When Johnson left Phoenix for Atlanta he spurned a chance at a championship in favor of money and field goal attempts. He doesn’t appear to regret that decision. Which is fine. There’s nothing immoral about creating a life of extremely well-paid above averageness in your chosen endeavor. Were I particularly skilled in a specific, highly valued manner, I’d probably take a similar course.
Joe Johnson’s comfort level appears vast. Unlike the more efficient Joshes Smith and Childress or the more promising Al Horford, Johnson looks comfortable playing at a modest pace, methodically milking the shot clock, and hoisting a guarded jumper before the buzzer sounds.
Unfortunately, in the leadership vacuum that engulfs the Atlanta Hawks, Joe Johnson takes on the outsized importance of a franchise player and the guy who’s happy shooting a lot of difficult shots, barely making then losing in the playoffs, and not being challenged by his head coach or younger teammates gets a serious voice in one of the two most important decisions this franchise will make in the next five years. Joe Johnson’s opinion of Mike Woodson differs from my own:
"He's done a great job this season. I'd love for him and the coaching staff to come back. Hopefully we can really, really make that happen. They have done so many good things for us this season. I've learned so much from him and he's the main reason that attracted me to come here. Hopefully, we'll keep him and all of the other guys around.”It’s possible that Joe Johnson is simply a really nice, polite guy who doesn’t really believe any of that except, one would hope, his final thought that presumably refers to re-signing Smith and Childress.
None of this diminishes the
Whatever my reservations about him in the grand, hypothetical scheme of things, Johnson is clearly the best player on the Atlanta Hawks as currently constructed. According to 82games.com*, the Hawks were almost a break even team (-0.9 pts/100 possessions) when Johnson was on the court and a dreadful team (-8.3 pts/100 possessions) when he was off the court. Two caveats: 1) Johnson played 84% of Atlanta’s minutes and they weren’t many important minutes that he sat out. 2) When Johnson was off the court, some combination of Josh Childress, Marvin Williams, an out of position point guard, Salim Stoudamire, Mario West, and Jeremy Richardson played the 2 and the 3. More than any other Hawk, Joe Johnson was better than the alternative(s) but that was not enitrely due to how much better than average he was. Even on a thoroughly thin bench, Billy Knight’s inability to acquire an NBA-quality backup for Joe Johnson stood out.
*According to the slightly more accurate (all possessions accounted for rather than estimated) Basketballvalue.com, the Hawks were -0.86 pts/100 poss with Johnson on the court and -8.05 pts/100 poss with him off the court. I’ll be using 82games.com’s numbers as a baseline for this series because they break down the on/off data so that one can look just at the Atlanta numbers for those involved in the Mike Bibby trade.
What other people thought...
No player carried a bigger load for his team this season. Johnson played 41 minutes a night, usually defended by two and sometimes three players, yet still managed to lead the Hawks in scoring and made his second consecutive All-Star Game. After a summer filled with some much-needed rest, Johnson will have to be ready to lead the charge again next season.Micah Hart credits Johnson with the Best Individual Offensive Performance, Regular Season Shot of the Year, and Post-Season Shot of the Year.
Next up: Josh Smith