Ask Sam | Sam Smith opens his mailbag | 06.08.12
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I have seen the light on the value of Omer Asik! I must admit I was skeptical that the idea of signing was more important than keeping guys like Korver. After watching game 4 and especially game 5 of the Thunder-Spurs series I understand. I’m like you in that I don’t think much of the plus minus stat but Tim Duncan was the highest on the Spurs at +17 in game. It seems like whenever Duncan went for a rest OKC would go on big runs. It was painfully obvious that Spurs have no one to protect the rim. Duncan isn’t even close to all league defender and basket protector he used to be and yet the Spurs couldn’t get any stops without him it seemed. I see why teams would want Omer and why the Bulls may have a hard time keeping him.
Sam: It’s why I think it’s important to both match on Omer and extend Taj, if possible. And why I’m not trading either for any draft picks. It’s not as exciting as a 15 or 20-point scorer, but their presence is what leads to wins. The Bulls are just coming off the best regular season record in the league in consecutive seasons. That’s not just because they try harder. Size matters a lot in the NBA. I think it’s been clear in both conference finals, as you note as well. Having Duncan in made it more difficult for the Thunder and even though he’s not a center, the Heat is making Garnett look like Bill Russell because of their lack of size. And I recall the Mavs players saying the difference in their title was Tyson Chandler. It’s difficult for a lot of fans to break it down, but not only does the size matter but the Bulls big men are unique. Guys like Noah, Gibson and Asik are athletic enough to switch on the perimeter and cut off a pick and roll game for many teams. That’s been a huge weapon for the Bulls. It’s also why I was convinced even after Rose got hurt that the Bulls would still be in the conference finals. The Bulls will have a summer choice of trying to keep the bench or the bigs. I’d keep the bigs. Everyone has guards. No one has centers.
I would trade Deng & cash for Tyreke Evans, trade for Dorrell Wright out of GS (I've read they are trying to move him), and sign a PG with the MLE (Kirk maybe?). I think that would keep us competitive short-term and under the luxury tax threshold, while having more upside with Evans long-term.
Sam: I think most fans are starting to understand the Bulls are either not able or not going to get rid of or amnesty Boozer. So the majority of the trade suggestions I’m getting now involve Deng. Which is not unreasonable because he is coming off perhaps his highest value as an All-Star and all-league defensive team. Perhaps it says something about the draft that most of the teams in the top 10 after No. 1 seem willing to move their draft pick. The Warriors are said to be one as they’re desperate to be a playoff team. But Deng is the reason the Bulls aren’t likely to be able to do much of anything. Deng is going to the Olympics and then will decide whether to have surgery on his torn wrist ligament. If he has surgery, he could miss half the season. There are a lot of small forward types like Rudy Gay, Danny Granger and Josh Smith potentially available for a lottery pick. So is a team going to take a chance on Deng for a lottery pick not knowing if he needs surgery and then if he even would pass their physical. So who’s trading into all those potential issues? Assuming, of course, the Bulls were willing to trade him. Which we haven’t heard.
Is there any truth to the reports that the Bulls are going to go after Nash, Kidd or Andre Miller this summer?
Sam: It’s only speculation. The Bulls are going after every point guard. The problem is those point guards — certainly Nash and Miller — are not going after the Bulls. The Bulls will be making this pitch: Come play for us for a minimum or low salary, much below market, as the Bulls will be in the luxury tax by matching on Asik. So you can start with Derrick Rose out and show you are a high level player with a playoff team and then sign a big contract with someone after next season. One issue is as soon as Rose comes back you are a backup. Nash and Miller aren’t going for that under any circumstances. And while Kidd might not get any major offers, he’s already said he’d retire before playing for minimum or small money. My guess is the Bulls see who doesn’t get an offer and perhaps is willing to take less for the stage of playing in Chicago. With four players making eight figure salaries and waiting for Rose to return they are not of great appeal to top players.
Is OJ Mayo worth a look? Rumors spreading he wants to play PG. I don't see him being a PG and I'm pretty sure Thibs won't play him as PG. But he can provide the team with some scoring punch and ball handling. Are the Bulls exploring a trade for OJ Mayo?
Sam: Not that I have heard. The Grizzlies do want to reduce their payroll and I can see them maybe resigning him or matching an offer and then working out a deal for a pick or someone who has cap space to get something without losing him for nothing. Though if they do trade Rudy Gay I assume they’d keep him.
Do [you] predict the Bulls trading up in this draft? Potentially to grab one of the SGs in the top 15?
Sam: I can see the Bulls trying to do so with Deng, though it’s complicated by his potential surgery, as I noted above. Again, I’d want to keep Asik and Gibson. Which in my world doesn’t leave much room for a trade. I can’t see trading Noah as you won’t know until July about Asik’s potential offer and whether you can match. I assume the Bulls match just about anything even if it’s ridiculous, I think Asik will have value that you can eventually trade him. The first two years cannot be above the mid level, which would fit fine with the Bulls cap payroll.
I know you said that trading Boozer is impossible, but I have one more that I think really does work for both teams. Trade Boozer to the Raptors for Calderon and Amir Johnson. Toronto has a hard time bringing in talented free agents and while Boozer is no star anymore, he has more talent than anyone they could ever attract. I think he could start while Ed Davis either develops or fades away. And their bad contract to Johnson, (while not huge, but still way to much) is gone.
Sam: Well, I guess not everyone is done trying to find a home for Boozer. The Raptors have bigger guys in mind. First, they still have a power forward in Bargnani. Plus, they might get a relatively high level player for their lottery pick. The landscape is changing some this summer because of the new labor deal. More teams are going to be looking to unload big contacts for picks, perhaps guys like Rudy Gay and Josh Smith, as I mentioned above. Plus, with Rose and Deng out the Bulls are counting on Boozer for scoring next season and if not untouchable I believe they consider him a vital piece for next season.
I heard Washington is looking to add good veterans. They want use Rashard Lewis's expiring contract and Andray Blatche to facilitate a trade. I feel Washington is one team that might be willing to take on Carlos Boozer's contract because he's actually an upgrade to who they have and there aren't any garauntees at the #3 pick. How about Andray Blatche ($7 million), Rashard Lewis ($23 million expiring), #3 pick for Carlos Boozer ($15 million), Luol Deng ($13 million), Rip Hamilton ($5 million).
Sam: Wholesale roster change trades rarely if ever happen in the NBA. They are too risky and complicated. Yes, if you really wanted to trade Boozer it would be possible. You’d have to take someone like Blatche, whom the Wizards wouldn’t even allow around their other players, a guy like Artest, the team killers who refuse to be coached. Anyone who knows the Bulls knows they never take those guys and when they make a mistake and get one like Tyrus Thomas they get rid of them. Plus, Washington had their flirtation with veterans was when they traded the rights to Ricky Rubio for Mike Miller and Randy Foye. They’re done with that philosophy and going young now and likely keeping their pick. But never taking on long contracts with Lewis with a buyout.
Here's a trade for you: The Bulls trade Luol Deng, Omer Asik, and the Charlotte pick to Sacramento for Tyreke Evans and their next year pick. The Bulls finally get a guy who can create his own shot as well as distribute the ball.
Sam: Evans’ is a name that comes up a lot as they’ve tried to move him to small forward and seem anxious to move him. Of course, that’s way too much.
How about Deng for Gay? Rumors are that the Grizzlies may want to ship out Gay as he doesn't mesh with Z-Bo, plus he didn't exactly play well these past playoffs.
Sam: As I’ve mentioned, the rumors are Gay can be had, though the Grizzlies value him highly and I can’t see them giving him up to easily. My sense if they were they would more likely for a high lottery pick to clear some payroll and bring in some new blood. After all, they did go out in the first round. So it’s not like there are so many untouchables.
I say we keep everything the way it is and save our money to go after James Harden when he becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2013-2014 season. Boozer will be in the final year of his deal so he could easily be amnestied. Harden and Rose would be the best backcourt in the NBA and the Bulls would be serious title contenders for the next decade as both would still be young. Is there anyway this could happen or am I just dreaming?
Sam: Dream on. Everyone seems to have discovered Harden now that they’re going to the Finals. So why if he’s so valuable would he not want to be with the Bulls or have them trade him to the Bulls? There’s been this notion in a lot of mail I’ve gotten they have to trade him because they cannot afford to resign he and Ibaka with Durant and Westbrook. He’s under contract one more season and then a restricted free agent. So since they can control him two more seasons, I don’t see a trade. And I do see him signing rather than risk injury. With Rose’s injury and Jeff Green’s heart surgery more guys are looking to get that first contract and guarantee a payday. So I don’t see Harden waiting to become a free agent and risking injury without a big contract for two years. And I see no reason why they won’t sign both. The owners are billionaire oilmen living in Oklahoma. What are they spending money on? The state is in love with them for what the Thunder has become. They’re not risking alienating that. Look what happened with the Bulls for breaking up a team that was ready to be broken up after six titles. How about after one or none? Plus, all they have to do is move Kendrick Perkins for an expiring deal, which someone might do, to get under the tax. The Bulls have four eight figure salary players. Why wouldn’t the Thunder do that? Answer: They will.
Ok, I am really tired of all the Carlos Boozer hating. I don't even get it. Yeah, ok, he's overpaid, but really who isn't these days? He still produces, I mean considering he's one of only seven forwards in the entire league to average at least 15ppg and 8.5 rpg last season. And yet, people are still calling for this guy to be amnistied. Why?
Sam: Because no fault of his own Boozer got oversold. The Bulls couldn’t get LeBron, Wade, Bosh or Joe Johnson. So Boozer had to be them. He’s not and never was. He has good playoff games, like Game 5 against the 76ers. But he’s had several bad ones in the elimination games. The team loses and someone gets the blame. Thibodeau has been too good and Deng has gotten better. You can’t blame bench guys who plays 15 minutes. As I’ve noted many times, Boozer hasn’t led any teams to any titles or very far in the playoffs. If you pay someone a lot of money does that it means they have to perform at a level they never did because they are paid that much? The Boozer the Bulls have is the Boozer who’s been in the NBA for a decade.
With next season a possible first round playoff exit/write off is there any way that the Bulls roll the dice on Michael Beasley? If it all goes horribly right they'll have a second scoring option to partner with Rose and someone who can provide iso offense when Rose is subdued. He may be just what this team needs. We all know the Bulls were taking a considerable risk trading for Rodman but it worked so well. Beasley may be a nutter, but he’s still very young and can score effortlessly, as we saw on numerous occasions this season, and if Thibs can get through to him, he could be a star.
Sam: I agree he’s not that bad a guy, just a bit goofy. And when he was with Rose in the draft an awful lot of experts had him as the Bulls pick until a few days before the draft. So there had to be something there. He’s restricted and it’s unclear if the ‘wolves will pick up his $8 million option or let him become a free agent. The feeling in Minneapolis seems to be they’ll let him go. He doesn’t exactly answer the Bulls needs for next season. He is a one dimensional ball stopper, and if you think Boozer is a poor defender, Beasley makes him look like Scottie Pippen. But he can average 20 and who knows. Someone will take a flier.
I know it's early but do you see Rajon Rondo becoming a Hall of Famer? He's been phenomenal in this year's playoffs.
Sam: It seems something you’d raise your eyebrows about, assuming you had nice eyebrows, like Groucho. But when you think about it, if he has the longevity he will be a Hall of Famer. And to think a few years ago he was supposed to be the reason why the Big Three Celtics couldn’t win. The combination of his playoff successes and the numbers he puts up will have him considered like Jason Kidd, a sure Hall of Famer.
What do you think the Bulls' chances of keeping Kyle Korver are for next year? He's really the only pure shooter off the bench, and is less expendable than say, Brewer, because no one else on the bench can really replicate what he does. His defense improved a fair deal over the course of this season as well, so can you see the Bulls taking the third year of his contract for the upcoming season?
Sam: Losing Kyle would be a big loss. Of the three bench players with the team options, he is the best and most valuable. But it will come down to dollars and the ability to keep other players for the long term. The Bulls like Korver and would want to keep him, but with so many large long term contracts they have to make some painful choices. But I have no doubt Kyle would be in demand and even could return to the Jazz as they have yet to replace him.
Noah and Deng to Portland for [picks] 6 and 11. Portland finally gets a reliable center and fills out their front court and are a point guard short of a complete team (Nash). The Bulls shed 20 million in salary each year for two years. Then the Bulls let Brewer walk and that's 45 million saved which means the Bulls can amnesty Boozer. Then the Bulls are in the running for a top 3 pick just in time for Rose to come back with a season of rest.
Sam: I guess you’re not a season ticket holder for next season. No, the Bulls aren’t going to consider anything like that. First of all, there’s nothing wrong with competing, which the Bulls will do without Rose next season. With their front line, Deng returning midseason, Hamilton and whatever they can fill out in the backcourt and the East fairly awful and perhaps in transition in places like Boston and Orlando, the Bulls still have the talent without Rose to be a top four team or at least five or six. Who knows when Rose comes back. I agree the Bulls want to be in position for a likely fully healthy Rose in 2013-14, but there’s not going to be any team explosion. There’s a bigger chance they do less than more given the contract situation.
It is all good for Luol Deng to play the summer Olympic games for Britain and go on a charity trip to Africa, either as "payback" or fame. What about his obligation to the Chicago Bulls? He has a contract with Bulls. That means that the Bulls will have to pay his big salary during the contract duration no matter what. Will Deng pay the proportion of his salary back to the Bulls due to the delayed operation on his wrist because he wants to play for Britain and travel to Africa? If he has to return his salary back to Bulls accordingly to the delayed operation time, will he still want to play for Britain and go to Africa?
Sam: It’s a sensitive question, though since no U.S. players are being asked to do that for the USA team it’s perhaps unfair to ask of Deng. I know there’s some unease in the Bulls organization about this. But the NBA has promised FIBA its players will play without interference from their teams. If there is anyone to fault by the teams, more so David Stern. He wants these players playing in the Olympics. Because Deng has an injury, the Bulls technically could go to arbitration. Though that would cause some really bad feelings. Great Britain also still has to get insurance or Deng cannot play and would not. Of course, from Deng’s standpoint should he give up the Olympics he so desperately wants with the Bulls still having the right to trade him? The Bulls aren’t giving him a no trade. But I would like to see the players give up their salary in any games they miss because of Olympic injury, like Manu Ginobili a few years ago. But this is the NBA working against the best interests of their teams. Not really the players. The league could easily say no because they pay the salaries. But the league has decided not to. I’m hoping this Olympic play by NBA players soon comes to an end. There are too many issues.
I am interested in your take on this year’s draft prospects for the Bulls. As you mentioned in the past trading up in the draft to the lottery is usually very tough and most [of] the time not worth it. I am interested in the options the Bulls may have, at the wing position. With the Bulls depth and strength in the front court, surely they will try to get a scorer off the bench or a 2 guard replacement. With Rip mostly likely having one more year, this could be a great opportunity to have a rookie come in, spend a year in training (we know how Thibs feels about playing young guys) and then step in when Rip retires. I’ve been reading about some interesting prospects including: Kentucky’s Doron Lamb, Memphis' Will Barton, Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, Tennessee Tech’s Kevin Murphy, and Santa Barbara’s Orlando Johnson. Any idea on the Bulls' thinking?
Sam: Some of the names you mention will be gone before the Bulls' No. 29 pick. Obviously with questions about retaining Brewer, Korver and Watson and Rose out, the biggest need is in the backcourt and wing players. But it’s not like you get much at No. 29. After all, as good as Jimmy Butler looked, he rarely played last season. Still, the Bulls will also look to make moves and if an interior player of high value falls to them they could make that pick and give them insurance if they cannot retain Asik or Gibson. The Bulls are in the examination process now with the draft camp in Chicago this week and the Bulls already having had some two dozen players into the Berto Center for private workouts. There’s also the chance they could make a trade and move up into the lottery, though that is not likely. My guess is we won’t have much of a real idea until draft night as I expect the Bulls to be involved in numerous trade discussions and many involving draft picks right up to the time of the draft. That’s because they’ll be making decisions both about next season and the real priority to have a better team in place for the 2013-14 season with Rose’s return at likely full strength.
I honestly can't see the Bulls drafting any position besides shooting guard. They need a serious long-term upgrade at the position and it looks to be a deep draft at the position. Maybe they draft a point/combo guard, but can you really envision a plausible scenario where they don't draft a 2-guard?
Sam: As I said, it really comes down to best available in your view at the end of the first round. There’s not much history of finding a need at No. 29. You hope to find someone who eventually will be a part of your rotation, though rarely, if ever, a starter. They’re not replacing Hamilton at No. 29.
I don't understand why the Bulls would need to make any major changes to the roster like trading Deng or Noah or Boozer. We have had the best record for two consecutive seasons but things just didn't go our way this season. I really believe that the Bulls would have beaten Miami in the ECF even without Rose. Also I don't know what people have against Boozer I belive he did fairly well this season. Also why does everyone want to trade key players like Deng or Noah? Would OKC fans want to trade a player like Serge Ibaka if Durant tore his ACL? Should the Bulls just wait it out until Rose and maybe Deng return?
Sam: I believe there will be a lot of discussion and talk of major possibilities, though in the end nothing much major for many of the reasons I’ve mentioned above. It’s going to be a combination of too hard to do, to big contracts left and too many key players with injuries. I do believe without Rose the Bulls would have been in the conference finals against the Heat assuming Noah were OK. The Bulls’ size would have been way too much for the Celtics as small as they are. Which works some against Miami with Haslem at center. It doesn’t work against the Bulls. But, no, the Bulls weren’t beating Miami without Rose.
Will the Bulls have any exceptions to use this Summer? If they do how much will that be? Is there any chance they can sign Chauncey Billups? I definitely think the Bulls can remain one of the top teams in the league with Billups running point until D-Rose comes back. He obviously has a close relationship with Rip, and D-Rose from the World Championship.
Sam: The Bulls like all teams over the cap will have a mid level exception. But I don’t expect them to use it as it would be all in the luxury tax and cost them double, meaning about $11 million per season for the player. And the history of the mid level is basically a disaster. Maybe 80 to 90 percent of the mid levels over the recent past have been huge busts, which is why the owners worked so hard to have it eliminated in negotiations. They don’t have the self control to ignore it. But more and more teams are not going to use it given the new economics and more penal luxury tax, which increases the more often and sooner you get into it. There is a slightly different amount for teams in the luxury tax. The Bulls also have the bi-annual exception of about $1 million.
The Heat's final plays (in Game 5) were truly uninspiring, but a point in Spoelstra's defense: Those are the exact plays everyone else draws up too. Thibs calls for Rose to dribble around at the top of the key and then, with or without a pick, take a hero shot. The Lakers and Thunder and everyone else do the same; only the identity of the purported hero changes. The odd thing is these plays invariably fail. The Avatar of Hero, Kobe, has hit only 25% of his Hero shots in the last 5 years of playoffs. You wrote that Rose, perhaps the greatest penetrating point guard ever, is at 28%. No matter; coaches keep calling for these likely-to-fail isos at the buzzer. And even though the Hero shots typically miss, you are not allowed to pass to a lesser player even if that guy is open.
Sam: You are right. I was more questioning Spoelstra’s lack of imagination several times. But he is in a tough position as I still don’t think LeBron and Wade have fully accepted his coaching. Your point about that last shot mentality is something I’ve been disappointed about. It used to be you shot at three or four seconds to get a shot at the rebound and put back. But one coach somewhere must have lost a game doing that and coaches tend to be the most paranoid and cautious of creatures and its evolved into last shot or overtime. I’m not sure what the percentage is, but it seems to me there’s little home court advantage in overtime when you blow an end game play like that. As Michael said, take a chance to fail and that’s how you succeed.
I was thinking of other scenarios in which the Bulls could acquire Gasol and I think I might have come up with one: Gasol to the Bulls, Noah to the Hawks, and Korver and Josh Smith to the Lakers. Here's why it makes sense... Lakers: Smith is the type of player they needed all along. He's an explosive athlete, can defend 3s and 4s, rebound, block shots, fill the lanes in transition. Essentially he's a more athletic Lamar Odom with a worse jump shot. An added bonus is that he's good friends with Dwight Howard, so maybe this might entice Dwight to accept a trade to LA. Korver is just thrown in as a cap filler. Assuming the trade is made before July 1st, the Lakers could choose to waive him and save $4.5 milllion. Hawks: Noah would be the key for the Hawks. He would enable Horford to move to his natural position of PF, and would provide the team with the size they desperately lacked. Noah and Horford were pals in college so I don't envision any chemistry issues. Bulls: For the Bulls the deal enables them to acquire Gasol without giving up Deng. You still have active big men in Gibson and Asik to hide Gasol's deficiencies on the defensive end. The trade makes perfect sense, which is why it probably won't happen.
Sam: I do think there is some stuff there. If the Lakers wanted Smith I assume the Hawks could make a straight up deal, but that would involve taking on a lot more money and I’m not sure the Hawks could or would want to do that. I could see them wanting to do that and throwing in Marvin Williams. But, yes, the Lakers might want to save some money as well. So they might not want all the salary, either. From a Bulls perspective, it would involve taking on a fair amount more money. But I like the idea of keeping Deng as you need to retain at least one energy player and I’d expand my salary some for Pau. But I like him. I don’t know if the Bulls like him as much as I do. Though you are treading in dangerous territory by making too much sense to NBA GMs.