My mindset last night when I wrote this was coming from overall disappointment in the franchise, not in the particular picks. While I would've gone with Blair, I don't want to come across as one of the types who thinks he can scout this draft because he read what other people scouted. That said, it's still a headscratcher that they couldn't use #26 on Blair. Even if Blair did get obese and his legs fell off and ultimately had a Mike Sweetney-esque career, that's still solid value for a 26th overall pick...with a chance that it'd turn out much much better.
But what drafting James Johnson and Taj Gibson means is entirely up to the context in which this roster is re-formed in the next couple months:
Say a consolidation trade for another starter happens (and clearly some are being given away around the leage). Gibson is a high-floor frontcourt player (practically already a vet at 24) who can hopefully soak up some minutes if the roster is depleted. Johnson projects to be the kind of 'power three' that the Bulls don't have, and certainly they could use depth at the SF/PF position, with Tim Thomas and Linton Johnson taking that role to end last season. I wonder how quickly Johnson can be ready (or at least how quickly at least some of his contributions can be ready, if not the whole package), but this analysis at least gives some credence to him being worth a shot. And if Tyrus indeed goes in a trade, it won't be the worst thing to have a replacement 'project'.
But if this is just the start of a season-long 'stay the course', it stinks. Getting two more players on rookie deals could just mean cost-cutting. Sorry: 'rebuilding'. And KC Johnson floats this alarming subtext:
The addition of two forwards brings into question the future of Tyrus Thomas, whose window to extend his rookie contract opens July 1. Historically, the Bulls have been reluctant to extend rookie contracts in the first summer of eligibility, and adding Johnson and Gibson crowds the frontcourt further.
Ah yes, lets already get Organizational leverage against the soon-to-be 23 year old just in case he actually wants to be paid soon. Or maybe they'll just dump him and sell Johnson to us as another Thomas.
(And the Bulls never extend deals early , unless you're Kirk Hinrich. Or maybe they'll offer an early extension to you and bash you if you don't sign it...whichever.)
So is this the plan? Figure you have Derrick Rose, no need to try and win right away (again, despite the unprecendeted position of strength the Bulls are in compared to the rest of the league) and get more rookies, more cheap contracts. Not only will Ben Gordon be allowed to walk, they already have to plan for a hardball negotation with Tyrus Thomas a year in advance?
I don't think the picks on Thursday in and of themselves indicate either way which direction the Bulls are going this offseason. But at the very least it took away an opportunity of the 'big trade' route: there's only one draft night. July 1st will prove to be another chance.
But to be honest, if the plan all along was to simply hold back, ride that magical playoff loss into another average season, and pick up a couple rookies along the way in case existing players are let go...it's really nothing against Johnson and Gibson: I wouldn't have cared who was taken at either spot. It's too long a time until July 2010, and plenty of other teams with real ambition aren't staying so content.