Joe Johnson was recently named to the All-NBA 3rd team and this summer he will be one of the top marquee free agents to be pursued. In all likeliness, he will accept a max contract.
Is he that good?
Johnson is about as unselfish a player as you can get from an All-Star. He has great length, as well as handle and passing from the shooting guard position. He is also willing to defend, which you can’t say about many all-stars. He is very talented and his stats back up his worth as a 20, 5, and 5 guy.
However, despite being guy on the 3rd team, he is not a go-to player down the stretch. Compare him to his mate on the 3rd team, Brandon Roy, and you see a different story. In the fourth quarter, Roy is the guy the Blazers go to time and time again. They usually run the high pick and roll with Aldridge, and Roy is the guy who brings them home. Johnson, on the other hand, maintains his unselfish play regardless of the point in the game. Time and time again the Hawks look more towards Crawford or a mismatch they can create–if teams switch the ball screen weave. As we have seen in the playoffs from the Hawks (last night), they fall apart in the fourth in large part due to their all-star not taking over. The very good teams have that player who takes them home. The Lakers go to Kobe, the Cavs to Lebron, and the Suns have Nash running the pick and roll with Amare. Joe Johnson does not provide this type of clutch play for them.
Most alarming is that Johnson seems to tail off in the playoffs. He has a career 41% FG percentage in the playoffs and his scoring average drops by about 3 PPG compared to his season average. His long range shooting also declines. This year he is only shooting 25% from three-point range. Big-time players pick it up in the playoffs, but we aren’t seeing that from Johnson.
Overall, Johnson is a great player, but he would be ideal as the second option in a one-two punch. When free agency hits this summer, it would be great for him to go pair up with the likes of Dwyane Wade or LeBron James. His unselfishness would make them better, and he would not have to be the go-to guy down the stretch where he is taking over games. Do you give him the max to be that that guy? Probably, but I wouldn’t build a team around him.