Ed.’s note: Here at the Digest, we’re all about giving the people what they want (mostly because if the people want something from us, that means there are, in fact, people, which is reassuring, but I digress). So the staff jumped at the following idea provided by faithful reader Nick Agneta: “I know you and the guys there have your favorite parent teams. How about each one of you pick two D-Leaguers who you each think could help your favorite NBA team and explain why you would want them on that team and whether they could realistically make and help that team?”
Nick, your wish is our command. Over the next three days, you’ll see three of the league’s marquee franchises represented, as our staff members root for the Bulls, Celtics and Lakers. Matt Kolsky starts us off today with two D-League additions for his beloved Chicago Bulls...
As a Chicago Bulls fan, this exercise in frivolous player management is both easy and difficult – easy because there are plenty of holes to fill on the NBA squad, difficult not only because I hope those holes will be filled by max-salary guys like Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade or (dare I say) a certain royal Akron native, but also thanks to several warm and largely untested bodies currently residing deep on Vinny Del Negro’s bench. That said, I can easily think of two guys who could help the team…
Trey Johnson, Bakersfield: Admittedly this is somewhat of a double-homer pick, since Trey both plays for the team I work for and was a subject of one of my recent posts, but I think the data supports me. One of the Bulls’ most glaring needs is for a legitimate 2-guard – starter Kirk Hinrich and primary reserve Flip Murray are both smaller combo guards, Jannero Pargo is a midget scorer who would might very well be a dynamo in the D-League but hurts an NBA team by almost every conceivable statistical metric, and Devin Brown (for whatever reason) cannot break into the rotation and looks confused and uncomfortable whenever he sees the floor.
The lack of a real and appropriately sized shooting guard in Chicago is an epidemic that dates back to the departure of a certain #23 and includes such embarrassing names as Corey Benjamin and Ron Mercer. Johnson, while he may not actually check in at the 6’6″ he’s listed at for NBA.com purposes (sorry, Trey) is certainly bigger than Murray or Hinrich and more suited to be a reserve off-guard.
Trey’s 21.5 ppg average would put him seventh in the D-League if he had played enough games to qualify. He is an accomplished scorer who dominated at the NCAA level at Jackson State (it doesn’t hurt that he put his diverse, creative and efficient scoring skills on display with a 21-shot, 41-point effort at Austin on Sunday night) and he has clearly worked hard on his ability to handle and distribute the ball, as evidenced by his 20-assist performance in his second game and 6.9 apg average.
Granted, the latter doesn’t exactly make him a “legitimate” 2-guard, but I love Trey’s ability to score in a lot of different ways and it can’t hurt that his PG skills have improved. Perhaps most importantly, Trey is an exceptionally under control player.
Watching D-League basketball every night has made me cherish this aspect of his game; so many guys are prone to what might be called fits of frantic – sudden apparent losses of all sense that lead to turnovers, bad shots and all other manner of frustrating garbage. Trey, for the very most part, is free of this malady. Would that I could say the same for guys on the Bulls current roster, most notably the aforementioned Pargo.
All in all, I think Johnson could fit quite well with the Bulls, and I can tell you right now as a fan that I’d prefer to watch Trey on the floor than Pargo, who has logged 13.1 minutes per game thanks to injuries (and despite 34.8% FG shooting [vomit]).
Alexander Johnson, Sioux Falls: Perhaps I’m cheating by choosing two players who have participated in a total of 33 D-League games this year, but I would point out (at the risk of repetitive arguments) that Johnson’s 23.0 ppg would put him fifth in the league if he had played enough games to qualify.
As most NBA fans probably realize, another of the Bulls’ most glaring needs is a scoring big man. Recent drafting has netted a couple of exciting and athletic young bigs in Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, Hakim Warrick does a good job of filling Tyrus Thomas’ tremendously-athletic-but-largely-unskilled-PF position, and Brad Miller is a great piece off the bench, but Chicago really doesn’t have anyone that can score down low.
In his time with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Johnson has been an impressively efficient scorer. His 57.1% FG shooting is complemented nicely by the fact that he shoots a D-League-best 12 free throws per game at a 75.8% clip, and his +37.5 Efficiency/48Min rating puts him behind only three-time call-up Mike Harris and two-time Cavs assignee Darnell Jackson, the latter of whom played only two games for Erie this year.
In other words, Johnson has been the most efficient scoring big in the D-League this year, and the Bulls clearly need a big who can score. Looking around the D-League there are not many PF/C’s who score much, especially on the interior, so Johnson is really the only available guy who fits the bill.
Granted I’m hoping (if not expecting) that Chris Bosh will be in a Chicago uniform next season, so hopefully this is all moot. But for now I think Johnson could help, and lord knows Jerome James isn’t doing anything with that roster spot.