Ranking the NBA’s 30 Go-To Guys (#12: Joe Johnson)

11.10.10 7 years ago 7 Comments

Joe Johnson (photo. Zach Wolfe)

Who do you want your offense to run through with the game on the line? Counting down from 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…

JOE JOHNSON, Atlanta Hawks
There is a very good chance that Joe Johnson is as good right now as he’s ever going to get. Which is very good: Solid 20-point, 5-board, 5-dime type, All-Star staple, spontaneous combustions of 35 to 40 points some nights, no stranger to game-winners and daggers, one of the 15 to 20 best in the world at what he does for a living.

That version of Joe Johnson has led the Hawks to the brink of serious NBA championship contention, and is certainly worth “franchise” status. But in securing Johnson with a six-year, $120 million contract this summer, were the Hawks banking on getting the player described above, or banking on something better?

Because he’s closer to 30 years old than 20, majority opinion says Johnson has reached his potential. But considering that Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki continued to improve after they hurdled 30, it’s not quite time to delete the “rising” from Johnson’s “rising star” label.

As a crunch-time option, Johnson is among the best in the League. Last season he scored 39.5 points per 48 minutes of “clutch time,” according to 82games.com, eighth-best in the NBA. Johnson shot 46 percent from the field, 44 percent from three-point range, and 88 percent at the free-throw line in the clutch, all higher than his regular season numbers.

Johnson’s bread and butter is his jump shot, which is effective in both catch-and-shoot and clear-out situations. He can also use his 6-7, 240-pound frame and point guard’s handle to get in the lane and create layups and free-throw opportunities.

As go-to moves go, however, Johnson has one of the most difficult. Every crunch-time performer has a preferred move: When Carmelo Anthony gets the ball, he wants that step-back jumper from the elbow. Paul Pierce wants his two-dribble pull-up going right. Tyreke Evans wants to use his crossover to get into the lane and lay it in off-glass. Johnson’s move is when he goes left, takes off from one leg as he approaches the baseline, and twists his body to shoot with his right hand off the window. He’s almost mastered the art of high-arcing it over shot-blockers like Dwight Howard, but it’s still a tough shot.

This summer proved that Johnson is, though low-profile, one of the most polarizing players in the League. Among fans and analysts, opinions are split on whether he deserved the nine-figure deal, whether he’s truly a franchise guy, whether he is as good as the stats say, whether he is really the best the Hawks have had since Dominique. His rise, like his style, has been steady. Or maybe he’s done rising. But from his current perch, Johnson has soared high enough to warrant elite status.

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13. Derrick Rose (Bulls)
14. Tyreke Evans (Kings)
15. Vince Carter (Magic)
16. Gilbert Arenas (Wizards)
17. Amar’e Stoudemire (Knicks)
18. Monta Ellis (Warriors)
19. Danny Granger (Pacers)
20. John Salmons (Bucks)
21. Rudy Gay (Grizzlies)
22. Stephen Jackson (Bobcats)
23. Baron Davis (Clippers)
24. Ben Gordon (Pistons)
25. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
26. Yao Ming (Rockets)
27. Mo Williams (Cavaliers)
28. Brook Lopez (Nets)
29. Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)
30. Michael Beasley (Timberwolves)

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