Or, as Zach Lowe put it this morning at The Point Forward:
Here’s a prediction: Johnson’s absence is going to make next-to-no difference in Atlanta’s record. The Hawks started this no-Joe period 11-7 and moved to 12-7 after their home win over Memphis on Wednesday. And when he returns after 16 (on the low end) or 24 games (on the high end), Atlanta will be sitting right where it is now in the Eastern Conference hierarchy.At ProBasketballTalk, Kurt Helin sings a similar tune:
This isn’t a shot at Johnson, whose ability to create shots for himself and teammates is a valuable skill. But Johnson doesn’t get to the foul line that often for someone who dominates the ball as much as he does, and he’s not as efficient a scorer as many believe. That goes double when Johnson is shooting just 41 percent overall and 26 percent from three-point range, as he is this season.
An unintended benefit of Drew’s motion offense is that Atlanta is more ready for this now than it would have been in previous seasons. The Hawks have reverted back to their isolation-heavy routine every now and then, but they’ve mostly stuck to Drew’s system, which incorporates the traditional motion-style stuff you see everywhere, as well as some of Utah’s so-called flex sets.
My guess is that Atlanta will be fine. Its offense ranks fourth in the league, with an average of 110.7 points scored per 100 possessions. Let’s see what that number is in mid-January. The Hawks have actually played a bit better on offense this season with Johnson on the bench, and they’ve been better defensively with him off the floor for three straight seasons, according to Basketball Value. But don’t get carried away: Before this season, Atlanta’s offense had played much worse with Johnson on the bench.
This season, I think they can survive on offense, and that Johnson’s absence will make no difference defensively — particularly because it means more minutes for Williams, Atlanta’s best wing defender.
The Hawks have scorers. Mo Evans wills likely start in place of Johnson but the real key is this means more minutes for Jamal Crawford, who is finding his groove again and can light it up. Al Horford is having a career year so more of him is a good thing. Josh Smith can light it up. Mike Bibby hasn’t sucked like we expected (on offense anyway) and there are guys like Marvin Williams that can add points as well.Mark Bradley makes a similar point via the local team analogy route.
As for defense, the loss of Johnson is pretty much a wash.
The Hawks are better with a good Joe Johnson in the lineup. That’s the Johnson they need to come back from surgery, not the guy who has played the first 18 games of the season.
When he returns, he will likely find the Hawks — currently 12-7 and the third seed in the East — right about where he left them in the standings. Which leads to another question:
If the Hawks aren’t going to miss him, is he really worth the $116 million they are paying him the next six years?
Putting this together as the day transpired, I assumed there would be more pieces to quote or link. Granted, it's the day LeBron returns to Cleveland but perhaps it's a bad sign when your franchise player has surgery and few notice.
*This is me sending up the Rufus1 signal.