The woeful Toronto Raptors (15-42) are in the middle of another endless rebuilding process and added another piece to the puzzle on Feb. 22 by adding James Johnson, a second-year forward from the Chicago Bulls 938-16). The Raptors gave up a first-rounder in this year’s draft for him. The pick was the one they received from Miami in the Chris Bosh deal, meaning they still have their own, which should wind up in the lottery.
The Raptors are familiar with Johnson as he held workouts with the club back in 2009 before the Chicago Bulls drafted him 16th overall. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo said the 6-foot-9 Johnson’s versatile, athletic, and strong and the team’s been interested in him since 2009.
Johnson’s played in just 78 contests during the past two seasons and was averaging 3.8 points with 1.9 rebounds. He also spent some time down in the Development League after he couldn’t hold down a regular spot with the Bulls. He played in 13 games for Chicago this season with an average of 3.2 points. He played in 65 games last year, starting 11 of them and averaged a total of 3.9 points.
The Raptors need all the help they can get and the move for the former Wake Forest player is designed to pay off in the future. As far as the Bulls go, the deal gives them two first round picks in 2011, which will be their own as well as Miami’s. They also have a first rounder coming from Charlotte in 2012 or after for sending forward Tyrus Thomas to them.
The stockpile of draft picks means the Bulls could pull off more deals by the time the NBA trade deadline hits on Feb. 24. A shooting guard would be a help, but there’s apparently nothing in the works to pull off another deal.
The Bulls also saved $1.7 million in wages by trading Johnson and they’re about $3 million below the salary cap at the moment. This puts them in an ideal position to offer something to a player who’s looking for a buyout from their team, such as Tayshaun Prince of Detroit. Other players that might be interested in buyouts include Troy Murphy of New Jersey, T.J. Ford of Indiana, Rasual Butler of the clippers, and Anthony Parker of Cleveland. Any player looking for a buyout needs to do it by the start of March if they want to play for their new team in the playoffs.
Johnson played well down in the NBA Development League and played eight games there, but the Bulls are having a fine season and it became obvious he wouldn’t be able to break in to the regular lineup. He’ll have a much better chance of getting some playing time in Toronto with the Raptors.