by DeMarco Williams

Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 2. Al Pacino’s 88 Minutes. Pizza Hut’s stuffed-crust pies.

See, if we all just calmed down and thought things through, we’d come up with lots of instances when great folks did forgettable things. That said, it’s probably best that we put Joe Johnson’s ‘10-11 campaign behind us. During a season that showcased the so-so stat line of 18, 4 and 4, the Atlanta Hawks‘ standout played without much urgency. Sure, he was an All-Star. He just wasn’t a star all the time.

Many of the game’s great shooting guards have gone through similar years though. Earl “The Pearl” Monroe had ’72. Reggie Miller had ’99. And if we’re being completely honest, Brandon Roy, Tyreke Evans and Andre Iguodala’s ‘11 weren’t the stuff of Springfield lore either. So, do all the folks down in A-town a favor and cut Joe some slack. His last season was substandard, but his next one will make up for it.

M. Night Shyamalan. Lauryn Hill. Barack Obama.

Clearly, Joe Johnson isn’t the only big name with consistency issues. We saw glimmers of the man’s greatness this past January when he averaged 26 per for the month. And then there was the 2011 postseason when he scored 20 a night in six home games vs Orlando and Chicago. But because the Little Rock native was cashing a $16 million annual check, the media rightfully said it wasn’t enough. In fact, by the time the Hawks had checked out of the Playoffs—Johnson did have a five-point stinker against the Magic on April 26—the masses had joined in the stoning.

People were quick to call Johnson out for a 15-point outing here and there, but little did they care to focus on the fact that Joe was ailing. For half of the season the quiet assassin was dealing with serious elbow and thumb issues. Elbow. Thumb. Two pretty vital weapons to a shooting guard’s arsenal, no? He’d miss 10 games for the injuries. Heaven only knows how many others he played through hurt.

It’s cool, though. That’s all in the past. The only thing you need to worry about now is the spot on the right baseline of the Philips Arena that’s gonna get worn out from a healthy Joe Johnson’s 20-feet daggers.

Know why else ’10-11 was such an anomaly? Joe is too good for a repeat so bad. Lest we forget that the five-time All-Star had five straight campaigns where he averaged over 20 per game.

And for two, he’s focused. Johnson didn’t get wrapped in all that playing overseas mess. He stayed home. Got some rest. Worked out. Polished his game.

Robert Downey Jr. Kurt Warner. General Motors.

We all love good comeback stories. Joe Johnson’s ’11-12 will be one to remember.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
RankPlayerTeamPositionPos. Rank
50Luol DengBullsSF8
49Andrew BogutBucksC7
48Ray AllenCelticsSG9
47Marc GasolGrizzliesC6
46David WestHornetsPF15
45Kevin MartinRocketsSG8
44Andrew BynumLakersC5
43Brandon JenningsBucksPG11
42Lamar OdomLakersPF14
41Gerald WallaceBlazersSF7
40Brook LopezNetsC4
39Joakim NoahBullsC3
38Carlos BoozerBullsPF13
37Kevin GarnettCelticsPF12
36Eric GordonClippersSG7
35Tony ParkerSpursPG10
34Andre Iguodala76ersSG6
33Al JeffersonJazzPF11
32Al HorfordHawksC2
31Stephen CurryWarriorsPG9
30Tim DuncanSpursPF10
29Josh SmithHawksPF9
28Manu GinobiliSpursSG5
27Tyreke EvansKingsPG8
26Rudy GayGrizzliesSF6
25John WallWizardsPG7
24Danny GrangerPacersSF5
23Monta EllisWarriorsSG4
22Joe JohnsonHawksSG3

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.