This is starting to become a "What the Hell?" type of thought for me. The Bulls rotation is on fumes. Lindsay "I need a defibrillator after a full court layup" Hunter played 22 minutes, and you can't find a way to get James Johnson on the court? I am dying to know why this kid isn't playing.
Has he been great on the court?
However, his 11.4 PER tops Taj Gibson and isn't far off Brad Miller while he's the only one playing sporadic minutes in six minute chunks here and there looking over his shoulder every time he makes a mistake.
This isn't a "there's nothing to lose" situation where there really is
something to lose. This is a situation where statistical evidence
would back up the idea that you won't lose anything with Johnson on the
court, and are actually quite likely to gain quite a bit. Most
players play significantly better with more playing time doled out more
It's also maddening, because Johnson provides things we desperately need. He can score. It seems like management wants to pretend scoring doesn't matter. It certainly feels like scoring isn't a priority for the present regime. Defense, work ethic, hustle, and effort all matter. They matter a lot. However, putting the ball in the hoop is also pretty important.
Why do guys like Johnson (or Tyrus for most of his career) fail to get minutes despite their ability to impact the game? Airp [commenter here and at realgm] has pointed it out most frequently and loudly. They'd rather have a guy who runs the right play, makes the right decision, and does things consistently on the court regardless of whether he does them effectively. They'd rather see a beautifully run miss than a horribly run make. They believe over time that the consistent player helps you more.
There is a logic in that. Over time, the guy playing the right way probably does make things run smoother, and if he's a small cog, then not disrupting the larger cogs may be more important than squeezing a little extra production out of the small cog. However, it misses the larger point, that the more talented guy learns to become the consistent cog by playing minutes not by sitting on the bench the whole game.
James Johnson's played far beneath his ability level so far, and he's still giving the team something it needs in his brief minutes on the court. Get him on the court more, and play him at PF or play him with Luol Deng and put Deng at PF on defense.
You want to run a pick and roll with Derrick Rose, I'm telling you, James Johnson is THE best guy on the team to run it with. Did you see that pick Brad Miller set on Brandon Jennings on the last play? He barely was able to brush him, and he's the only other guy on the team who might set a decent pick. If you go back and watch the times Johnson's run pick and rolls with Rose, he has absolutely annihilated the guard with his picks.
There have been three occasions where the guard tried to run through a Johnson pick and looked like they were just going to give themselves a concussion for the effort. On top of that, Johnson can hit the mid range jumper or roll to the basket with effectiveness after the pick.
When you get to the other end, he has the size to actually hold a guy who weighs more than 230lbs out of the lane as well. He may need some preaching about boxing out, but it's not like boxing a guy out is a difficult skill to learn. James Johnson isn't going to get overrun on the defensive glass like Taj Gibson, and he's not going to move in slow motion like Brad Miller. With a little coaching focus put on him to focus on that end, he can be a better rebounder than either at this point.
He needs to play, and the opportunity to play him with absolutely no downside is now. The Bulls have blown most of it, and when Tyrus gets back the cost to put him on the court goes up. Get the kid some minutes. It's the best thing for the Bulls future, and it's the best thing for the Bulls present.