NBA Draft 2009 Is Just the Beginning


Jun 25

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So you’ve got questions about the Bulls selections in Thursday’s NBA draft of Wake Forest’s James Johnson and USC’s Taj Gibson?

I like the picks. My guess is Tyrus Thomas doesn’t like them as much.

That’s because Johnson and Gibson figure to be some competition for Tyrus at power forward.

A trade?

Probably not. At least for now.

It’s been a huge trading period for the NBA, though it was fairly quiet Thursday during the draft with mostly minor moves.

The big deals were just before the draft with Shaquille O’Neal going to the Cavaliers from the Suns, Richard Jefferson going to the Spurs from the Bucks, Vince Carter going from the Nets to the Magic and the Wizards picking up a few decent pieces, Mike Miller and Randy Foye, for their No. 5 pick.

The Nets clearing more salary cap room to get back in the LeBron derby with James friend Jay-Z one of the Nets partners? Maybe after a season with Shaq, LeBron will be ready to go to New Jersey or Brooklyn or wherever they are.

But this draft really may just have been the appetizer.

The Golden State Warriors’ surprise pick of Stephen Curry with the No. 7 pick in the draft suggests the Warriors are ready to make a major deal. The rumors recently were that the Warriors would put together a big package for Toronto’s Chris Bosh.

But Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo has been adamant he’s not going to trade Bosh, at least not this summer. Perhaps he’ll loosen up by trading deadline next February, though the belief is the Raptors feel they can do better in a sign and trade and are betting Bosh won’t walk out on them as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2010.

Amar’e Stoudemire is in the same contract situation, and the Steve Kerr purge now seems in full force. With O’Neal dealt essentially to save money, the strong belief now is the Suns have a deal set with the Warriors to trade Stoudemire for the rights to Curry—whom the Suns see as a next Steve Nash—Andris Biedrins and Brandan Wright.

The cynical view for Golden State is Don Nelson is just coaching one more season and is pushing for a last hurrah given Stoudemire can opt out of his contract after next season and leave. Though he could make much more if he resigns.

For the Suns, it would be the official end of an era, which was about over, anyway. Even Kerr, appearing on the ESPN draft broadcast, talked of the Suns not being a contender now.

It’s sort of a rebuilding on the fly as with Biedrins, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill and Nash they could be a competitive team. Seeing what the Suns are doing, there were a number of teams Thursday night calling about dealing for Nash.

The Suns likely would be open to dealing Nash now, though he makes $13.1 million next season. He might have to play out a season in Phoenix and become a free agent.

It’s why many believe the Knicks made the surprising pick of power forward Jordan Hill with the No. 8 pick instead of a guard. Perhaps they bring in Nash or put together a sign and trade deal with David Lee for Nash and begin to put the pieces in place for a core that might be appealing enough to attract LeBron James.

The Bulls are in the same business, though not necessarily for James.

Johnson is a uniquely talented player, rare in the NBA because of his size at about 260 pounds and ability to run the court and finish handling the ball. Gibson is somewhat similar to Thomas, a thin power forward who excels at shot blocking and rebounding.

Johnson, 6-7 ¾, can play both small forward and power forward while Gibson, 6-9 ¾, is more the power forward. Johnson is the more versatile while Gibson has more post up abilities, though is thin.

This has not been regarded as a high level talent draft, but they appear to be two solid picks who can both help.

Maybe even push Thomas a bit.

Johnson is potentially a high level talent who will have to be watched more carefully, the sort of high risk/high reward type guy. Will he be Tractor Traylor or Charles Barkley? Big guys like Johnson can put on weight. But Johnson is involved with kick boxing and mixed martial arts and seems to keep himself in shape. He dropped into the middle of the first round because of questions about whether he will be selfish or work hard enough. Though opposing coaches in the ACC felt he was the toughest matchup to play.

He could play in a lineup at power forward or small forward and has been able to fill up virtually all the columns in the box score.

Gibson is a solid guy, a hard worker with a long wingspan. He’s not going to be a scorer, but can be a good role player on the defensive end.

The Bulls had been looking at trading up to get Gerald Henderson, who went No. 12 to Charlotte, or Tyler Hansbrough, who went No. 13 to Indiana, but had Johnson ranked as highly and when he fell to them it fit their desire.

There had been speculation they were interested in Pitt’s DeJuan Blair, who fell to the second round. Apparently, there were issues with his previous knee surgeries and weight problems.

There weren’t that many surprises in the draft, though many felt Ohio State center B.J. Mullens would go around where the Bulls selected. The Bulls had interest and Mullens almost fell to No. 26. The Bulls made some inquiries, but Mullens was selected by Dallas at No. 24 and then dealt to Oklahoma City at No. 25. Would they have taken Mullens at No. 26 over Gibson? I don’t know.

Mullens has the big size advantage at about seven feet. But he’s a big time project a few years away and has questions about his interest in competing. He’s a good pick for a developing team like the Thunder. It would seem Gibson, 24, is much more ready to contribute in the NBA.

It turns out there was nothing to rumors of a trade involving Kirk Hinrich and no Bulls interest in Shaquille O‘Neal, just a call from the Suns as they were trolling around the NBA to move O’Neal to anyone with expiring contracts. There obviously was no promise to Mullens.

No, the Bulls didn’t exactly find a star like Stoudemire or Bosh. And they face the defection of Ben Gordon in free agency. But they added talent to the roster and players who should fit into the rotation and perhaps enough depth that they can begin contemplating some moves.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: