Source: Bulls to Assign James Johnson to D-League
Johnson, a 6-foot-9 forward out of Wake Forest, has played in 12 games for the Bulls this season with his last being a Jan. 4 contest against the Toronto Raptors in which he played three minutes and recorded no statistics. In 71 career NBA regular season games -- including 11 starts -- Johnson's averaging 3.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in just over 11 minutes per game.
Johnson has been consistently rumored to be on the Bulls' trading block but has yet to produce enough as a pro to justify to another team that he's worth taking a chance on. Even at the Vegas Summer League, a setting in which a first-round pick should typically excel, Johnson averaged just 8.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.4 personal fouls in 28 minutes per game (players are allowed 10 fouls in the Summer League). Even worse, Johnson made less than 33 percent of his attempts from the field, most of which came in a game against the Sacramento Kings in which he made just two of his 14 shot attempts.
With a trip to Des Moines, Johnson will have a chance to show that he's worth taking a flier on by another team if coach Tom Thibodeau can't find a spot for him in his rotation.
In the D-League, Johnson will need to prove that he's learned enough during his time in the NBA -- and that he still has plenty of potential -- to make him worth the gamble. Specifically, Johnson will need to show that he can play on the wing, knock down mid-range jumpers and play defense while showing that his basketball IQ is up to par at this level. Perhaps more importantly, it's crucial that he's able to keep off the 20 pounds he worked to lose over the summer in order to reinforce his dedication to someday contributing meaningful minutes in the NBA.
If Johnson isn't in shape, and the Bulls haven't put a minutes-requirement on Energy coach Nick Nurse, it would not be surprising to see the second-year pro come off the bench in Iowa. The conference leaders with a 19-7 record, Iowa already boasts a bit of a logjam at the forward positions with Othyus Jeffers, Marqus Blakely, Stanley Robinson all near Johnson's talent level.
This will be the first time the Bulls have made use of the D-League since the 2007-08 season when they assigned Shannon Brown, Cedric Simmons, Demetris Nichols and JamesOn Curry for stints with the Iowa Energy.