By: Victor Nash
With all the talk about Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, I decided that we needed to talk more about the second tier free agents that the Nets have a better shot at snagging. Today, we are going to break down Joe Johnson.
What he’ll ask for: something around 6 years 90 million(a max)
Is he worth it: NO
His skills and what to like: For starters, Johnson is a great offensive player. He can shoot from basically anywhere, which is something the Nets lacked last season and is good at getting to the line as well. He also has better court vision than most shooting guards, as he averages 4.9 assists per game and can make the pretty pass when necessary. Johnson is a big guard at 6″7 and can properly utilize his size to get to the basket. He is a beast on isolation plays, giving the Nets a bread and butter play to run with him on the floor towards the end of games. He is sometimes too reliant on the play, however, as nearly half of his offense is just this play. The iso doesn’t let other players get involved and should strictly be reserved for the end of the game, in my opinion. Johnson didn’t run the pick and roll too much last year, but I believe that he has the skill set to run it, and with a player like Brook Lopez on the team, I think that he could be coaxed to run it. All in all, Johnson is a good offensive player, as shown by his PER of 19.3(32nd in the NBA).
The cons?: Johnson could be considered a selfish player by all means with a usage rate of 26.3%. This offsets his good assist numbers. With a good number of players on this team that need the ball to be effective(Devin Harris, Terrence Williams), this might hurt the team’s attack on offense. For being a big guard, Johnson could rebound better, as he got 7.1% of rebounds while on the floor for the Hawks last season, and averaged 4.6 rebounds in general. Not bad numbers, but was looking for more for a team that desperately needs rebounding help. He is also an older player(28) and could decline the way Michael Finley did. This is a huge worry for me, because the Nets really don’t need a player that could drop off after 2 or 3 years.
However, one of the biggest knocks on Johnson is that he is a poor defender. He allowed 109 points per 100 possessions last season, which places him as a slightly below average defender. Johnson is not a lost cause, though, and with Avery Johnson as a coach he could become a better defender in due time.
Perhaps the biggest knock on Joe Johnson is the 2010 NBA playoffs, particularly the second round. The Hawks got swept, and they lost big. Johnson played horribly, and very un-superstar like, averaging 12.8 ppg on 30% shooting and 18% shooting from 3. He also ripped Atlanta fans for booing the team after their pitiful Game 3 performance, despite the fact that they completely deserved those boos. Actions like this lead me to question whether he could be a leader on a young team, or whether he deserves a max contract.
So should the Nets get him? Under what circumstances, would they get him and what are their chances of doing so?: I believe that the Nets should pursue Johnson ONLY if they strike out on the Big Three and players like Amare, and Rudy Gay, AND if he doesn’t demand a max. Johnson is older than most players wanting a max and would be 34 by the end of his contract. He fills a need at SG, and would improve the Nets for at least another two years. If the Nets sign him and a guy like Amare or Carlos Boozer, than I think you can peg the Nets as a contending team in the East.
To answer your(my) second question, I think that teams will be reluctant to sign Johnson to a max and that the Nets will be able to sign him if they really desire him. The Nets have a better supporting cast, more money, and a better future than Atlanta and Johnson has been open to signing with the Nets especially if the Knicks don’t pursue him. The Nets only real competition would be Atlanta at that point, and they could offer him a real playmaker and PG in Harris, a future star in Brook Lopez, and a possible future star in Derrick Favors, plus another max player if he doesn’t demand 15 million or more.
All in all, I would be against signing Johnson. But I sure hope that the Knicks do.