16. James Johnson, F, Wake Forest
The Bulls need a physical player down low. I think Blair would have been a safer pick, despite the whole "No ACL's in his knees" rumors. Johnson needs to work on his jumper if he is gonna stick around. (Pick Grade: Makes Sense)
26. Taj Gibson, F, USC
They already took James Johnson, a physical power forward at 16, so how does Gibson fit? The Bulls needed to get a wing player in case they don't re-sign Ben Gordon. I can't believe Blair has fallen past the Bulls twice. (Pick Grade: Don't Get It)
2009 NBA Offseason Transactions:
Bulls sign C Aaron Gray
Bulls cut SF Linton Johnson
Mavericks sign F Tim Thomas
Bulls cut G Anthony Roberson
Bulls cut F Tim Thomas
Bulls sign PG Lindsey Hunter
Pistons sign SG Ben Gordon
2008-09 Season Summary:
When the magical Bulls-Celtics first round playoff series started, most of Chicago just wasn't very excited. I mean who gets all warm and tingly about a 41-41 team sneaking into the playoffs? This was the same squad that resided in the bottom rung of the league in February, and had a joke of a head coach and an ugly home loss to the OKC Thunder on their resume. But the Bulls transformed themselves after the John Salmons/Brad Miller trade, and that transformative process continued into the postseason in where the #7 seeded Bulls took the #2 seeded and defending World Champion Boston Celtics to 7 games. The numerous extra sessions effectively made it the best playoff series of all time.
It also further accentuated the only true positive of the regular season, that #1 overall pick, hometown hero, and now NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose is a true superstar in the making. Despite the loss, the playoffs made Chicago care about the Bulls because it told us, "hey the Bulls are truly back." Even though it was the longest series in NBA history, it went by too quick. Moving forward, everything starts with stability in the front office as GM John Paxson's successor will have plenty of questions.
1. A scoring big man - In Chicago, the need for a scoring big has existed almost as long as the Bears deficiency at the quarterback position. Since the Bears recently traded for Jay Cutler, maybe this second historically bad Second City position will also receive an upgrade. Joakim Noah's arc is finally trending upward. As awful as I thought his acquisition was on Draft day (and he didn't help him himself with the infamous Dean of Clown College outfit), he's kind of fulfilling the roles (interior defense and rebounding, unfortunately horrendous foul shooting as well) that Ben Wallace was supposed to during his brief and disappointing stay in town. Noah's even started to act like less of an immature thug off the court, and says he's serious about bulking up to augment his game. Even if that happens, he's not a big time scorer and the Bulls will best be served in the free agent market trying to complement him down low.
2. Getting up Front About It - The Bulls' biggest need is obviously a coach who cares about strategic substitution, game-planning and decision making, since Vinny Del Negro did little of those things during this season. (To his credit, he did get better down the stretch and in the postseason, but he still has miles to go) After that, the team obviously needs front line consistency. Some people think Tyrus Thomas might still one day be a star, but they must be drinking red Kool-Aid, or be wearing LSU-colored goggles, because he's progressed into just being mediocre, not actually good. Thomas developed a good jump shot and does dominate the league's weakest caliber of players at the four, but he doesn't seem interested in obtaining an actual post move and he's still clueless as to what is going on within the offense much of the time.
3. Back court scoring - This need disappears if Ben Gordon stays put. If he goes, they'll need somebody to take the scoring load off Rose to let him be more of a distributor. It's hard to say what this team definitely "needs" because they have a big collection of average to slightly-above-average players. There are needs, but other than low-post offense, it's not centrally glaring. Other than Rose, they have no superstars or anyone with superstar potential. (Luol Deng's contract, which will pay him $10 million-plus per year through 2014, is superstar, but his talent certainly is not) This team has plenty of young players and "projects," so they should be concentrating on veterans, not rookies to help them. Can they package their picks and excess amount of jump-shooters into something special?
4. Defense - Vinny doesn't care if his players defend, or even seem to care if the Bulls even look like they're trying to defend. Pax fired Scott Skiles in a Dickensian manner on Christmas Eve 2007, and the team has severely lacked any sort of quality defensive play since then. Ben Gordon doesn't play defense, yet he looks All-Defensive team next to Derrick Rose. DeJuan Blair or a really physical defender in his mold would be a good fit.