James Johnson: Why Hasn't The 16th Overall Pick Panned Out?

Shams CharaniaContributor ISeptember 11, 2010

James Johnson had a very poor rookie season, however, with hard work in the off-season, he can be a good contributor this season.
James Johnson had a very poor rookie season, however, with hard work in the off-season, he can be a good contributor this season.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls selected two players in the first round during the 2009 NBA Draft: James Johnson with the 16th overall pick, and Taj Gibson with their 26th overall pick.

At this point, it is safe to say that Taj Gibson has shown Bulls fans that he was clearly the best player taken by the Bulls in the first round that year.

When James Johnson came out of Wake Forest in his sophomore year, many looked at him as an athletic Small Forward who had a developing jump-shot. Many scouts thought that Johnson fell in the 2009 draft, however, the reason that he fell was his work ethic.

Many saw Johnson as a slacker in college, and those doubters were smiling after hearing that Johnson came to Bulls training camp last season out of shape.

Throughout the season, Johnson saw his playing time fluctuate. At the beginning of the season, Johnson played regularly and was one of the first players off the bench. However, his poor defense and lack of an outside shot cut into much of his playing time.

Taj Gibson, on the other hand, has been viewed as a worker and played very tough defense for the Bulls last season. His mid-range jump shot was also a reason he got playing time over the underachieving James Johnson.

One of the problems James Johnson faces is the fact that he's 6'9". Johnson is a "tweener" type player, since he doesn't have a defined position. He got most of his time at Small Forward last season, however, his defense on the league's top Small Forward was below average at best and coach Vinny Del Negro sat him because of that.

Johnson also got some run at Power Forward, but his lack of size hurt him, as often times he was getting bullied in the paint by much bigger players. His lack of hitting the open mid-range shot also hurt the Bulls, since he wasn't a threat at all when he would run Pick-and-Roll's with PG Derrick Rose.

Another factor hurting Johnson- throughout his basketball career- has been his poor work ethic. Scouts saw his attitude and work ethic as a reason why he would not pan out at the NBA level, which lead to him dropping to the 16th pick for the Bulls.

Johnson clearly has upside; his leaping ability is one of the best on this Bulls team. However, he has never been able to put all of his talents together and was a defensive liability for the Bulls.

Hopefully, Johnson has been working on his conditioning during the off-season and will look thinner this season to keep up on defense with guys like LeBron James, who man-handled Johnson during the playoffs.

Only time will tell if Johnson will receive the "bust" label. However, with another poor season, Johnson could find his way into the list of the Bulls' top "busts".