What are Ex-Bulls John Salmons and James Johnson up to?

John Salmons Bucks

The Chicago Bulls finished with the best record in the NBA this past season; a product of their coaching upgrade from Vinny Del Negro to Tom Thibodeau; as well as the major roster overhaul they made over the course of the past year and a half.

But as they’ve succeeded so have ex-Bulls John Salmons and James Johnson.

We’ll begin with Johnson.

By Paul M. Banks

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Bulls Demote James Johnson to the D League

I guess you can officially label JJ a NBA Draft bust now. The Chicago Bulls announced today the team has assigned forward James Johnson to the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League (D-League).

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NBA Draft Grades

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By: David Kay

Embarrased… Ashamed… Disappointed… I apologize for my poor showing with my final NBA mock draft.  After tying ESPN’s Chad Ford last year (we each picked 9 first round choices correctly), Ford OWNED me this year getting 13 right compared to my pathetic showing of six.  But like Teddy KGB in Rounders, I can admit when I have been defeated.  “He beat me.  Straight up.”

Anyway, with the craziness that was the 2009 NBA Draft in the books, it’s time to hand out some “grades.”  I say “grades” because I think it is way too early to use the regular A, B, C, D, F scale to judge a draft.  Plus, I’m all about straying from the norm.  So my grading scale is as followed:

LOVE IT
Makes Sense
Meh
Don’t Get it
REALLY???

Chicago Bulls Grades:


16. James Johnson, F, Wake Forest

The Bulls need a physical player down low. I think Blair would have been a safer pick, despite the whole “No ACL’s in his knees” rumors. Johnson needs to work on his jumper if he is gonna stick around. (Pick Grade: Makes Sense)

26. Taj Gibson, F, USC
They already took James Johnson, a physical power forward at 16, so how does Gibson fit? The Bulls needed to get a wing player in case they don’t re-sign Ben Gordon. I can’t believe Blair has fallen past the Bulls twice. (Pick Grade: Don’t Get It)

Other Draft Grades:

T’Wolves: Do you like the Ricky Rubio/Jonny Flynn combo in Minnesota?  I don’t.

Milwaukee: Brandon Jennings to the Bucks?  Meh

Detroit: Pistons draft Tayshaun Prince’s thinner, yes thinner, look-alike.

For every team’s grades, click here

Bulls Send Message to Tyrus Thomas in Draft

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By Paul M. Banks

Did the Chicago Bulls send a message to incumbent starting power forward Tyrus Thomas Thursday night by drafting two power forwards? By using both of their first round draft picks on prospects who play the four, the Chicago front office seems to be telling us one of two things. Either a.) Coach Vinny Del Negro, GM Gar Forman and company are unhappy with Thomas (who desperately needs to develop a post move) and are attempting to motivate him, or b.) Ty is being aggressively shopped to other GMs in the league. Maybe we’ll learn more once NBA free agency starts on July 1, when more transactions are like to start happening around the association.

But we can worry about that later, for now let’s focus on who the Bulls did pick up with the 16th and 26th overall picks.


Wake Forest, Forward, James Johnson

In college, Johnson was able to muscle weaker defenders down low while also using his ability to drive and finish. His range from deep leaves plenty of room for improvement, but he did develop a more consistent mid-range game as a sophomore. “We love his versatility he can play the four, he can play the three, he can play inside, he can play outside, at his size 6’8” 250 he can put the ball on the floor, he can rebound and put it out in transition. He’s a very big passer for a big guy,” Forman said to the media present at the Berto Center.

USC, Forward, Taj Gibson

Gibson is already 23 years old and should be able to contribute off the bench right away. He will likely make a living as a professional thanks to his rebounding and shot-blocking ability. 6’10” with a 7’2” wingspan, Gibson had the second longest reach of anyone in this draft. (Only the 7’3” Hasheem Thabeet was longer) “His wingspan was amazing, he’s long, he can block shots in the lane and he has a developing inside-outside game,” Forman said of Gibson on draft night.

ACC Well Represented in NBA Draft Again

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By Paul M. Banks and David Kay

Jeff Teague

As usual, the ACC will be represented with numerous prospects in this year’s NBA Draft. Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague emerged as a legitimate NBA caliber player thanks to the Demon Deacons winning their first sixteen games of ’08-’09 and garnering national attention.  Teague is a shoot-first point guard which isn’t a discouraging trait considering his percentages this past season (49% FG, 44% 3-pt FG, 82% FT.)  Some reports have the Bucks interested in him with the tenth pick, but Teague more than likely falls into the late teens/early twenties. At the Draft combine, Teague discussed what he needs to work on the most to improve his NBA stock. “Being a pure point guard, I’m a scoring point guard right now, just  show them I can really run a team and get everybody involved,” he said.

Miami Wake Forest Basketball

James Johnson

At the Combine, Teague’s BFF, roommate and college teammate James Johnson’s measurements stood out.  It wasn’t so much his height of 6’8”, but more his 257 pound frame.  That type of strength combined with his impressive athleticism is what allowed Johnson to be successful at Wake Forest.  He was able to muscle weaker defenders down low while also using his ability to drive and finish.  Johnson’s range from deep leaves plenty of room for improvement, but he did develop a more consistent mid-range game as a sophomore. “I can create my own jumper and I’m an inside/outside guy,” Johnson told me when I asked him about his best selling points. 

If Johnson can become a bigger threat from downtown, he could play the three at the next level and be a difficult match-up for opposing defenders.  As it stands now, his game is better suited to power forward, despite his lack of height.  He’s one of this draft’s many wild cards- he could go as high as #11 to the Nets, but could also easily slip down to the early twenties.

On a side note, Johnson inadvertently validated my theory that every team’s public relations department distributes a set of talking points and canned responses to each player, and trains them to recite these platitudes as responses to media queries.

I asked him if he and Teague “compare notes” at the end of the day meeting the media. “You know how we had a tumble at the end of the season, after starting off great, so sometimes we get asked the same question. We compare, we talk a little bit, it’s funny cuz they ask us the same questions, we laugh it off, because I tell him one thing, he tells them the same thing and we didn’t even talk about it,” Johnson said.

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Gerald Henderson

Like many Dukies, Gerald Henderson arrived in Durham with a lot of hype.  But during his first two years as a Blue Devil, Henderson was known more for being the player who bloodied Tyler Hansbrough’s nose in Chapel Hill than for his performance on the court.  That all changed this past season when Henderson stepped his game up and emerged as a legitimate NBA prospect.  So what kind of team might be a good fit for Henderson? “I like fast pace, transition like the Phoenix Suns. I like their style of play, the way they get up and down the court,” Henderson said at the NBA Draft Combine.hansbroughground
 
His athleticism is ideal for an NBA-two guard.  He is very aggressive when attacking the basket and is a great finisher around the rim.  What allowed Henderson to become a more valuable player his junior season was his mid-range game.  He plays well off the ball, using screens well, but can also create space with an effective pull-up jumper.  From three-point range, Henderson still has issues with his consistency, hitting just 34% of his attempts this past season.  Henderson also talked about who he looks up to in the Association. “A guy I like to watch a lot is Brandon Roy. With his athleticism, his strength, his ability to get to the basket, maybe him the most,” He said.

The other areas of his game help his value as he is a strong rebounder, good passer, and plays hard on the defensive end.  Henderson could hear his name called as high as number nine to the Raptors on draft day and likely doesn’t fall below #16 to Chicago.

In yet another example of a public figure describing a coincidental circumstance, and mislabeling it ironic, Henderson spoke about his BFF Wayne Ellington. “Wayne’s my best friend, I played with him in high school together, he had a great career at Carolina and it’s just ironic that we came out of high school the same year and we’re going on to the next level the same year.”

(Note: I want to congratulate ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume who stated on the June 21st episode of Baseball Tonight: “In a manner of coincidence and not irony, Justin Verlander had the same home plate umpire in both of his career starts against the Brewers.”