Chicago Bulls: Looking Back at the James Johnson Trade

Michael Gibbons@DachicagofanCorrespondent IIMarch 25, 2012

PHOENIX - NOVEMBER 24:  James Johnson #16 of the Chicago Bulls goes up for a slam dunk over Channing Frye #8 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on November 24, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Over the past two games the Bulls have gotten a good look at one of their former players.

No, not Aaron Gray. I'm taking about James Johnson.

With that being said both Gray and Johnson were teammates during the 2009-2010 season in Chicago before being reunited this season in Toronto.

So you may remember the Bulls selected Johnson in the first round with the 16th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft. They then traded him to Toronto last season for a first-round pick, which actually belonged to Miami. Funny enough the pick ended up going back to Miami, but we will get to that in a minute.

During his time in Chicago he had a hard time seeing the court. His rookie season he played in 65, starting 11, for coach Vinny Del Negro, but only averaged about 11 minutes a game.

However, he was outshined by fellow rookie Taj Gibson, who overtook Tyrus Thomas for the starting power forward spot. Gibson started 70 games that season, which led to Johnson looking like a disappointment.

Last season under new coach Tom Thibodeau it was even harder for Johnson to get on the court. He appeared in only 13 games before being traded to the Raptors. Most of his time on the court was spent in garbage time when the Bulls were up or down big.

It was clear Johnson did not fit in Thibodeau's plan.

Since being traded to the Raptors he has started 60 of the 73 games he has appeared in. This season he is averaging 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds, while playing just over 25 minutes a game.

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 22:  Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls shoots over Luc Mbah a Moute #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center on February 22, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Bucks 110-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ack
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In the last two games against the Bulls he has surpassed those numbers with 36 points and 15 rebounds while playing small forward and some shooting guard.

So now back to the pick the Bulls got for Johnson. They packaged the pick, which was 30th overall, along with the 43rd overall pick to Minnesota for the 23rd pick, which ended up being Nikola Mirotic. The T-Wolves then ended up trading the 30th pick to Miami, which it belonged to in the first place.

Until Mirotic comes over to the NBA it will be hard to grade this trade. The Raptors got a young, athletic forward while the Bulls just ended up drafting another one in Jimmy Butler this past draft.

Butler, even though his minutes have come sporadically, already seems to have gained Thibodeau's trust, which is something Johnson was never able to do.

Would the Bulls have been better off keeping Johnson?

It's hard to say. They probably still could have traded for the rights to draft Mirotic by just using their own pick, which was used on Jimmy Butler.

Ultimately this trade may be just viewed as a wash.

What do you think Bulls fans? Would you rather have Johnson or Butler in a Bulls uniform right now?

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @dachicagofan, and check out my weekly Bulls podcast every Wednesday on my site, The MG Experience.


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