Friday, October 02, 2009

SLAM Online Top 50: Whitaker: Joe Johnson, #20

Lang Whitaker's explanation of why Joe Johnson is 20th best player in the NBA:
Joe’s stats as a Hawk are tremendous: He’s played 82, 82 and 79 games over the last four years. He was sixth, second, second and third in the NBA in minutes. He has totaled more points and more assists than any other player on the Hawks each of the last four seasons. He’s averaged at least 20 points per game every season as a Hawk. The last three seasons, the coaches in the Eastern Conference have selected Joe Johnson as an All-Star.

The first play of every game, the Hawks run a pin-down for Joe. Like clockwork. At the end of every game, the ball is always in Joe’s hands. He’s rarely flashy, just steady. He’ll cross you over, pull up and drain the J. Whenever the ball leaves his hands to go to a teammate, it’s a little unsettling.

Is Joe Johnson the 20th best player in the NBA? At least. He’s the best player on one of the 8 best teams in the NBA. Without Joe Johnson, the Hawks aren’t what they are right now. For better and for worse. It is what it is.

Some of you may disagree. But I’ll disagree with you. And I’m right.
I don't know that Lang's right, but his argument is eminently reasonable and defensible. My argument has never been that Joe Johnson is not a good player rather that the cost of acquiring him was exorbitant in and of itself relative to his ability and the organization's overrating of Johnson appeared both to inhibit them from drafting a true franchise player and overwork him to the point of diminishing returns. It's an organizational flaw not a Joe Johnson flaw.

Becoming the (roughly) 20th-best basketball player in the world is a tremendous accomplishment for an individual. Due to the distribution of talent it's not tremendous for a team to build itself around the 20th-best basketball player in the world because his value will be closer to 60th-best player than the 5th-best player. Especially so if the team doesn't use him wisely.

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