Jay Triano hinted that any moves the Toronto Raptors make before the deadline will be made in order to help the team in the future. This means we should not expect to see the Raptors involved in any blockbuster deadline moves, and instead we will see deals more along the lines of the one that took place earlier today.
Johnson was selected 16th overall in the 2009 draft by the Chicago Bulls, however, he was unable to lock up a spot in the starting rotation and ended up on a stint in the D league due to a lack of production. Nevertheless, in his defense, he averaged a dismal 11.3 minutes per game with the Bulls.
By not really shining in Chicago, Johnson was given limited minutes and few occasions to prove his worth. However, with the Raptors this will not be the case. His potential will not be lost on the Raptors, and he will be given ample opportunity to prove himself.
Standing 6'9'' and weighing 245 pounds with quite the wingspan, Johnson can play either the two spot as a backup for DeMar DeRozan or play the three spot, either competing with Sonny Weems/Linas Kleiza for a spot in the starting rotation or as his backup.
Speaking of DeMar, he actually seems to be quite high on this guy.
When asked who the Raptors may have taken had he not been available DeRozan suggested that Johnson would have been the one.
DeRozan also stressed the versatility of his former draft mate, saying that he thinks he will fit in well on this team.
I will trust what DeRozan had to say, and Bryan Colangelo seems to feel the same. Colangelo admitted that Johnson was one of the players the Raptors had their eye on in the 2009 draft, emphasizing the strength, athleticism and versatility of Johnson.
As for how Johnson actually plays the game, I still have to read more and I may even have to wait until I see him play a couple games with the Raps.
Nevertheless, at the moment I am under the impression that he plays much like DeRozan. If this is in fact the case then I think playing alongside DeRozan will be very beneficial for him and his development into a legitimate player in the NBA.
My Reaction to the trade:
My first reaction to this trade was actually disappointment.
I am well aware that this draft will not be very deep when it comes to overall talent. Nevertheless, I think it offers quite a large selection of small forwards and centers, which happens to be the Raptors biggest weaknesses, position-wise.
Therefore, I was really looking forward to having two first round picks this year, and I was definitely hoping the Raptors would select a star small forward with the lottery pick. Then, with the Miami pick, I was hoping they would take a defensive-minded center to either backup or replace Andrea Bargnani, allowing him to move to the power forward position.
However, after allowing myself a little time to research James Johnson I am beginning to think this deal may not be all that bad for the Raptors. The Raptors are getting a young player who deserves a second chance to prove himself. His versatility will help the injury riddled Raptors, and I think this fresh start will do wonders for his game.
That being said, Johnson is certainly not our “small forward of the future,” whom I expect we will find in this year’s draft. As a result, excluding the remainder of this season (provided we do in fact draft a SF with our lottery pick), Johnson will remain a backup SG/SF with the potential to become a sixth man type player once Barbosa is gone.
Finally, I think there is one important thing we can take from this trade—with the acquisition of James Johnson, Sonny Weems and his expiring contract become even more expendable.
It would be a wise move for the Raptors to try and trade Weems before the deadline because he could get them a good piece in return, and I do not think he is a part of the future of the team.
If Sonny Weems is not traded before the deadline, and if Johnson plays well for the remainder of the season, I think we should just let Sonny Weems go because he would most likely be looking for a long term contract, like the one Amir Johnson signed, and this would not be in the best interest of the team following this trade for James Johnson.
Regardless, it all depends on how Johnson plays for the rest of this season, so now we can only wait and see what happens.