Joe Johnson: Elite or Not Elite
This article has been and been on my mind for quite some time now. For months I have been watching and dissecting Joe Johnson’s game. Many argue that he is not a “go- to guy”, or a player that can lead a title contender. Do I believe that’s true? YES! Johnson seems to be past his prime, and at 31 years of age the 19 million dollar a/ year player had without a doubt his worst season in almost a decade. He averaged 16.3 points per game while shooting a disastrous .423% from the field (worst since 2002-2003 season). BUT a majority of the year Johnson was hampered with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. During the (2012-2013) NBA season Joe was hot/cold, and showed glimpses that he still had some game left. Then at other times his game looked hideous; most recent was Game 7 of the ECF. In that game Joe shot 2-14 (0.14%) scored 6 points in 38 minutes of action, in a back breaking (99-93) loss to the Bulls.
How I decide whether a player is elite or not has to do with a number of different things. I mentioned on twitter (@jdotbras) “Joe Johnson (@thejoejohnson7) is the third best shooting guard in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade”. IMO Johnson is “NOT” elite, though he possesses all the tools to be labeled such. This big physical guard from Little Rock, AR stands 6’7 and weighs 240 lbs. Johnson has a surprising handle for a guard his size, and obtains the ability to create space with his size. He is a much underrated passer, for his career Joe is averaging (4.5) assists per game. Defensively has been one of the better on ball wing defenders, and has been an adequate rebounder.
The problem everyone including myself has with Joe is his desire and will to win in the playoffs.
In 11 seasons in the NBA Joe Johnson has NEVER been past round 2 of the NBA playoffs. Many do not realize that in the 2001 NBA Draft he was selected 10th overall by the Boston Celtics. He broke out in the 2004-2005 season in his stint with the Phoenix Suns. Johnson averaged 18.8 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game, also shot 50% from the field that season. On August 19, 2005 he signed with the Atlanta Hawks in a sign and trade, where the Suns acquired Boris Diaw and draft picks. In 7 seasons with Atlanta Joe averaged 20.9 points per game, but has a career playoff scoring average of a measly 16.7 points per game. Johnson has been labeled as a FRANCHISE player by many because of the fat contract he received on July 4, 2010. It was one of the largest contracts in NBA history, the Hawks inked J.J. to a 6 year $119 million dollar deal to stay in Atlanta.
I believe people expected too much because of the large contract he was signed to. The fact is he’s really just an “Average Joe”, and until he can get that cold hearted killer instinct he will remain an average Joe. Don’t get me wrong, I love his game- he can shoot the three, and post up smaller guards. Also we know J.J. is a bona-fide scorer, he can finish at the cup and knock down free throws as well (.798%). Johnson is honestly just a REALLY good second option, never struck me as a SUPERSTAR although I admire his style of play. Some can argue the fact that he is a superstar, Joe is in fact a 6x All Star , and was a Third Team All- NBA selection in 2010. At this point in his career I believe it is too late for him to be ELITE but he can be a key piece; especially on this Brooklyn Nets basketball team, where you have a premiere point guard in Deron Williams. Then when you plug in top 5 center Brook Lopez, Joe can afford to be a third option. Basically be a guy that puts up points, makes smart plays, and provides serviceable defense. I have been back and forth about how I feel about Johnson because of his inconsistencies throughout his career. One thing I can say about Joe Johnson is that he does have a small portion of clutch gene in him. This season alone Johnson has made his fair share of buzzer beaters and game-winners. That means nothing in the regular season so my question is Will Joe ever get it done??
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