FanPost

Season Preview: Joe Johnson

This is an excerpt of a season preview post I'm working on for the Brooklyn Nets:

20130422_ajl_aw8_253

Photo from SB Nation

Metric

Joe Johnson

Shooting Guards in 2012-2013

Games Played

72

51

Minutes per game

36.7

21

True Shooting percentage

52.1

53.8

Assist rate

16.79

17.07

Turnover rate

9.9

10.45

Usage rate

21.7

19.73

Rebound rate

4.9

6.4

PER

14.1

15

Win Shares per 48

.092

.100

I'll admit, I'm not much of a Joe Johnson fan. I didn't want the Nets to pick him up when the news of their interest in him broke, and I wasn't feeling his play in the early part of the season. Prior to the season, here's what commenter extraordinaire ____key wrote this about Johnson:

So what is the story about Joe Johnson? At the very least - if we are to believe even the impression of the advanced stats - he has been a high-volume scorer who has scored at historically low efficiency marks in terms of TS% and he has already entered into a zone of historical decline. Does this mean he is a bad player? No. It means he is extremely high-priced and relatively inefficient as far as elite scorers go, and probably will become more inefficient as we go. He no doubt has lots of intangibles that a vet big-time scorer has, things that will simply win games for the Nets, but there is a picture here to be thought about. In a way the Nets had to make this move in order to leverage themselves into legitimacy - a big franchise defining move coinciding with the Brooklyn rebranding - but if we take the wide view they are vaulting into playoff and merchandising relevance on something of a long bet: that Joe Johnson will not decline as quickly with age as he should, and he is a much better scorer than the TS% story tells.

Despite the multiple instances of late game heroics, it was a pretty disappointing season. As expected, with the presence of Lopez & Williams, Johnson had a lesser role on offense compared to his glory days in Atlanta. His usage rate this year was the lowest it had been since his final season in Phoenix (and that team had Amar'e, Shawn Marion and Steve Nash in their primes). Generally speaking, the more possessions you use, the less efficient you become, and vice versa.

When we take a look at Johnson's shooting performance, we can see where he struggled the most. He only shot 48.6 percent inside of eight feet, the second lowest mark on the team and one of the lowest in the NBA. As a point of reference, essentially shot the same percentage on the same amount of attempts as Reggie Evans. He isn't nearly as aggressive going to the basket as he used to be, as evidenced by the low amount of field goal attempts near the rim and trips to the line. Johnson only got to the line two times a night, his lowest since his final season in Phoenix.

If we ignore his failures inside of eight feet, then Johnson's offensive game starts to look a little bit better. Johnson's strictly a jump shooter these days (91 percent of his field goal attempts were jumpers), and he shot 42.4 percent from the midrange last year, one of the better percentages in the Association. He's still a capable three point shooter, shooting 37 percent from behind the arc.

How well can a one legged man do in an ass-kicking contest playoff series against a very physical team? Not very well. Johnson's plantar fasciitis hindered him throughout most of the series, and it really showed in Game 7. Johnson shot 2-14 and scored only 6 points in only 38 minutes. Johnson has developed a bit of a rep for being a disaster in the playoffs throughout the years, and he has been on the receiving end of tons of criticism. Here are just some samples from this past postseason:

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Joe Johnson was the goat for the Nets, picking a bad game to choke. He scored just six points on 2-14 shooting, going 1-for-9 from behind the arc. The shooting guard, making nearly $20 million this season, boasted of the Nets' supremacy in training camp, declaring brooklyn was better than the Knicks and could topple the Heat.

Moke Hamilton of SNY:

Although Johnson is still a very productive player, he is on the downside of his career and is owed a cap clogging $69 million over the next three seasons. For better or for worse, he is here to stay.

Whether or not he remains welcomed, though, likely depends on whether or not he is able to come up big when it counts most. And fair or not, despite the game winning shots and the late game heroics, star players need to come up big when it counts most, and on Saturday night, Johnson did not.

Tom Lorenzo of NetsDaily:

Johnson had just two back-to-back awful possessions, as it got to the point where you had to wonder whether he was best served on the bench. At the 9-minute mark in the fourth, Johnson was 2-of-10 for six points with three turnovers.

your friendly BullsBlogger of Blog a Bull:

... Joe Johnson was a complete no-show.

Mark Canaizzaro of the New York Post did have something nice to say about Joe:

Without what Johnson brought to the team, the scheduled Rihanna concert would have taken place at Barclays Center last night, not Game 7 with a berth in the Eastern Conference semifinals on the line.

And with that as the backdrop, Johnson heads into this season with a lot to prove. He'll more than likely be the fourth option on offense, and that should help with his efficiency. He'll have plenty of good looks in this lineup as well as more space to work with on offense now that Wallace is gone and Evans will see a decline in his minutes. Johnson isn't a spot up shooter (only 46 percent of his makes were assisted on), so he can be counted on to successfully create his own shot opportunities. As he has aged, Johnson has attacked the rim less and less, so he's been relying more on his midrange game. Look for that trend to continue this year as the space, as well as great passing ability of Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett will create some good looks for the former All-Star. Coach Kidd (still feels weird saying that) declaring that he won't be overly reliant on isolation plays should help Johnson out as well.

The Nets weren't much different defensively with Johnson in/out of the game, and that figures to be the case this year. The additions of Garnett & Kirilenko should help take the Nets from an OK defense to an elite one pretty soon. Johnson isn't the type of defender he was back in Atlanta, but he isn't offensive on this side. I'm also really curious as to what Lawrence Frank will come up with defensively. He had a great amount of success as the defensive coordinator in Boston, and that should continue with Joe & the rest of the Nets.

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