So James Johnson has been traded to the Sacramento Kings for a 2nd round pick.
James Johnson has been the best wing defender (and possibly best defender period) on the Raptors, since he was traded for, a year and a half ago. While he had his troubles on offense, and he’s never going to be a star, this is a guy who had the 4th highest PER, 2nd highest Block Percentage, 2nd highest Defensive Rating, highest Defensive Win Share and 4th highest Win Share on the team. And he was just 24 years old. And for what it’s worth, he was the only returning Raptor I gave an Exceeds Expectations grade. And now he’s gone for a second round pick.
Now, I have no idea what incident caused Dwane Casey to bench Johnson, last season, but I can only guess that it was the main reason he was shipped out of town. I’ve heard one rumour that is completely unfounded and will do everyone a favour by not repeating it here.
Again, I don’t think Johnson is a game changer, but he has a skillset that could make him a perfect role player off the bench. He’s a versatile defender who can defender quicker guys on the perimeter or bigger guys on the block. He’s a rim protector and pretty good, and good timely, rebounder. He’s also a good ball handler for his size and a willing passer. He’s a consistent jumpshot away from being a good player in this league.
The part I find frustrating about this whole thing is that, on paper, he is everything Bryan Colangelo and Casey say they want in a player. He’s versatile, good defensively and, seems to at least, work hard when he’s on the court.
The reason for this post, though, wasn’t to talk about what the Raptors are losing with Johnson leaving. It’s to talk about threads. Now I’m not claiming this is not anything but interesting trivia, and it’s obviously not as simple as I will be boiling it down to. It is interesting, though, and possibly a manual on how to progressively downgrade assets.
With James Johnson being turned into a second round pick, it appears whoever the Raptors draft with that second round pick is what they ultimately got for Chris Bosh. What I mean by that is that Chris Bosh was turned into a trade exception and first round pick. The trade exception was turned into Jerryd Bayless, who was let go, and the first round draft pick was traded for James Johnson, who was just traded for a second round pick. So Colangelo was able to turn the 4th pick in the 2003 draft into a second round pick.
Was it fun following that one? Try this one…
When Colangelo took over as GM of the Raptors, one of his first orders of business was trading Charlie Villanueva for T.J. Ford, who was eventually traded, along with Rasho Nesterovic (who the Raptors got for Matt Bonner) and a first round pick (that turned into Roy Hibbert) for Jermaine O’Neal, who, in turn, was traded for Shawn Marion. Marion, of course, was traded in a rather convoluted way, for Hedo Turkoglu, Antoine Wright and, eventually, Marco Belinelli. Wright was eventually let go, Belinelli was traded for Julian Wright (who was also eventually let go), and Turkoglu was eventually traded for Leandro Barbosa, who was eventually traded for a 2nd round pick that became Tomislav Zubčić.
Did you follow all that?
Here’s a map to help with things…
So, basically, the Raptors turned Charlie Villanueva, Matt Bonner and Roy Hibbert into Tomislav Zubčić, a late second round pick that will probably never play a minute for the Raptors. Maybe it’s not that simple, but it does give you a bit of a picture of how things unfolded.
When Colangelo took over the Raptors, they had four pretty good assets: Chris Bosh (a perennial All-Star), Charlie Villanueva (All Rookie 1st team), a #1 pick and cap space (about $10 million). 6 years later, those assets have turned into two second round picks and Andrea Bargnani. And all the Raptor fans got out of those 6 years were two first round playoff losses and a fair amount of frustration.
Garbajosa was waived. Anthony Parker left as a free agent. Kapono was traded for Reggie Evans who left as a free agent. Hedo Turkoglu was traded for Barbosa, who was traded for a second round pick that became Tomislav Zubčić. Jarrett Jack was traded for Jerryd Bayless who was let go. Only Linas Kleiza remains, and that’s probably because his contract makes trading him difficult, and he happens to be from the same country that Jonas Valanciunas is from. So after spending tens of millions of dollars, the Raptors now have Kleiza and Zubčić to show for it.
In those six years, Colangelo has failed to acquire one All Star, any post season award winner and only Bargnani and Garbjosa appeared on any post season team, the All Rookie first team. Unfortunately neither player has built on that honour.
One of the things I’ve liked about Colangelo is his ability to pick up undervalued assets for relatively little. Marco Belinelli, Jerryd Bayless and James Johnson were all players who looked to have talent, but weren’t getting a chance to show it in the situations they were in. Colangelo traded for all of them, they all showed flashes of why Colangelo traded for them, but he ultimately gave up on them and only has a second round pick to show for all of them. In each case, he bought low, then sold lower. Not exactly the best way to manage your assets.
So while there may have been very good reason to get rid of James Johnson, it did add to a resume that really makes one wonder how he still has a job. And on that note…