The Biggest Surprise of the Season (thus far)

As we approach the 10th game of this young season, we've got a theme to work with. Across the network this week, the blogs are discussing the biggest surprise of the season thus far (hence the title). So what's been the biggest surprise for the new look Brooklyn Nets? For me, that would be the disappointing play of Joe Johnson.

Next to Deron Williams resigning, acquiring Joe Johnson was the glamour move of this past offseason for the Nets. Just to do a quick recap, the Nets gave up Anthony Morrow, a future 1st round pick, Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar, & Deshawn Stevenson and nothing else of value for Johnson. How important was this trade?

I actually thought that's where I was going to go," he said. "I had the meetings and it kind of changed my mind because once I got out of the meeting with Dallas and saw the way they were going and the team they were putting out there, and I saw that we just made a trade for Joe Johnson and I felt like that team for a longer time would be the better team.

Deron Williams on how the Johnson trade led to him resigning with the Nets

On the day of the Johnson introductory this bit of insight from Billy King:

"This is a great day, because it's a day when we put together the best backcourt in the NBA," general manager Billy King said, alluding to pairing Johnson (four years, $89 million) with Deron Williams, who signed a max contract worth $98 million over five years.

Of course, one could make a very strong argument that King's assessment is wrong, but I'll litigate that issue some other time.

The expecttations coming into this season were high, and so far expectations haven't been met. How's this season stacking up to other swingmen and Johnson's career on the whole? Let's take a look:

Minutes per game

True Shooting %

Usage rate

Turnover rate

Assist rate

Rebound rate


Win Shares per 48

Wins Produced per 48

Joe Johnson 2012-2013

36.6 47.8 21.8 7.9 16.7 5.8 14.2 .094 .076

Swingmen (SGs & SFs) 2012-2013

21 53.1 19.27 11.08 15.27 8.4 15 .100 .100

Johnson's career

36.7 52.8 23.6 11.4 21.69 6.6 16.4 .097 .097

As far as I know he's not dealing with an injury, so what's with the terrible shooting? The answer lies in the shot locations. Johnson hasn't been a player that's operated near the basket much the past 5+ seasons, but he has been mostly successful when he's been at the rim. This year? He's shooting just 35%, which is the fifth worst mark of players who play at least 15 minutes a night. The bigger issue, and one that could have long term implications, is his midrange shooting. He's cut down on the deep two pointers (which is a great thing), but he's been disastrous from 10-15 feet. He's shooting a career low (well, from when HoopData has the info that is) 30% from 10-15 feet, which could be due to one of two things. It could be just a random cold streak (he has missed a fair amount of open shots) or it could be a new normal for him going forward. He shot 52% from the midrange in 06-07, but has settled into being a upper 30-low 40% shooter every season since. For their part, Joe & Avery Johnson aren't too concerned about it.

"Definitely. It will come together soon," the 31-year-old shooting guard said after going 3-for-13 from the field in the Brooklyn Nets' 82-74 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday afternoon. "Sooner or later, it's going to come.

"Obviously I haven't been shooting a high percentage, but I'm still feeling my way around and trying to get acclimated to the players around me."

-Joe Johnson

"Break out for what? As long as we win (it doesn’t matter),"

- Avery Johnson

If you're, like me, a strong believer in process vs. results, that Avery quote is infuriating.

It's not all bad for Johnson, as he's done a good job of limiting his turnovers, and that's helped the Nets into being a Top Ten offense in the league despite his poor shooting. On defense, he's done a solid job individually as two guards have only mustered a PER of 6.6 when being defended by JJ. In terms of his defense in the context of a lineup, the Nets have been at their best with the Williams-Keith Bogans-Johnson-Kris Humphries-Brook Lopez combination, as this grouping has a defensive efficiency of .96 in 86 minutes of game action. In all likelihood, I think this success is due to the efforts of Keith Bogans, as he's held 2 guards to a PER of 5.7 and the Nets are nine points (98.5) better on defense per 48 minutes with him on the court vs. without (107.9).

With only nine games of performance to go on, we could be in a small sample size minefield, but I think there is reason to be concerned about Johnson's play going forward. He's not finishing at the rim as well as he used to, is missing on midrange shots, the threat of the Age 30 decline and because he doesn't get to the line much anymore, good defensive teams can just force him into contested jumpers. It's early, but it's not looking good so far for one half of "The Best Backcourt of the NBA."

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