The James Johnson era is over in Chicago. According to the ESPN.com news service, the Bulls have traded him to the Toronto Raptors for the Miami Heat’s first round draft pick, which the Raptors obtained in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Chris Bosh to Miami.
It’s not exactly shocking that management would ship Johnson for essentially nothing. After all, J.J. has appeared in only 13 games this season and compiled more turnovers (18) than field goals (17). Let’s face it, his stint in the NBA Developmental League notwithstanding, Johnson was a bust-a-rama. He sure isn’t going to make it on to Basketball-Reference’s list of the best players ever traded at midseason.
And yet…his general bawfulness isn’t why the Bulls dealt him.
Sure, the Bulls have been scouring the D-League for potential shooting guards, but the guy’s they’re looking at would have serious trouble cracking coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation. So, clearly, management has other gambits in play.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes: “After shedding Johnson’s $1.7 million salary, the Bulls now possess roughly $2.9 million of salary cap space and have stockpiled draft picks. … One source said talks with the Grizzlies regarding O.J. Mayo continue, although his $4.45 million salary would need to be matched and not fully absorbed into cap space. The Bulls could add players like the Cavaliers’ Anthony Parker, the Clippers’ Rasual Butler or the Rockets’ Courtney Lee merely for draft picks with their cap space. The Bulls also could wait until after the trade deadline to see if any prominent players get bought out, and then try to sign them with cap space.”
Okay, quick thoughts.
Rasual Butler: A 36 percent career three-point shooter who can’t crack Vinny Del Negro’s rotation on the Los Angeles Clippers. I wouldn’t want this guy on the Bulls even if he didn’t have the Clippers stank all over him.
Anthony Parker: On the one hand, he’s a savvy vet who’s hitting nearly 40 percent of his treys this season (and 41.3 percent for his career). On the other hand, he’s 35 years and 249 days old. He’s a minor upgrade over Keith Bogans. His contract expires after the season. Basically a rental…which makes me feel iffy. If he’s not part of the team’s future, is there really a point to bringing him in?
Courtney Lee: I’d feel better about Lee than Parker. He’s young (25 years and 143 days) and proved he could stick the three for both the Magic in 2008-09 (40.4 percent) and this year’s Houston squad (42.5 percent). Of course, despite playing for the always-scrappy Rockets, Lee has is giving up more points per 100 possessions (D-Rating of 112) than he’s scoring (O-Rating 107), and that bugs me. He’s also on the books for two more seasons after this one, so while he’s better than Parker, he also represents more of a commitment. The big question: Does he potentially push the Bulls over a championship hump? I doesn’t feel that way to me.
O.J. Mayo: Yes, he’s having a disappointing season. And yes, that disappointing season has been made worse by his 10-game drug suspension and that fight he had on the team plane with teammate Tony Allen. But he’s a young kid with loads of potential. He’s proven he can score (18.5 PPG as a rookie) and shoot (about 38 percent from downtown over his three-season career). Mayo is also a pretty good ball handler and an above-average competitor who, in my opinion, would benefit greatly from playing for Thibs and alongside Derrick Rose. Essentially, he has the biggest upside of any of the guys the Bulls appear to be considering.
Update! According to Yahoo! Sports: “The Chicago Bulls are still pursuing shooting guard Courtney Lee, offering a first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets, sources said. Chicago could make the offer more intriguing with the addition of the Miami Heat’s 2011 first-round pick that the Bulls acquired from Toronto for forward James Johnson on Tuesday. For now, the Rockets are determined to bring back size and want Bulls center Omer Asik in any package for Lee.”
Quick take: Joakim Noah has missed 48 games over the past two seasons. Kurt Thomas crawled out of the sea more than a million years ago. Asik is raw…but the Bulls need that insurance at the center position. I’m okay with giving up the first rounders, but the team should try to hold onto Asik unless he’s part of a bigger deal for a more significant upgrade.