Trading Places: Joe Johnson

Well this was unexpected. Much like free agents this time of year, the trade rumors will be flying as well. Leading off this series is...


Photo from Peachtree Hoops

Take the jump and let's reacquaint ourselves with Joe Johnson.

At the moment, Johnson handles shooting guard for perennial second round fodder playoff contender Atlanta. This fall, Johnson will be entering into his twelfth professional season, and he's generally been a productive player. The main complaints against Johnson these days from the basketball world is his contract. The 2010 offseason was probably the richest free agent class in NBA history, which featured stars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki, Travis Outlaw and Joe Johnson. After the dust settled, Johnson resigned with Atlanta for 6 years and $119 million.

What would Johnson bring to the Nets on the court and how did his play compare to that of the Nets current starting shooting guard, Marshon Brooks? Let's take a look:

Minutes per game

True Shooting%

Usage rate

Assist rate

Rebound rate

Turnover rate

Win Shares per 48


Joe Johnson 2011-2012









Marshon Brooks









Shooting Guards 2011-2012









Johnson's career









The big difference between Johnson's disastrous 2010-2011 w/r/t shooting (a 51.7 TS% is bad. A 51.7 TS% when you're a key part of the offense is catastrophic.) was from behind the arc. In 2010, Johnson shot only 29.7% from three point range, which was his worst since his rookie season. There's a good reason for that, as Johnson missed time due to an injured right elbow, which required arthroscopic surgery. Johnson's shooting returned to previous levels this year, as he shot a more respectable 39% from downtown. In his better days, Johnson could attack the basket and get to the free throw line on a consistent basis (Top 10 in attempts at the basket and free throws attempted in 2006-2007). Now, he's (even) more of a jump shooter. The attempts have been declining (as they should've, with Al Horford blossoming into an All Star and the presence of Jamal Crawford), but the majority of his shots are still jumpers. This strategy had some success, as Johnson shot 43% on his deep twos (16-23 feet), which was above the league average of 38% for 2 guards. This preponderance of deep twos is probably the result of Johnson's declining skills, or playcalling. They don't call him ISO-Joe for nothing.

Johnson isn't the defender he was back in his early days. He spent a good amount of time at the small forward spot due to the Al Horford injury, and he did a decent job playing out of his natural position. Opposing 3's had a PER of 13.2 against him, which is a shade below the league average of 15. The team fared better on the defensive end when he wasn't on the court, as ATL allowed 100 points per 100 possessions without him on the court vs. 102 with him out there. Johnson isn't as athletic as he once was, and will more than likely deteriorate as a defender as he ages.

As one would expect, Johnson outperformed Brooks in a major way this year. He shot better, turned over the ball less and was able to get his teammates more involved than Brooks. I wouldn't read too much into this disparity, as Brooks is (well, was) a rookie and had to become the second offensive option when Brook Lopez went down at the beginning at the year and again at the end of the year when Deron Williams was lost to injury. One thing that would certainly have to change is his the location of his shot attempts. He's a very athletic player that has the ability to finish around the basket, so it's kind of ridiculous that 80% of his attempts were jumpshots. Wherever he ends up, he'll have a presence in the post (Horford or Lopez) and a capable point who'll get him the ball in good spots (the underrated Jeff Teague or Williams), so he should be able to get more shots around the basket area.

How would Johnson help the Nets? Even though he doesn't take as many attempts, that area would be around the basket. The Nets have been one of the worst teams in terms of finishing around the rim for six straight seasons. Johnson shot close to 67% around the basket last year, and for a team that shot 57% around the basket, any help in that area is greatly appreciated. He's also a decent enough jump shooter so that he should convert on open looks generated by Williams and Lopez.

If the rumors (note: this may change by the time you read this) are to be believed, the Hawks are looking for Brooks, Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow and basketball superstar Johan Petro in exchange for the former All Star.

After taking everything into account, would the Nets be wise to go after Joe Johnson? Yes, if he was 4 years younger and if his contract was 2 years and $35 million shorter. Since he and it isn't, stay the hell away! Johnson does represent an upgrade at the shooting guard position right now, but in a salary cap league, playing for the short term and trying to appease your star player with a player making way more than his on court production warrants is a franchise breaker waiting to happen. When the Nets go star chasing again, having a declining player in his mid 30s making $24 million makes it extremely difficult to add a key piece to the roster. Brooks may not be great (or even particularly good) right now, but Brooklyn would be best served either sticking with Brooks with the hope that he develops further or look to other shooting guards that are on the market.