No. 18 Joe Johnson

Joe JohnsonPresent-day critics of Joe’s act like to point out that he’s had consecutive postseasons of poor play. Maybe all the stage lights are too much for the reserved 29-year-old. Maybe they’re not. In nine regular season contests last year against the NBA’s elite (L.A. Lakers, Cleveland and Boston), Joe averaged a handsome 23.7 points a night. Dude doesn’t vanish amidst pressure.

But for this next act, he’s got to do more of it more often.

The 2010-11 campaign will, of course, be the first after the summer of shenanigans. Guys all over the League have something to prove. LBJ has to show a South Beach relocation was smart. Amar’e’s gotta demonstrate how he can carry a load by his lonesome. And Johnson, a four-time all-star, has to let everyone outside the Hawks front-office know that he’s worth six years/$119 million. Some say the only way he can do that is by guiding Atlanta to the Eastern Conference crown. Not so. What he will need to do, however, is pull a David Blaine-like sleight of hand, hoping people look one direction while he’s working his magic elsewhere.

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