Who Is Joe Johnson? Believe it or not, this will be Joe Johnson’s fifteenth NBA season, but, chances are, you’ve hardly noticed this ageless wonder grow old. Johnson has filled many roles over his borderline Hall of Fame career, including seven All-Star appearances and an understatedly great average of 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. He’s a quiet dude, unassuming, but a threat to go supernova on the court at any moment. Johnson’s clutch fourth quarter moments have earned him a slew of various identities like Iso-Joe and Joe Jesus and you can always count on him getting his touches late in the game.
But, at the same time, he’s more than happy to hop in the backseat when any of his teammates are going off as well. Joe Johnson is here to play basketball, make no mistake. He seems uninterested in the superstar culture and social media frenzy, but has been the undeniable rock of this franchise since it moved to Brooklyn in 2012, having missed just 15 games over the last three years.
Big Stat: 20.3% — the usage percentage for Johnson in 2014-2015, his lowest in a Brooklyn uniform. Without Deron Williams in town anymore, there’s a chance this number could go back up, but strong seasons from Sergey Karasev, Wayne Ellington, and Bojan Bogdanovic would go a long way towards combatting the need for an Iso-Joe return.
Strengths: A little bit of everything.
2014-15 recap: Joe Johnson has been one of the NBA’s most consistent players over the last decade, so is there anything really new to say about him? Level-headed All-Star scores 15 points, chips in 4 assists and 4 rebounds along the way could be copy and pasted for nearly any year of his career. Ultimately, Joe kept on being Joe. That’s why fans in Brooklyn still like him despite the mass exodus of Williams, Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett over the last two years. He’s still here, and that matters.
Joe Johnson and Deron Williams were not huge fans of each other. Quiet Joe Johnson — who has tweeted just eight times since last November, all retweets — famously put out this message after a strange Nets win in Orlando. Then, it was suggested over the summer that nobody was as excited about Williams’ departure than Johnson was. So perhaps we haven’t see a truly happy Joe Johnson in Brooklyn yet. It wouldn’t be outrageous to suggest we haven’t seen his best. But, remember, even if he’s not happy, he’s still consistent, hardworking, and generally healthy.
2015-2016 Outlook: Once again, Johnson will be depended on for a healthy glut of points every night, especially without Williams to help carry the load. Shane Larkin, Jarrett Jack, and the rest of the shooting guards can be streaky, so Johnson will have to provide the consistent, dependable effort he’s done for so long. Most of the Nets success this season will come from the inside-out: they’ll likely put Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez in positions to score in the paint, and then kick it out to Johnson and co. once the defense collapses. Johnson must be able to hit those open shots and keep the offense afloat when everybody else is struggling.
What a good season for Johnson would look like: A good season for Johnson would see him hover around 20 points per game, with a slight uptick in his three-point percentage — his 36% from downtown last year was his lowest since the 2010-2011 season. In doing so, he vindicates the Nets’ decision to choose him over Williams, becomes a more vocal leader in the locker room, and brings the franchise to their fourth consecutive playoff berth.
What a bad season for Johnson would look like: Age continues to take its toll as the younger guards, like the aforementioned Bogdanovic, Karasev, and Wayne Ellington, eat into his regular season playing time. Johnson can no longer turn one-on-ones into wine, and the seven-time All-Star takes a backseat to a franchise desperately trying to get younger. His contract expires and the NBA’s most-made-fun-of contract ends not with a bang, but with a whimper.