Ask Sam Smith

This week will be the first day of the rest of the Bulls' lives. Coffee mugs, anyone?

The draft lottery is Tuesday night and the Bulls will find out their pick from the Knicks. I'm guessing it's top three, but it could fall as low as five. They need one or two to have a shot at one of the big guys, LaMarcus Aldridge or Tyrus Thomas, because of need and value to other teams.

Their plans should be clearer after that; so will my ability to make even more fantastic proposals. Until then we'll deal with some of these questions.

Sam. Everybody loves to talk about the stars, but I get as much entertainment out of discussing my favorite middling Bulls. Who would be your all-time Bulls scrub team? I think you have to include Granville Waiters, Ed Nealy, Kornel David, Paul Shirley, James Edwards, Rusty LaRue. -– Patrick, Chicago

Now there's a subject I can embrace. I'd have to lead with Sam Smith from UNLV; he made the first 4-point play in Bulls history. Always seemed to me the guy had kind of a happening name. I was more a Wallace Bryant guy than Granville for big and hulking and not doing much. Kornel David, sure, for the Michael Jordan of Hungary. If that doesn't make you smile. Shaler Halimon was maybe my favorite name. He was driving a bus when the Bulls were in Portland for the Finals in 1992. Came in the Chet Walker deal, so he was part of something. One of my favorites is Jawann Oldham from Seattle. They tell the best story about him. He was in a bar once when he was with the Bulls and the guys were playing one of those trivia machines when this question came up: "Which of these NBA centers is from the U.S: Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Swen Nater and Jawann Oldham?" Jawann asked which one.

Would you say that the Bulls' treatment of Tim Thomas has helped him elevate his game to its current level? I know when I was a competitive swimmer, a very talented teammate was going through the motions and not giving a top effort. Our coach assigned him a swim lane with slower swimmers, including girls, and did not put him in the top events. Although he did not talk to the coach for a month, his times improved dramatically and he was put on a higher pedestal than before the demotion. Imagine what would happen if the rest of NBA management stopped coddling the prima donnas. Would us fans get a better product? -- Todd, Homewood

Interesting concept, but it's not coddling. Or perhaps it is. The reason is guaranteed contracts of long duration. I understand why David Stern agreed to the labor deal he did last summer, not wanting a lockout and the bad publicity with hockey out for the year. But in just reducing guaranteed deals from seven to six years, Stern guaranteed the continuation of long contracts that become albatrosses for a team. Yes, team executives need to be smarter. But sometimes they're put in a difficult position, like the Bulls with Tyson Chandler. With Eddy Curry out, they felt they couldn't afford to lose both their seven-footers. And then dumb contracts set the market -- like the 76ers for Samuel Dalembert -- and you fall into a trap. I have no doubt Chandler would be a better player, as he was last year, playing for a deal rather than having one.

As for Thomas, remember he is playing for a contract. Watch him next season. Also, that system fits him perfectly, where they don't mind if their big men are shooting from the perimeter. The Bulls don't spread the court that way and would need someone like Thomas to rebound. He never has. Also, the Suns rarely practiced to save Steve Nash, and Thomas never has been much of a practice player. The tension would have gone on all season and little would have come of it. The Bulls could have tried to deal the contract but would have had to take back $14 million in players, which would have taken them out of the free agent market this summer. But I think it would have been interesting to see the Bulls ask Tim to swim with the girls.

Hey Sam! I really like your idea of your (I really don't think Garnett will change teams or that he can make Chicago a real contender). One question though. Couldn't Chicago send Duhon instead of the draft picks to the Suns? If Gordon is going to stay around, I believe there will be too many guards. -- Nicolás, Mar del Plata, Argentina

I agree -- I don't see Minnesota trading Garnett but you never know and it's always interesting to presume. Yes, you hear talk about Shawn Marion and he's been a victim of fans and media there to the point of articles being written asking people to be less harsh. So the time may have passed. I assume the Bulls will explore all such options and if they can do something with picks without giving up any major players, I think it's possible. I actually would love for Gordon to stay. I'm just not sure he can accept being a sixth man; I think he'd be the best in the league. He's also a classy standup guy with the media. I don't see the Suns wanting Duhon as he comes off injury and doesn't shoot well enough for their style of game.

Sam, I enjoy your , but two 1st-round picks, the option for the Knicks' pick next year, Gordon, and Chandler is simply too much for KG (as much as I like him). I just don't see how the Bulls could go wrong drafting Roy, then Shelden Williams, and signing Nazr Mohammed from free agency. Then you trade BG because he isn't needed, but not because you have to, which increases the Bulls' leverage a little bit. -- Josh Herren, Eglin AFB, Fla.

It's good to know I woke you all up with that proposal. The option of the Knicks' pick was only after protection if it's No. 1 so the Bulls could still get Greg Oden if he comes out. And with Isiah Thomas looking like the next coach and most of the personnel staying, who knows what will happen there? So I wouldn't give up the chance at No. 1. I like Garnett and believe you need veteran help to make a move with such a young Bulls team. In two straight playoffs, the Bulls collapsed because of the mistakes of youth. Adding draft picks and role-playing free agents doesn't help that. Also, as you may have heard Scott Skiles say 500 times, the Bulls lack leadership … or someone to even speak up. Your addition would help, but I think the East is weak and the Bulls could break through big-time next season with one top player. And thanks for your service to our country and dual concern for the Bulls.

Sam, I have heard you mention Przybilla and Mohammed almost as if they are interchangeable. What are the pros/cons of these two potential free agents and what will be their price? Which is a better fit for the Bulls? Oh yeah, nice sweater vest. -- Will Haven, Tampa, Fla.

Thanks for noticing. Did you like the one with the golf course logo? Oh, right. That's all of them. But I'm moving to golf shirts if it ever gets above 55 degrees here. Neither is a great answer, though Przybilla is probably better. He doesn't score, much like Chandler, but is a terrific shot-blocker and with Chandler could be a good duo. Mohammed is more athletic and quicker but also with poor hands like Chandler. There's also Nene, who has been hurt this season. The Bulls will consider him as well; he might be better than both if healthy after knee surgery.

Sam, I have been hearing that the Bulls are talking trade with the Knicks. It looks like they would be trading Ben Gordon for "one of the Knicks' elite guards" and their next first-round draft pick. Which of the Knicks' elite guards would the Bulls be getting? And what are the Bulls thinking? -- Joe, Hinsdale

I saw that item in the New York Post and I think it is Isiah Thomas. Other than him, I cannot find an "elite" guard on that team. It was one of the funniest things written this week. It was in the New York Post, which is a wonderfully entertaining read (I guess the fiction helps), and does come up with some good stuff from my friend Peter Vecsey. But there's no truth to it at all. Actually, relations between the Bulls and Knicks have been so cool since the Curry fiasco that executives from both teams haven't spoken to one another this season. The Knicks would love to have Ben because he lights them up every time he plays them. I wouldn't take anyone but Channing Frye for him. The Bulls are mostly thinking the Knicks are now writing the newspaper stories.

Darius Songaila and Malik Allen are very similar players: big men with a nice perimeter touch without a whole lot of defense to speak of. Because they possess such a similar game, do you expect both of them back next season? If so, who would have the edge going into training camp for more minutes in the rotation? -- Andrew Janoff, Livingston, N.J.

Songaila has an option to be a free agent and will most likely take it with a contract for "only" $2.4 million next season. The Bulls likely will not pick up the option they hold on Allen and let him go. I think they'd like to re-sign Songaila, but it will depend on what deals and signings they make. With two first-round picks and cap room for two or three free agents, they'll need to gill at least four or five roster spots and will have to make changes.

How much money do you expect the Bulls to give Kirk Hinrich this August in his extension? Anyone who watches the Bulls knows he is more valuable than Tyson Chandler, who has a $64 million deal. But is a guard like Kirk, who has never been to the second round of the playoffs and has zero All-Star game selections, worth more than Tyson? With Kirk and the entire core of the franchise due for extensions within a couple of years, how should John Paxson be expected to handle all of it? -- Andrew Janoff, Livingston, N.J.

That is the $64 million question. You have to figure Hinrich's agent will ask for a deal similar to Chandler's, but it's also doubtful Hinrich would want to risk playing out his contract if the Bulls play hardball. So I figure he'll come in at somewhat less and perhaps for fewer years, so he could become a free agent more quickly. Franchises have never been able to pay and keep a collection of high draft picks due to economic issues. So it's possible the Bulls could make some deals. I expect them to be active talking, if not always making deals.

I keep hearing about how the Bulls need a "big two guard." Although they are "undersized" at the position, I don't think it ever really hurt them at any point this season or postseason, and drafting one in the first round would be kind of dumb. Their weakness is clearly in the post, and that is what needs to be addressed. Hinrich and Gordon are fine starting in the backcourt, with Duhon coming off the bench, and maybe add one more veteran, but drafting a guy in the first round who you know won't be starting seems kind of dumb. Also, is there any chance we can trade Ben Gordon? He doesn't seem to fit the mold of the team: He doesn't hustle (ala the loose ball against Miami), his defense is still shady at best, and he is one of the most inconsistent shooters I have ever seen. I would much rather trade him than Duhon. -- Chris, Sugar Grove

I can't agree with that last part, though Gordon gets as much comment as my Garnett trade proposals. The backcourt looks OK from afar, but too many people expect these guys to be robots. Sometimes when Hinrich makes turnovers late or misses shots, fans get annoyed. But it takes a lot out of him to always defend the best perimeter player on the other team and then run the team. They need to get a big two guard for that reason. Yes, the post is an even bigger need, I agree. But unless they make a blockbuster, which I don't see this summer despite all my good advice and suggestions, they need to just concentrate on filling positions. Whether they get a big man first or two guard doesn't matter. They won't be championship contenders next season by adding rookies from this draft.

How is this for an off-season plan? Draft LaMarcus Aldridge. He might be a Chris Bosh at his ceiling ... but would that be all bad? Sure Tyrus Thomas might have a higher ceiling in some eyes, but he came out of nowhere for one year and his bust factor is much greater, to me. Or, if Aldridge is gone, take Brandon Roy to get the guard we want. With the later pick, take Ronnie Brewer (again, big guard) or Patrick O'Bryant (only legit center in the draft, probably). Then, in free agency, go after Harrington to play the 4 (he is more of a 3, but this a team crying for someone who wants to be "the man" and he is that, at least). Then, get Nazr Mohammed or Przybilla for depth at center. This would give them another proven scorer, more depth and size in the middle and some size in the backcourt. -- Patrick Gaughan, Niles

It will be interesting to see which way they go if they get No. 1: Aldridge or Thomas. Those are supposed to be the top two big guy prospects, but both are projects and prospects. I'm not sure about Brewer. The Bulls like shooters, but he may be the best defender and they need that. O'Bryant looks like too much of a project for me, but the scouts rate him highly and he may not make it to No. 16. I'm not a Harrington guy as he has to play four and doesn't rebound that much. Doesn't seem like a great fit for the Bulls even though they tried to get him two years and ended up drafting Luol Deng when the Pacers backed out of the deal.

Since Kobe is becoming the bad guy in LA nowadays, do you see him reconsidering thinking about joining the Bulls again? Would be a perfect fit for him of sorts. You trade for Kobe and still might be able to sign a solid big post player in free agency. After that Game 7 and what the media is doing to him do you see him staying? --David, Monterey, Cal.

I've actually heard this speculation from L.A. and Kobe still insists he was serious about the Bulls when he re-signed with the Lakers. I am a supporter of Kobe as a player, though he does produce mixed feelings. But forget it. Lakers owner Jerry Buss is all about entertainment and chose Kobe over Shaq. He's not about to take some package of prospects for Kobe or just about anyone in the NBA other than LeBron.

I've been following the Bulls since 1984, when I learned that this American player named Jordan was going to Chicago. I'm still a Bulls fan and I'm wondering what are the odds of Troy Murphy, Drew Gooden and their two first-round picks playing for the Bulls next season, salary cap wise? I think they are perfect for Pax and Skiles' system. Do the Bulls have to give away one of their young ones? I hate to break up that roster. -- Jerry, Philippines

Those are two interesting names. Gooden is a restricted free agent and with the play of Anderson Varejao, I don't see them re-signing him. I think the Bulls could make a bid or get involved in a sign-and-trade. Murphy is from Notre Dame, like John Paxson, and can step outside at power forward and make a shot, which the Bulls like. But it would take a deal to get him and I'm not sure the Bulls want to give up much for him at his inflated salary. If the Warriors were to make a package with Mickael Pietrus, I think that might be something possible.

Any chance the Bulls are interested in a proven scorer like Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson? He's a proven 20 ppg scorer and he's almost a hometown boy. I'd love to see him finish his career in Chicago if his career isn't already over. What gives on this one? -- Dante, Houston

It's not Old-Timers Day yet. Someone also wrote asking about Latrell Sprewell, who sat out last season after his ill-advised comments of being unable to feed his family on a pay cut to $7 million. I expect Sprewell will be back somewhere and though he's the kind of veteran two guard who makes some sense for the Bulls, they tend to avoid those kinds of players. But I might take a look. I've always heard positive things from teammates about Sprewell; Fred Hoiberg liked him and Fred is one of the best guys ever to come through the NBA. As for Big Dog, I assume he is retired. He dropped mysteriously out of sight this season and didn't even go back to San Antonio for his championship ring. I think he took the death of his mom last year very hard and I heard his conditioning has been bad and I'd be shocked if he tried to play again.

Chandler gets way too much blame, and as always it's Jerry Krause's fault. Tyson simply is not a No. 2 overall pick. He's not half the player Brand was, let alone is. And when the Bulls struggle, it's for reasons other than "Tyson is not playing like Wilt tonight." (Instead, how 'bout: Hinrich or Duhon playing like doo-doo.) But I do think Chandler is a useful 4 or 5, good for shot-blocking, 8-10 boards, maybe 30 minutes, and about 5 'small hands' references. They say big men take longer to develop, so is it possible that we haven't seen the best of Chandler yet? Thanks, Sam! -- Walt, Washington, D.C.

Tyson gets the most heat -- other than me -- in my e-mails. He could be a harder worker off the court, but I'd have more patience too. I wouldn't give up on him too fast, though if the Bulls get a big man in the draft and then go big in free agency, he could be available. Though the Bulls might be better off taking a look at what they have with all of that size all of a sudden. I agree, you get judged by your draft position and salary as opposed to what you can do as a player; that's what happens in sport. I think the pressure of the contract (Chandler is not the strongest player mentally) and the loss of Curry was a little much for him this season. I'd give him another shot next season.

Hey Sam, I remember reading a few months ago that Paul Pierce had some interest in coming to the Bulls, however I haven't heard you mention anything about this in a while. Is this still a possibility -- Dave, Palos Hills

He doesn't anymore and I'm hearing now the Celtics are looking at a big extension for him this summer, which should probably take him off the market for good.

I wanted to know what you think about the Bulls trying to sign Chris Wilcox of the Supersonics? Once he got traded from the Clippers, he put up some decent numbers while being a starter. -- Omari, Forest Park

Wilcox is a big guy, a free agent not mentioned much, and is somewhat of a risk because he started playing well in his contract season. But he was behind Elton Brand and didn't get much chance. I think the Bulls will look at him, but there have been whispers of a lack of, shall we say, enthusiasm and I don't believe he's high on their list. If they lose their top guys I can see them making a bid.

Sam, I am quite shocked that you and some other sources think Shelden Williams probably will be available for the Bulls´ second pick. I am by no means a Duke fan, but I believe Shelden will go in the top 5 selections. The Bulls should pick him with their first pick. No more 215-pound forwards who get pushed around, except maybe Tyrus Thomas with those hops. This is what the Bulls should do: Do not trade Ben Gordon. He is a scoring machine, and would fit perfectly in a three-guard rotation ala Vinnie Johnson. Get Bruce Bowen or his likeness (is he available next year?), Shelden and free agent Drew Gooden and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. -- Fausto, Quito, Ecuador

I'm betting you know the Bulls better than they know the location of your country. I don't agree Williams will go that high. He's a little on the plodding side and I think will have trouble against NBA athletes. But, yes, they need some more bulk. Yes, Ben, love him or hate him. Bowen is under contract through next season and will be too old after that. The Bulls even had him in a trade six years ago and let him go. But don't worry. I see the Bulls meeting several needs and being much better next season.

We all know that the Bulls are in a great "off-season" position this year. The problem is the draft is weak and the free agents aren't much better. Wallace will stay in Detroit, T-wolves won't get rid of KG because the franchise value will go down, the same goes for the Truth in Boston, Al Harrington is a "3" and that is the position where the Bulls are the most solid at. Przybilla, and Mohammed are role players -- which we have enough of. I have faith in Pax, but I just don't think there is going to be anyone out there worth getting. -- Tino, Villa Park

Downer, dude. I can't disagree with much of what you say, but, assuming they don't make a major deal, the idea with the Bulls will be to add good players to the rotation. So if you have a Mohammed or Przybilla or Gooden and maybe Aldridge, isn't that better than Harrington and Malik Allen? It's not only about getting a great player, which I support and I'm sure the Bulls do as well. But if you cannot, add better players and you have to improve.

All the talk is that if the Bulls get the first pick, they'll choose either LaMarcus Aldridge or Tyrus Thomas. Best-case scenarios seem to indicate Aldridge could be Chris Bosh/Jermaine O'Neal-esque and Thomas could be Andrei Kirilenko-esque. Wouldn't Aldridge, because of his size and scoring ability, really be the better option? Although a wonderful athlete and defender, Thomas is no bigger than Luol Deng and doesn't provide low-post scoring. If the Bulls get the first pick, who would you rather see them take, Aldridge or Thomas? Also, why don't Utah and Denver just work out a change-of-scenery deal, outright swapping Carlos Boozer and Kenyon Martin? -- Josh J., Hartland, Mich.

I'd probably go with Aldridge for the reasons you say. Though Tyson Chandler is tall, too. I think there's a deep division on the Bulls staff about what to do if they get No. 1 and it will be interesting to see. I think they'll first see if they can auction the pick and eventually use it. Kenyon Martin in Salt Lake City with Jerry Sloan? That would provide a lot of humorous notes material for next season.

4get garnett, pierce, and jermaine o'neal, we need a big 2-guard and the bulls should pursue gerald wallace from the charlotte bobcats for ????? that's up to you sam, what do you think the bobcats would ask for in return? and he's not an upgrade from pierce or garnett, but in the plus side skiles would make this young gun work and turn him into an all-star with the help of the nba's second coming of steve nash in kirk hinrich. give him some help with gordon's clutch shots and i feel he's an all-star. ur opinion? -- Dan Web, Chicago

I hope he has more upper case than you. I like Wallace, though I hardly see the Bobcats giving him up. They're even sending him to the lottery as their representative. They'd probably want too much given that -- with their limited talent -- they probably rate him higher than he should be.

Sam, if you would read into these KG trade talks a little bit more, you would notice how Garnett has said numerous times that he doesn't want to go anywhere. And in an interview that occurred with Timberwolves owner Glenn Taylor, one of his comments was he is looking to continue trying to build his team around KG. Wolves GM Kevin McHale also made this comment in a press conference at the end of the season. "Garnett isn't going anywhere. Period." So even if you might think these ideas you have might help the Wolves (which they wouldn't), I'm extremely sure it won't happen. Ever. -- Tim, St. Paul, Minn.

I had a big week getting angry e-mails from Bulls fans saying Garnett was old and what had he ever done, anyway, and Minnesota fans saying the franchise would never let Garnett go for all he's done and was going to do. Like this next one:

Stop talking nonsense in Chicago! Minnesota is not going to trade KG to you for a handful of garbage and draft picks. It is time to pull your heads out and get back to reality. STOP THE INSANITY!! -- JC, Minneapolis

So which is it?

Everyone says the Bulls should trade for Garnett. I have a trade that no one thought of before. How about John Paxson for Garnett? Then Minnesota has somebody to run the team! -- Philip Khalily, Chicago

That's it!

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