The first preseason game didn't go so well for James Johnson. Of course, having a poor preseason game isn't a big deal. It's just a blip. However, throughout summer league and that preseason game one disturbing trend has emerged.
James Johnson doesn't play well off the ball.
Combine that with the obvious, Derrick Rose is going to always be on the ball, and you have a recipe for trouble.
We saw it at summer league, we saw it on Friday. Johnson doesn't seem to know how to get involved without the ball in his hands. Part of the problem is the offense. Luol Deng struggled with the same problem for much of last season. He still may end up struggling with it this year.
The answer to this problem is simple. At least to me. James Johnson needs to play PF. Now, I've thought he needed to play PF before anyway, but that goes double now. The PF doesn't have the same role in having to float around the perimeter and figure out when to cut to the basket or try and stretch the defense with three point shooting. For now, neither of these things seem like strengths for Johnson.
However, at PF, how good would Johnson look setting a pick? Towards the end of the Pacer game, Johnson set a bone crushing pick on an unsuspecting Pacer (AJ Price?) freeing up Lindsay Hunter for a three. Johnson has the best pick setting body on the team. He's got the size to get in the way and the bulk to lay people out. He's also more than willing to take the contact.
After the pick, Johnson's also a nice target on the pick and roll or pick and pop. He's probably more effectively on a roll than Noah or Tyrus because he has the greatest ability to finish a contested shot with one hand on the team. When Tyrus and Noah aren't getting dunks, they're finishing isn't that great while Johnson can finish the tough "sort of" open shots better.
He'd also be effective on the roll out. He's got a nice mid range jump shot even if his range doesn't extend to the three point line, and he'd be a great threat on a pump fake an drive with his ball handling.
It's always been obvious to me that Johnson needs to play at PF, and one game into the preseason seems to support the cause.
Johnson is immensely talented, but the Bulls need to play to his strengths. We can't try to force a round peg into a square hole. There are four scenarios that can play out here:
- Johnson reinvents his game becoming a great outside shooter and off the ball cutter.
- The Bulls change the system and allow him to have the ball in his hands much more at the SF position in a position to create
- The Bulls play him primarily at the PF positions
- His immense talent is never fully utilized
The third option certainly seems like the most appealing one to me. Especially given the players in front of him at both positions.