Player breakdown: James Johnson

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
4:41
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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As we get set for the upcoming Bulls season, let's take a closer look at each player on the projected roster. It’s a roster which has been the subject of more debate and excitement than any other in recent memory.

Player: James Johnson

Salary for 2010-11 season: $1,713,600, in second year of rookie deal

[+] EnlargeJames Johnson
AP Photo/Mike Roemer James Johnson will get a fresh start under new coach Tom Thibodeau.
Role for Bulls in 2010-'11: Johnson must prove to the organization that he is ready to take the next step in his development. He struggled to find minutes under former coach Vinny Del Negro and looked out of place on the floor when he did find himself in a game. To his credit, Johnson appears to have hit the gym hard this summer, losing over 20 pounds. He has the talent and athleticism to become a solid backup for new coach Tom Thibodeau and could give the Bulls even more depth behind Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver. Johnson shows flashes of becoming the player Gar Forman thought he was getting with the 16th pick in last year's draft, but up to this point he hasn't proven that he will be a productive player.

What happened this summer?: Johnson definitely got into better shape, but it didn't seem to help him on the court. He didn't play very well during summer league games and couldn't consistently hit the open looks when they did come his way. He continues to be mentioned in myriad of trade possibilities, but no other team wants to take a chance on him at the moment given what he did last season.

Best-case scenario: Johnson continues to get into better shape and improves his basketball IQ while watching copious amounts of tape with Thibodeau. He plays better defense and proves to the coaches that he can hit a mid-range jump shot when needed. He earns minutes as a spark off the bench and continues to show flashes of the player he became at Wake Forest.

Worst-case scenario: He has the same kind of year that he did a season ago. He can't find minutes under Thibodeau, he puts on the weight that he worked so hard to take off this summer, and he continues to make questionable decisions when he is on the floor. In short, he continues to make fans wonder what Gar Forman and Co. saw when they drafted him.

Bottom line: Yes, Johnson is just 23, but he is already at a critical stage of his career. He has to re-dedicate himself to the game and start making plays when given the chance. If he doesn't, it will be hard for him to ever crack a rotation in the league.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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OTHER LEADERS
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AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
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BlocksJ. Noah 1.5