With the 16th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft the Chicago Bull's selected James Johnson. Johnson has a great all around game and great versatility to be used at multiple positions. With the 26th pick the Chicago Bull's selected Taj Gibson, one of the most NBA ready and mature players available, who possesses a very solid defensive skill set. There have been some complaints as to why the Bull's didn't selected certain other players in these spots and I will discuss a few of those pressing concerns ahead.
First, fans have questioned the fact that we did not pick one of the quality point guards that were still on the board at pick #16. My question to that would be this: if Rose is guaranteed to be on the court for at least 35 to 40 minutes per game, do we really want to use the 16th pick on a guy that's only going to see the court for less than ten minutes per game?
The next common complaint was that DeJuan Blair fans felt that he was a better option at the 16th pick than Johnson, and in their minds a no-brainer for our 26th overall selection. When it comes to the fall of Blair that we all witnessed in last night's NBA Draft, there are many questions and many answers. Some prognosticators speculate that he failed to impress in either his first or second individual workout for teams. Others point to the fact that he has had major operations on both knees, and faces the strong possibility of developing arthritis in one or both of those joints in the immediate future. There is also his underwhelming height deficiency to look too, being that he is less then 6'6 without shoes on. Lastly, Blair has been accused of being a one trick pony; that one trick is rebounding. He's probably one of the best offensive rebounders to come out of the college ranks in a long time. The Blair supporters are loyal to him and I credit them for that. It is their suggestion that the only thing that matters is the difference he made in games (The Thabeet domination in particular). My question to them would be this: If you were a GM and you're job could be celebrated or terminated because of one or more false decisions, would you guarantee a contract regardless of how minimal to a player with this many questions? The resounding answer from every single GM in the NBA was no.
The last question I would like to address would be the case for Wayne Ellington with our 26th overall selection in the draft. Ellington supporters were ready to storm the U.C. when Taj Gibson's name rolled off of David Sterns lips. Wayne Ellington is by far one of the purest shooters to grace a hard wood floor in years; his stroke Ray Allenesque. So why on God's green earth does he plummet so low? To that I would say this: the shooting guard position in today's NBA is where you find you're most dominant players. This is one position that either has an all around player to fill it, or someone who is either strong offensively or defensively. In Ellington's case I would argue that he is neither. While his shot is pure, he can't seem to create it on his own. So his offensive game has some strength, but a major weakness as well. Any team selecting him minus well eliminate the ISO from their repertoire. The fact that he is predominantly a spot up shooter also suggests that his free-throw opportunities will be minimal at best. On the other hand Ellington's defense is seemingly worse than Ben Gordon's. Remember Gordon's offensive game is much more well-rounded, and he penetrates the paint enough to get to the free-throw line at a respectable rate. So, do you draft a guy at such an important position in the first round that will not only trade points with opposing shooting guards as it is suggested that Ben Gordon does, but actually consistently give up more points than he accumulates on a nightly basis? Again, almost every GM in the NBA answered that question with a resounding no.
The difference between James Johnson, Luol Deng and Tyrus Thomas is that Johnson does not have any glaring deficiencies to his game. He has the ability to score inside as well as outside. He played the point guard position in high-school, which gives him the ability to be used as a point forward from time to time. If you have followed his NCAA career or even taken the time out to youtube some of his highlights, you will see that he works hard on offense and defense, and he doesn't mind mixing it up. The fact that he has the potential to be moved around on a nightly basis to create matchup problems for opposing defenses, spells versatility. Being that he will weigh in at about 250lbs and has post moves, spells interior scoring options as well. In turn, Luol Deng has absolutely no post game to speak of; and we all know that even you're small forward should have some ability to operate in the paint when the match-up calls for it. Tyrus Thomas on the other hand has no offensive go to move and possibly never will. I'm a fan of Tyrus, but if someone were to ask me if I thought Tyrus would ever evolve into a smooth offensive weapon, my answer would have to be no. To his credit, he has developed an unreliable midrange game thus far but that is it. Defensively, Tyrus is a very good help defender, but a very poor man to man defender. Taj on the other hand, is a defensive specialist with some post moves, albeit minimal as well as an okay mid-range jumper to speak of. When it comes time to guard guys man to man like Rashard Lewis, Taj will be the best available option on the Bull's roster. With the way the forward positions have evolved in todays NBA with the likes of Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Hedo Turkoglu, & Rashard Lewis (Gasol is a forward when he plays alongside of Bynum), the necessity for a long and lanky aggressive on the ball defender at the forward position becomes a glaring one, and Bull's fans will learn to soon agree.
There has been some speculation that this could be a pre-curser to a major move involving Luol Deng this off season. In my opinion at this point, Luol is pretty much untradeable. Teams are not going to take on his hideous contract until they have an opportunity to see what kind of player he is currently and how his body holds up over the course of an NBA season. If Deng does get traded it will be next off-season for a major acquisition, and only if he has an amazing season. The question is, if he has a great season do we trade him?
I would predict that Tyrus needs to aggressively work on becoming a more complete player before his rookie contract expires. There is no way the Bull's will pay someone with his low-basketball IQ major dollars just for shot-blocking. The Bull's still face many questions in free agency when it comes to their own players and others, as I believe that the team still covets a big defensive shooting guard in the mold of a Terrence Williams or Gerald Henderson; the question is does one currently exist on the free agent landscape today?
To those of you who believe we have to many forwards on the roster let's take a look at our depth chart as it currently stands. I will not waste your time or my own by including Linton Johnson III into this equation, because he is a non-factor and likely will not return.
Small Forward: John Salmons/Luol Deng/James Johnson
Power Forward: Tyrus Thomas/James Johnson/Taj Gibson/Tim Thomas
If you weigh the fact that Tim Thomas's days are very numbered, and John Salmons may be moved to the shooting guard position, you have two guys at each position, and one guy that can play both.
Fans will always be looking for the home run play and that is completely understandable. But when it comes to building an NBA franchise that can consistently compete for a championship, owners and GM's need to get men on base first. I attest that your Bull's have successfully put a man on third. Now, let's see how the rest of this free agency period pans out and maybe even next off-season before we attempt to burn our GM's and ownership at the stake like "The BLAIR Witch Project."