When you start talking about the best swingmen in the game, the conversation always begins and ends with people like LeBron, Wade, Kobe and Pierce. Those guys are Hall of Famers. As we saw last week with our Wade. vs. Kobe post, there are differing opinions on who’s the best. Below them, there’s a second tier of swingmen who can win games, but just aren’t quite franchise talent, players like Atlanta’s Joe Johnson and Philly’s Andre Iguodala.
While most will take J.J. immediately off reflex (better scorer, better team, better offensive player), Iguodala does things that maybe two or three other players in the whole league can do. He might just be the best perimeter defender in the world, as he showed us this whole year and even last summer during the World Championships. Plus, if you’re building a championship team would you rather have $56 million locked up in Iggy (a very high number as it is) or nearly $124 million to J.J.? Atlanta will be paying Johnson nearly $25 million in 2015-16 when he’ll be 34 years old.
Iggy gives you shutdown defense and versatility. Johnson gives you a creator, a shooter. Who would you rather have?
Johnson vs. Iguodala. We argue. You decide.
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Joe Johnson is the closest thing to the Swiss Army Knife of the NBA. There’s not much the Atlanta Hawks’ guard can’t do.
He has the tightest handle of anyone 6-foot-7 or taller not named LeBron James, a picturesque jump shot and the vision of a point guard. But it’s his jumper that makes Johnson so dangerous. It’s also that jumper that makes him a better all-around basketball player than the Philadelphia 76ers’ Andre Iguodala.
Unlike Iguodala, Johnson has the perimeter game that opens up the offense for the rest of his team. Johnson can make defenders pay for over-helping off the ball and when he has possession, his outside potential keeps those defenders from dropping off Johnson and into passing lanes.
He averaged 18.2 points, 4.7 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game this season, and despite the criticism of his max contract, numbers like those have made Johnson an All-Star five times in his career.
At 240 pounds, put your average two-guard on him, and Johnson can post up and put a soft floater over the top of them in the lane. Get a big man on Johnson with a switch, and he’ll hit a three-pointer. Despite attempting 287 threes per season for 10 years, he has maintained an impressive 36.6% clip. Meanwhile, Iguodala shoots a lower percentage (33.7%) with significantly less attempts (215 per season).
That’s the difference. While Iguodala is arguably in line with Johnson as far as versatility goes, he hasn’t developed a consistent jump shot to put him into the elite company of those max contract scorers who can take over a game (though some people argue Johnson shouldn’t be in that discussion, either).
Come crunch time, give Johnson the ball and he’ll give you options. Though he won’t call for it as often as he probably should, he doesn’t lack confidence to take the last shot or make the pass to the open man once he does have the rock in his hands.
Look at Atlanta’s 88-85 Game 4 victory against Orlando in the first round. Johnson scored the final 10 points after Atlanta coach Larry Drew slid him over to the point guard slot, putting the ball in his hands.
Then, take the Game 1 victory over the top-seeded Bulls in the second round. Johnson controlled the offense, scoring 34 points in a game-deciding performance and hitting 5-of-5 from three-point land. He also recorded four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Could Iguodala put up a similar game-changing performance? Maybe once in a blue moon. But Iguodala’s lack of a perimeter offensive game ultimately makes him a Swiss Army Knife without the knife.
Andre Iguodala does more with less. The Philadelphia teams that he has played on only had one All-Star: Allen Iverson. And let’s be honest, Iverson was not in the prime of his career when Iguodala came on the scene in 2004. Now if you look at Joe Johnson, he has played with guys like Al Horford (two-time All-Star), Jamal Crawford (2010 Sixth Man of the Year) and Josh Smith. The sad thing is that the Atlanta Hawks are only slightly better than the 76ers too.
There is no doubt that Johnson is the better scorer, but Iguodala is more efficient. Johnson’s 24.7 usage rate dwarfs Iggy’s 19.7, yet Johnson only scored 4.6 more ppg in 2010-2011. Further, Johnson’s 44.3 field-goal percentage for his career loses out to Iguodala’s 46.2%.
When it comes to both ends of the floor, Iguodala has the better balance. He is arguably one of the most underrated perimeter defenders in the NBA, impressive considering Iguodala is also Philly’s go-to scorer. Few in the NBA can say that. Iguodala is also a threat for a triple-double every single night. He averaged 5.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game compared to Johnson’s four rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.
Despite all of that, Johnson still managed to make the All-Star game five times. It is a bit troubling that Iguodala has not made one? Maybe the NBA overvalues scorers? Or maybe Iggy has flown under-the-radar for way too long? Perhaps some of us basketball fans need to assess how we evaluate players because there is no doubt that Andre Iguodala is a better all-around player than Joe Johnson.
What do you think?
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