Nazr Mohammed, when you can get a young guy in the 2nd round who can be schooled by Noah, a veteran now?
Sam: I don’t think there have been second round players that project as backup centers better than Nazr Mohammed, who I don’t believe wants to retire yet, anyway. But that’s also an Anthony consideration. If you use your money for him—for any big star in free agency like the Heat did—you don’t have money to go for backups. Hello, Joel Anthony. If there were a good backup center possibility in the first round this season I think the Bulls might have kept the two picks, but there wasn’t, really. They missed on Dieng last season, but that happens. They were looking for more scoring then. With a veteran team I think at this point they prefer the free agency route, anyway, for a big man.
There is already speculation that McDermott could be used as an asset in a trade for love or sign and trade for melo. Do you believe he is untouchable, as funny as that sounds, considering how long they coveted him?
Sam: Likely not untouchable, though I’d hardly think you do all that and then include him in a trade. Even to get Anthony. I agree it would sound silly to say you passed on Anthony because you wouldn’t give up Doug McDermott. And the Bulls could go all in for Anthony. Few would condemn that. But at some point you have to decide to keep some players.
I would think it would be better to get Love and Affalo rather than try for Anthony. He's not coming for less money. I'll buy you dinner in Houston if that happens! What San Antonio showed is that you need numbers and players not necessarily stars that can't defend. Look at what Orlando got, we could have traded Boozer and the two picks for Affalo and then traded Gibson, Dunleavy and future picks plus non guaranteed contracts for Love.
Sam: I got a lot of mail about Afflalo as it seemed he went for so little. I’m not sure what that was about, though the Magic got a young potential scorer and shooter, which they badly need, and the Bulls as we know had no one like that to give up. I get loads of trade Boozer emails. As we all know no one was taking that salary of almost $17 million. And it appears clear around the NBA the Timberwolves remain in no rush to trade Love. Even though I believe they will. But when they do it will be for offensive players.
Once the draft wraps up, say the Bulls strike out on Carmelo and Love and LeBron this summer, what’re the chances they consider shipping Boozer’s expiring deal along with perhaps Tony Snell down to the Pelicans in exchange for Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers. New Orleans could be interested to free up cap space to resign Asik next summer and to add Snell, who could potentially plug in as their fifth starter at the 3.
Sam: Gordon may finally become an option for something like that after next season when he has one season left at — yikes — $15 million. But it also is interesting about Anthony that the Knicks keep making moves and saying things that you’d think suggest they’d like Anthony to take a walk. It’s always a little suspicious when a team with a star doesn’t seem to want the guy back for that much money. We know Phil Jackson has particular ideas about what he wants to do and is as immune to media second guessing as anyone. I personally don’t see how the Knicks are a better place to attract free agents next summer without Anthony. But it’s always a little worrisome when someone with what seems the perfect husband or wife can’t wait to get rid of them.
I think Riley’s “challenge” interview is going to come back and haunt him. I believe LeBron’s camp will take it as an insult and take their show to LA where they is a lot more financial potential, James supposedly made $35M on his Beats Stock, to offset FL tax benefits. Plus a team of LeBron, Kobe, Nash and the #7 pick may be more intriguing than a washed up Wade, a terrible fit Bosh, and a bunch of D Leaguer’s. If LeBron bolts, Riley will be putting up the drapes that covered the second tier in Miami once again.
Sam: You may have something there. Sounds like LeBron shot back the best way he could by saying, in effect, “I don’t need you. Now show me what you can do for me or I’m out of here.” Actually, the Lakers were trying to dump that pick and Nash (and still could trade it) to get enough to add LeBron and Carmelo to play with Kobe. How about that for stars, though it’s likely too small an amount of money and I don’t see LeBron helping Kobe win titles. I see him wanting to to get more than Kobe. But it will set off a frenzy starting next Tuesday morning.
I hope the Bulls don't trade Dunleavy. He took a smaller salary to play for the Bulls. Pro sports is different than other industries. When you want to win, and your team has a hard limit on the amount of money it can spend, it makes sense to sacrifice some money so that the guy next to you is a better player. That's fine. Maybe it's unfair, but that's how it is. But if you make a pitch to a player that he should take less money so you can pay his teammates more (so he can have better teammates), you shouldn't trade him after he agrees to it. It's just a lousy thing to do. I like the Bulls because they seem like a good bunch of guys who play hard and care about what they do. I like to cheer for them, because I can enjoy their success. I like when Jo Noah talks about the guys standing out in the streets selling papers on freezing winter nights. I like when Rose talks about his mom when he wins MVP. I want to cheer for these guys. I don't want somebody like Dunleavy to be penalized because he sacrificed for the team.
Sam: I agree it would be low to trade someone after you asked them to take less to be in your situation because he’d have a better chance to win. And so would you, obviously. But it was Dunleavy’s choice; he didn’t have to take less and all’s fair in love and basketball, eh? But the Bulls in the future could be hard pressed asking anyone to take them seriously about sacrificing in negotiations if they were to trade Dunleavy after what he did regarding his contract.
First of all I think all of the talk about getting another "Superstar" is a joke... no one is coming. Either we can't afford them or the Illinois State Tax system will eliminate the possibility. Organic growth is the way to go, but there are some pieces that I would add and that could make us a better team. I would like to add McRoberts who is a versatile/smart player, his stats might not show it, but I think he was a factor in that teams big improvement.
Sam: You always have to try as you never know what people are thinking or whether they’ll change their minds. So the Bulls will and should do that. But I also believe they know the history from 2000 and 2010 and aren’t going to be shocked again if they don’t get any of the big names. I think they have some reasonable plans regarding Mirotic and free agents, though I don’t know about McRoberts as he has a player option for next season. He is a nice reserve, but the Bulls really need scoring most and a backup center.
There is an old adage that goes, if you are in a card game and you don't know who the fish is, chances are your the fish. We are being played by Carmelo. In comments made recently he talked about the importance of markets. On the NY side you have money, Phil and the NY stage. Plus, you figure that Carmelo plus those factors will draw other pieces as soon as Phil can figure out how to clean house.
Sam: I agree it’s a long shot and most around the NBA suspect Carmelo is using the Bulls as McGrady and Eddie Jones did in 2000 (which is ironic and insulting to now hear McGrady of all people lobby Carmelo for the Bulls) and LeBron and Wade did. Carmelo has said he’ll make his decision fast. If I were the Bulls I’d be pushing him to see if he’s serious at all and after a day if I got no answer I’d get on my way.
I'm sure you have heard that Lebron opted out of his contract and will now become a unrestricted free agent. Of course I, as a Bulls fan, would love for him to come to Chicago. I do think that that happening is even less likely then Carmelo coming here. I am pretty sure he ends up back in Miami. With that being said the Bulls are more than likely going to take a run at him, as they should. Would there be any concern though about the Bulls devoting too much time/attention/etc to James, him going somewhere else and then the Bulls missing out on Carmelo? Would it be a good idea for Bulls to realize the James is a pipe-dream and focus all their attention on Melo and maybe wooo him by making him their first and foremost priority. I know it sounds dumb but we all have egos, athletes more then most, so to have a team go all-in on you instead of the best player should give someone a nice feeling.
Sam: If only that was all it took. If someone is nice to you when they are recruiting you and you fell for that you might not be who we thought you were, after all. There’s no insult to anyone in trying to acquire LeBron James. Carmelo Anthony probably figures LeBron is pretty good as well. I’m not sure I’d bother if I were the Bulls, less about offending Carmelo than having had a much better hand in 2010 and LeBron saying no then. I think LeBron admires the brutal games the Bulls have played against him and that would be no issue. But if he’s going back to winter it would be in Cleveland. My guess is the Bulls primary focus is Anthony and only Anthony and he knows that by now.
I believe this Bulls have drafted an excellent player in McDermott. Hopefully he'll provide us with scoring and depth. Does the fact that the Bulls did not draft a PG like Ennis indicate that DJ will resign with us?
Sam: You can’t draft everyone; the Bulls ended up with just one first rounder. D.J. would like to return as he resurrected his career with the Bulls and enjoyed being with the team. However, it’s doubtful given all the possibilities regarding free agency the Bulls assuming they pursue Anthony could even tell players like Augustin if they’d have money for them. So I assume all the free agents try to get the best deals they can and that the Bulls will ask the free agents for a quick answer.
In all seriousness, I'd be wary of the Rockets if I were a free agent. Recently, they've stabbed every FA they signed in the back the very next year. Asik was promised starting minutes and they were trying to trade him the minute they got him. Ditto [with Jeremy] Lin. James Harden gets promised to be a superstar, then has to take a backseat when Dwight Howard comes over. Now they are trying to trade Harden to get Carmelo and LBJ!
Sam: That’s the rumor. So buyer beware. I’m pretty sure Asik wouldn’t offer a good recommendation. They are like the date you have that keeps looking over your shoulder at the dance to see who else might be interesting. Well, it happened to me a lot. Maybe the not being able to dance part didn’t help either. I find it hard to believe any of the major free agents are going there if only for who they have, the terminally goofy and I don’t care Dwight Howard.
How would Gary Harris and James Young have looked in Bulls uniforms? I know its 20/20 hindsight, but do you think the Bulls would have chased McDermott knowing this?
Sam: This is the classic response: But we could have done something else. You set your sights on something and do it and the heck with the consequences as long as you believed it was the right thing. They believed McDermott was the best shooter in the draft. Target him and if you get him it doesn’t matter what you give up that doesn’t seriously damage your team. I know the Bulls liked Harris; I don’t think they liked Young that much. I had Young in my mock draft because I ran out of all the good players before No. 16, like Harris. It was a bit of a surprise he fell, but likely because he’s a 6-2 ½ shooting guard, a sort of Ben Gordon size. In hindsight, the Bulls were fortunate to avoid those two picks and get McDermott instead.
Could LeBron and Melo's opt-outs be part of a ploy to decimate their competitor's rosters as teams give away assets to try and clear cap room? I am nervous that we'll dump Taj and/or Jimmy and end up overpaying for 2nd tier free agents like last time (apologies to Boozer and Korver).
Sam: So you’d have to believe in spontaneous combustion as well. I don’t think the Bulls will fall for the old banana in the tail pipe trick again. They probably figure all this stuff is long shots; they probably have a Plan C is in play as well and they don’t want to mess that up. Breaking up the Bulls at this point probably isn’t a huge priority for competitors.
The Pelicans traded what very well could be a top 10 pick, as high as number 5 even, in next year's draft for the right to pay Omer Asik $15 million next year and only have his rights for one season? Are they insane? I like Asik and I think he fits well on the Pelicans. However, he is going to make way too much next year, they will only have him for one season and Houston was trying to dump him for nothing. At the very least make the pick top ten protected instead of top five! If they wanted Asik for that price they could have made that trade any time in the past 12 months.
Sam: I think they were feeling desperation regarding Anthony Davis, who I’d heard has let them know he’s not playing center anymore and if they didn’t get one they could start to look for another power forward. Davis’ name doesn’t come up much with all this future free agency talk like with Kevin Durant. But Davis made a huge jump last season and if he becomes a free agent in a few years will be the target of everyone and New Orleans isn’t exactly the best basketball market. I think they realize they have to win right now to begin recruiting Davis for an extension as he’s their entire future. He could be unrestricted in 2017 along with Russell Westbrook.
What did you think of Chris Webber's comments on Thibs (that Melo should avoid him because he's a defense-only coach)? Did Thibs cut Webber once or something? I don't love everything about Thibs, but he actually seems like a pretty good offensive coach. Noah has blossomed offensively under him, and Deng had a much better time under him than standing in the corner like he did with Vinny and Mike Brown.
Sam: Yes, Noah and Deng became All-Stars under Thibs, and I didn’t see much All-Star mention for either previously. And Rose won the league’s MVP award when all of us agreed he’d never be an MVP because he didn’t score enough. Thibs may not be Mike D’Antoni, but the Bulls pursued him because they wanted a defensive first coach. So then you can’t say you want an offensive coach. Thibs may play a little slow at times for my tastes and call a bit too many plays, which is a constant all over the NBA. But there have been few bigger punks and players who ran away from the big moment in the NBA than Webber. Check that guy’s winning record. In a 17-year career I think he was out of the first round maybe four times. One of my favorite Webber moments was in the 2002 conference finals when the Kings should have won and Mike Bibby hit a last shot that was set up for Webber that Webber literally ran away from. The guy was a big time locker room problem and broke up numerous teams in his time in Golden State and Washington. It’s why it’s a laugh watching the revisionist history with some of these guys on TV. Webber was a miserable, uninvolved defender who undermined coaches and wouldn’t cooperate with teammates, on of his era’s great losers given his talent. And he’s on TV lecturing players today. But he is friends with McHale and has been trying to help McHale get Anthony to Houston. Can there be TV-guy tampering if the TV network has a contract and a partnership with the NBA?
Do you think that Wade and Bosh are both going to opt out? If I was Wade I would be very wary of doing that, I can't see giving him half of what his contract is now. Think they would try to low ball him? offer him 5 million or have a good trip in free agency then go after Melo? Or would that be just the worst PR move possible, course I would find a bit of humor in that sense Wade said some bad stuff about Bulls management years ago. People mention Asik too in Houston then want to move him but not sure you are going to get many buyers there since expiring contract are worth what they used to be.
Sam: You figure Miami will come up with something creative as after four years together I don’t see those guys just wanting to blow it up. It’s obvious the Heat want to keep Wade for his entire career and Bosh desperately wants to stay. Bosh may have the most intriguing situation as he could be traded and maybe he opts out with Tyson Chandler now in Dallas with Nowitzki and Monta Ellis as that could be a pretty good team and they did go seven with the Spurs this playoffs. Wade as I’ve written could adjust his deal to take more money on a longer contract and basically be paid off. He certainly won’t give up his deal and take less. Neither will LeBron. There’s all this media talk of taking less, but LeBron is known to want a full deal now after taking a little less last time. They still can come up with a scenario to add Anthony, though that would leave them small up front. Though they won two titles that way.
Let's say Carmelo either stays in New York or goes to Chicago, the two most likely destinations for him anyway. Let's also say Lebron resigns with the Heat, which I believe will happen. Who says no to this trade after both big names are off the market? Asik and Lin to Miami for Chris Bosh. Houston gets their other big name (and possibly the leagues worst defense), while the Heat fill the two most needed positions on their team. Then they can maybe try and sign some veterans to fill up the rest.
Sam: That could be with Wade the worst defensive backcourt in NBA history. So maybe that’s why Miami didn’t. Obviously, Asik moved onto New Orleans in an intriguing trade I mentioned above. I know the immediate response from Bulls fans is why the Bulls couldn’t have kept Asik and done that. But the goofy rules were against the Bulls. Asik’s cap figure in a trade was $8 million for next season even if he is being paid almost $15 million on the back loaded deal. But for the Bulls in a clause that will be changed in the next labor deal trying to trade him had they matched the cap figure would have been $15 million. The Bulls cap figures for Asik would have been 5-5-15. For the team acquiring him it was about 8-8-8. Then I highly doubt they would have been able to trade Asik especially since he started in Houston for one year and developed value and never would have been a starter with the Bulls. Then with that $15 million sitting there the Bulls almost certainly would not even have a chance to think about free agency—at least they can entertain it now—and what would have been the community reaction if the reason the Bulls could not pursue Carmelo Anthony was backup center Omer Asik?
Even if Deng is expensive, why lose him while gambling on Anthony while he plays the field. Even with Carmelo not playing defense half the time having Deng would be encouragement and inspiration for Anthony to defend better without Thibs getting head aches. Sure Deng is expensive but he is insurance similar to the way Boozer and Gipson were used this year. It worked.
Sam: I’ve heard a number of suggestions from fans and even some executives around the league about why not bring back Deng as he knows the system and fits. As I’ve written before, I think there were bad feelings at the end and both have moved on. I don’t believe Deng would take less than the Bulls last ditch $10 million offer. I get the sense he’s over his disappointment with the trade. I know he was very down the first few months, but friends say he’s been very upbeat of late and looking forward to a new situation.
Jabari Parker was interviewed by Spike Lee on his show on NBA Radio Wednesday. Spike asked him if he could choose which hat he'd be putting on when he shook Adam Silver's hand, which hat would it be..."The Bulls," he said. "I'd be going back home. That's where I want to play. Can't see that happening though."
Sam: Time to start saving cap space for 2019?