Play James Johnson. Play him at PF.


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.  



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  • Doug,

    He's not a Power Forward. He's a Small Forward.

    I have told you that, how many times now? Like I said, they drafted James Johnson because they didn't trust Luol Deng's health. Well, knock on wood, Luol has been healthy and playing great. Therefore, your boy isn't getting much playing time.

    With Hinrich out, I'm a bit surprised they haven't tried Luol at SG and brought in Johnson to play SF, but that is VDN's call. Or they could play Luol at PF and have Johnson at SF, like I called for in the Denver game not too long ago. Either way, Johnson is best suited at SF. That's his best and most comfortable position. If anything Johnson should be coming in to give Deng a breather.

    I guess somebody needs to ask VDN why Johnson isn't playing more.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    The fact that you believe that Deng could play shooting guard invalidates any point that you might make.

    Deng has become so mechanical and slow that he can barely play small forward. Deng is already athletically challenged as a 3, as a 2 he would be destroyed on defense and he can't shoot well enough from distance to play the position of offense.

  • VDN, Show us your Johnson

    Vinnie has surprised all of us with a team that plays better defense. Give him credit for that.

    Now it's time for VDN to show us a bit more coaching courage and use James Johnson in a meaningful way. Vinnie is trying to play it safe with as many veterans as he can this year. It's not working.

    Frankly, I haven't seen James Johnson set a legal, bone crunching pick on a guard yet. I'd look forward to that. I've set a few of those myself.

    Everyone wants to keep his job. Perhaps that's why VDN is playing it safe with his lineups. If Vinnie "plays it safe" he won't be coach next season.

    If I were coach? I'd define JJ's role during practice sessions and tell JJ to play basketball and have fun during the games.

    Here's betting that if James Johnson play meaningful minutes and has fun, VDN will be rewarded with a team that improves and wins him a 3rd season.

  • Yeah, many times has Mr. Happy told you? The guy speaks gospel.

    I agree Johnson should play more until Tyrus gets back. We need the scoring. We won't be getting any more wins anytime soon, unless we find some SOMEWHERE. It's worth a shot....

  • In reply to evilhoban:

    Praise the Lord. James Johnson is a Small Forword...haha.

  • In reply to evilhoban:

    Amen, Doug. At the end of the day, the Bulls have a ton of stagnation in their offense (unless it's the 5-10 minutes per game Rose feels like being agressive). When James Johnson goes out there, he tries to make things happen. He tries to make plays. For a team with no playmakers beyond Rose, I think it's time they let him try to do that. Even if he misses a box-out or makes a turnover more than you'd like.

    But I wouldn't count on him getting minutes until either Paxson/Foreman step in and tell Vinnie to play him more, like they did with regard to Rose last year. Because Vinnie is short-sighted, underqualified, and overmatched as an NBA Head Coach.

    BTW Doug, have you read Bill Simmons' new book, "The Book of Basketball"? Good read. And at one point, he ranks the levels of coaching...something like Game-changer, makes no difference, detriment to team, horrible, and finally - Vinnie Del Negro. Yikes, now our coach is exposed as a fraud in a NYT best-seller.

  • In reply to DanFrystak:

    "But I wouldn't count on him getting minutes until either Paxson/Foreman step in and tell Vinnie to play him more, like they did with regard to Rose last year. Because Vinnie is short-sighted, underqualified, and overmatched as an NBA Head Coach."

    My issues with Vinnie are that he's one of those guys where he likes a guy and he will play regardless of talent. He has a play the vets mentality, yet still refuses to give Tyrus minutes and was obviously in love with Taj.

    In fact I'd call him schizophrenic, I cant tell what the heck he likes or doesn't. Had to be forced to leave Rose in the game last year. Wouldn't play NOah or Tyrus until unjurys forced him to. Wont give our higher draft pick a chance.

    One thing thats obvious...when VDN doesn't like someone for whatever trivial reason, they dont play regardless of talent. And in my opinion, I think he's sorta responsible for slowing down Rose's game style...trying to turn him into a passive walk up the court player.

    I've tried to support VDN, but his player issues are getting old, and at this point I have to say Im just hoping he fails enough to get fired. Until he's gone (or management publicly scolds him due to public outcry / losses) Johnson wont play and Tyrus will ride the pine then be kicked out the door without ever knowing if the kid could actually grow with real playing time....

  • In reply to Vohaul79:

    Could not have said it better myself. If Del Bimbo is allowed to stay into next season, he may destroy Rose's development as well as any that Johnson might have.

    Injuries aside, we absolutely need to know what we have in Tyrus before the trade deadline, not likely to happen now that Vinnie has a man crush on Gibson.

  • In reply to DanFrystak:

    The only positive I can see to Tyrus getting hurt this season, was that it has exposed Taj as the outmached rook he is. And I dont want to hear "But he's a rookie man!" because I dont care, he's not as good as Thomas. Period.

    It should be now well evident to Bulls management how valuable Thomas's weak side shot blocking and athleticism is. Noah should now know more than anyone, why Taj should never play more than 10 minutes a game. I like the kid, but in no way is he better than Tyrus Thomas. Ever.

  • In reply to DanFrystak:

    If we're confused, VDN must be confused.

    Just look at all this debate on whether JJ is a small forward or a power forward. If we're confused, Vinnie is probably confused.

    What's the old quote? "A good decision today is better than a perfect decision tomorrow."

    VDN just needs to make a decision and follow it on JJ. Vinnie and the fans will never know whether JJ is a SF, PF, or both unless he's given minutes on the floor.

    In management, there are no perfect decisions. Vinnie needs to make a decision and test it for a while. Management is all about effectiveness, not perfection.

    Here's hoping Vinnie makes a decision and "tests" JJ at either position. The sooner he tests James Johnson's capabilities on the court, the sooner JJ becomes effective.

    As for me, I favor PF for James Johnson. Just because I want to see someone set some bone crunching legal picks for Rose on a pick and roll. I want opponents to fear playing the Bulls for a change.

  • In reply to DanFrystak:

    Ok, you saw an interview where Johnson said he's more comfortable at the 3.

    Doug has spoken with him a couple times where he has said he doesn't care which forward spot he plays.

    So let's just call that even.

    Where do you stand on all the points Doug threw in your face regarding how Johnson has been effective as a 4 and ineffective as a 3? Because right now, you're getting owned. Bad.

  • In reply to DanFrystak:

    I think you guys are putting far to much emphasis on what position he plays, when, I think Doug's point was, get him some minutes..I dont give a crap where he have to put the guys out there that give you the best chance to win...furthermore, whether or not he plays SF/PF, depends entirely IMO on the matchup.

  • In reply to DanFrystak:

    At the end of the day...maybe Johnson is not playing because he is not that good...if he can't crack a 7 man rotation with a 39 year old out of shape point guard getting tick...there must be something wrong with the player. If Paxson made VDN play Rose in the 4th...he will probably ask for JJ to get some time on the floor. JJ must not be that impressive in practice...

  • In reply to Houston:

    That's not the point though. Tomorrow's game is meaningless. Next week's game is meaningless. Our team is average at best, and playing Lindsey won't make it any better.

    Rookies, by nature, suck. If a 6'8" #16 pick built like Carmelo and Paul Pierce can't beat out a 39 year old PG who didn't have a job last year, that means VDN is not that good.

  • In reply to evilhoban:

    Fact: James Johnson is a Small Forward


    Bulls Director of College Scouting Matt Lloyd on James Johnson:

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    MrHappy is the new Alex

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    What the Hell, what have we got to lose, other than a few more games and Del Bimbo? Any so called mistakes that Johnson might make can't be any more disgusting than watching anything that happened on the circus trip.

    I do have to wonder exactly what Johnson is doing in practice that is causing Del Bimbo to hate him so much.

    I would be interested in knowing what happens when Taj and Johnson go head to head or even one on one in practise. Doug, maybe you got to see some of this in the preseason.

  • Yes, Yes, JJ needs minutes. However, I agree that he is better suited at small forward. He can play some minutes at the four but he is usually overmatched physically, especially on the defensive end. He has small forward skills and also sees himself as a small forward. Unlike Tyrus who sees himself as a small forward but doesn't have the skills to play that position.

  • There is little to no doubt that playing Johnson would improve the team offensively. The argument to be made is defense and rebounding but having watched him play, and looking at the stats, it is hard to argue that he would hurt us badly enough, if at all, that it justifies his lack of playing time. VDN actually had a lineup with Pargo and Hunter on the floor, this is really unacceptable and far more ineffective than bringing in Johnson and allowing Deng or Salmons to slide back to the 3 and 2.

    I would really not just like to see Johnson play but I really want a role reversal for him and Taj, as you called for earlier. VDN can't be pleased with the performances of Gibson and Miller thus far, so why not give Johnson a chance?

  • Go look up what the Bulls Director of Scouting said on his Draft Central page. They classified him as a Small Forward. James Johnson, himself, has come out and said he is a Small Forward. It is what it is.

  • Makes sense. Offense having him play PF and take advantage of picks + speed. Deng seems well equipped to play both so he's not a concern IMO.

    On defense you can switch to whoever you want. So good points.

  • "It is kind of irrelevant, just get him on the court with Deng, they're both combo 3/4s."

    Exactly. Get him on the court. Deng / Johnson should be able to play 3/4 both depending on matchups.

    Id have also loved to see him run some point/SG while we were using ....Pargo (ugg) and Hunter (whimper). As far as those two go, Id honsetly rather have Hunter out there. Something about Pargo's shot selection and ball handling just irritates me to no end....yes he did basically win / keep us in 1 game....I'll give him that...otherwise he's been an absolute waste.

  • I would assume that VDN and staff are not happy with what they see in practice but regardless these last few games were the perfect chance to get him some doesnt make sense to not play him when we're getting blown out and short handed.

  • You know, they could bring in AI to help him with those practice habits...


  • Johnson at PF is a good idea, but it's not a solution. Taj is VDN's boy and he'll always get minutes regardless of production. With Gray back, Miller holding firm at 20mpg, and Deng/Noah combining for nearly 80mpg, there's not much to go around inside.

    But with Hinrich out, Pargo hurt, and Lindsey playing 22 minutes in an NBA game, I think shooting guard is the quick way to get our guy minutes. Some might say he's too slow to play SG, but he's pretty quick for his size, and besides, we start John Salmons there, and we play Lindsey Hunter there. If those guys are quick enough, anyone's quick enough. At 6 wins - 9 losses, with no championship in sight, I can't imagine looking back and saying "Good thing we gave Lindsey those SG minutes and benched our freak athlete #16 pick, because James Johnson is 265lbs."

  • Understood, but I wonder if the coaching staff see some things in practice that makes them hesitant? That is what I am thinking...

  • Why are you getting so defensive?

    It doesn't matter what I think or what you think. It only matters what VDN, John Paxson, Gar Forman and James Johnson think. If they ALL think he is better suited to play SF, than that's what he'll play.

    Did it ever occur to you that James Johnson, himself, might not want to play Power Forward?

  • Doug,

    Read my Reply from your last Reply to me. Thanks. By the way, did you hear about Ron Artest?

  • Doug, where do you pull your stats from? The more obscure ones like points per minute, fouls per minute, etc?

    A question as it relates to that - Do you think that Vinnie and his staff simply haven't embraced things like statistical probabilities? As in, do they not have a 'stat geek' in the Daryl Morey mode on their payroll? It seems likely, and if true, pathetic and outdated.

  • I met artest once my senior year at St. Johns, i asked for an autograph and he gave me one however i noticed he never once picked his head up to look at me or anyone else. I put out my hand to offer him a hand shake and he kind of looked away so i said thanks and walked back to my seats. I really dont think he is crazy I just think he is mentally ill. He grew up in Queens bridge which is a ruff part of town and they are so poor there that he probably never got a real diagnosis and treatement but as he got older people always though well thats just Ron being Ron and left it at that.

  • As for the whole James Johnson situation I blame no one but Paxson and Gar for this. To me it seems like Vinny has some sort of issue with James and refuses to give him time. It looked like he didnt trust JJ early on but now that we are depleted and he has no choice to play him he still doesnt. Mgt needs to force Vinny to play him or fire him if still refuses.

  • I think you all need to leave it alone and listen to Sam Smith when it comes to James Johnson. He mention on a podcast from that James Johnson should be getting minutes and he's upset that Vinny won't let him play. He believes James Johnson should be getting minutes at the 2, 3, and a little 4. He also says that James Johnson really isn't getting minutes because of trust. To sum it up, just about everybody is disappointed in Vinny. Personally, it's like watching the best athlete and main attraction sit while your team plays its only game on ESPN. I think James Johnson has the pulse to be effective but his rookie mistakes is keeping him bolted to the bench. Just let him play.

  • In reply to Simeon2UC:

    Funny you say that becuase though Sam isnt the most liked writer, he does have inside info and connections. His trade ideas are pretty wacko sometimes but he doesnt lie when it comes to these things. I always wondered what the organization thought about JJ not playing. I know JJ was upset but its at a point where its not like we dont have the minutes. I dont care how slow you say his feet are, there is no reason the play Hunter for 22 minutes and not play JJ. Move Deng to the two if you have to or even play JJ at the two. Will it be good for defense? Probably not, but I am willing to take that chance seeing how bad our defense has been recently.

  • In reply to Simeon2UC:

    I think it should be a no brainer for JJ to get minutes on this injury hit roster. In the game against the Bucks, the Bulls was one productive bench player from winning that game. The Bulls unfortunately got negative production from their bench. JJ should've been given the opportunity to be that difference maker in Milwaukee.

    I think a important dilemma to consider is JJ's role going forward(not small). If Johnson can't get on the court on a injury hit roster, what value to this team does he have when Thomas returns? Looking further down the line, if he can't get on the court this season, how is he going to get on the floor next season when the Bulls upgrade at his position(power forward)? Whether it's a high level upgrade like Bosh or a lower level guy like Lee. I want to see JJ get his chance to prove himself, but there are some major short term, and long term questions that have to be answered in regards to his role on this team.

  • With Tyrus out, Johnson should have been getting major minutes, mostly at power forward, with either Deng or Salmons. We have essentially blown our chance to give Johnson a chance to develop. If he can't even get a sinle minute with Tyrus and Hinrich out, he might as well wear a business suit the rest of the season.

    This is just another case of Del Bimbo coaching scared.

  • Absolutely correct, I have been saying this since the preseason.

  • I'd rather see Deng at the 4 and JJ at the 3. Play Deng in the post more.

  • Come to think of it, there are 2 reasons why JJ doesnt play.

    1)They have tunnelvision on him being a SF
    which leads to..2)Deng is playing extremely well.

    So Doug while you have great points, and I totally agree with what you are saying..the issues cant be based on the last game.

    JJ has yet to play against Mil...why?

    Because Dengs best 2 games of the season came against them.

    A 20/20 game and a 22/14 game.

    There was no way JJ was playing if Vinny has him strictly as a SF.

    So yes JJ needs to play and alot, but I guess the timing of the post somewhat doesnt reflect the scenario of that game.

  • JJ should be playing .. He seems tougher than TG .. Start plating JJ more Vinnie.. Vinnie is gone is a few games.... Stop playing Miller who can t move.. They just lob over his head . Salmon is another guy that isnt shooting and cant play defense or get loose balls. Watch JJ he does .. His shotting choices and % will go up with more time..Plat JJ JG and Deng at the same time.. Get rid of Fargo a cheap replacement for Ben .who cant cover my mother .. They should have kept Byars from pre season sqad.. But thats the bulls they cant see talent when its in front of their eyes..Byars shot good and was a big guard..

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