Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 at 8:00 am  |  65 responses

Top 50: Joe Johnson, no. 18

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by DeMarco Williams

There was a brilliant flick that came out a few years back called The Prestige. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale played rival magicians trying to one-up the other’s theatrics in 19th century England. For those not up on their illusion lingo, the “prestige” is the all-important third part of a trick. You have the pledge (a common object), the turn (said object doing something special) and, fiJoe Johnsonnally, the Voila! moment. The prestige is that key last piece that gets jaws to drop.

Joe Johnson may know nothing of the Christopher Nolan-directed gem, but it’s an undeniable truth that the young man is living out the movie’s premise. An unassuming shooting guard out of Arkansas in ‘01, some weren’t overly impressed with Joe’s pledge. Many discounted the 6-7 gunner as a career complimentary player, a good wing for the right system. Ahhh, but Johnson had a trick up his sleeve. As four so-so seasons in Boston and Phoenix and five super years in Atlanta have shown, the young man effortlessly drives to the hole, scores buckets in bunches and proves serviceable on the defensive end.

His turn was almost brilliant.

Present-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.

So, yeah, ESPN, have your “Heat Index.” Keep waiting for Superman down in Orlando. Johnson will be quietly minding his business, getting his 22, 5 and 5 every night, going to another all-star game and seeing that his team earns a No. 3 seed in the playoffs. You laughin’? Josh Smith is better (his 13-spot jump in SLAM’s ranking says as much). Al Horford is a beast. New Hawks head coach Larry Drew is bright. Marvin Williams and Jamal Crawford are ballin’ for new deals. Keep laughin’.

Still, no matter how vivid the season outlook appears, Johnson’s issues won’t just magically disappear. After saying he didn’t care if Hawks fans showed up for games or not late last season, Johnson was given a hard time in the papers. All the fuss seemed a bit much. The dude half the media said had no emotions to begin with was, in fact, being emotional. He and his trusty sidekicks were putting on a show in front of a half-empty arena. You’d be pissed too.

That same subtle fire will burn this year. How can it not? He heard you call him unworthy of the money. He sees how experts have Atlanta slated for sixth in the East. Trust and believe he’s internalized all of that and will re-channel it into something special. That, my friends, will be the third part to Joe Johnson’s performance. The prestige, if you will. Prepare to be amazed.

Player Team Position 2010 2009 2010 2009
Ray Allen Celtics SG 50 36 10 9
Gilbert Arenas Wizards SG 49 34 9 8
Lamar Odom Lakers PF 48 33 14 10
John Wall Wizards PG 47 NR 13 NR
OJ Mayo Grizzlies SG 46 46 8 12
Al Horford Hawks C 45 NR 6 NR
Jason Kidd Mavs PG 44 45 12 10
Joakim Noah Bulls C 43 NR 5 NR
LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 42 39 13 12
David West Hornets PF 41 31 12 8
Monta Ellis Warriors SG 40 NR 7 NR
Andrew Bogut Bucks C 39 NR 4 NR
Yao Ming Rockets C 38 NR 3 NR
Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 37 NR 11 NR
Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 36 NR 11 NR
Stephen Curry Warriors PG 35 NR 10 NR
David Lee Warriors PF 34 NR 10 NR
Brook Lopez Nets C 33 NR 2 NR
Gerald Wallace Bobcats SF 32 NR 7 NR
Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 31 29 6 7
Tony Parker Spurs PG 30 15 9 3
Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 29 13 9 3
Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 28 44 6 9
Josh Smith Hawks PF 27 40 8 13
Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 26 26 5 6
Al Jefferson Jazz PF 25 23 7 7
Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 24 NR 8 NR
Chauncey Billups Nuggets PG 23 19 7 5
Tyreke Evans Kings PG 22 NR 6 NR
Danny Granger Pacers SF 21 21 5 5
Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 20 32 6 9
Paul Pierce Celtics SF 19 17 4 4
Joe Johnson Hawks SG 18 20 4 4

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • JTaylor21

    DAMN, so I guess avg. a measly 13 ppg with horrible shooting numbers is grounds for receiving a 120 million dollar raise. AIN’T THAT A BI*CH!

  • http://www.twitter.com/hurstysyd Hursty

    The Prestige is a heck of a movie.
    Joe Johnson has hit that ‘Point of No Return’ (huge shout-out to Immortal Technique).

  • http://slamonline.com Kap

    So was that his twin brother that appeared in the playoffs?

  • michael

    not the most overpaid player in the division at least. Hello rashard!

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    I’d take Chauncey over JJ if I was starting a team right now, but that isn’t what this list is about, so I like this placement.

  • Groves

    @ANTONIS FOTSIS… before you even type a word… i’m a white/euro style basketball player from wayyy outside the US and i still think your a moron with no basketball knowledge… and you keep rambling crap about ANNA! its just old, the nickname hasn’t stuck, so just stop, your embarrasing yourself… if the whole of greece is like you no wonder your economy is collapsing around you… you are so dumb… you are really dumb

  • arjae828

    @ Kap…lmao !!! i was thinking the same thing! Uhm i still believe he’s overrated. Don’t think there’s any improvements he can make and his team damn sure won’t make it out of the first round. They wouldn’t have beaten Milwaukee with a healthy Bogut and they damn sure won’t stand a chance this season. 23 points in the regular season isn’t exactly impressive either. I don’t like this placement.

  • derby

    Groves@ youre a retard only for saying the whole greece is like him,please don’t react

  • http://slamonline.com MVPballer

    Yeah arjae, being 11th out of 187 players in scoring(that qualified for the list) isn’t impressive at all.

  • arjae828

    @ MVPballer. please calm down. your attempt at humor through sarcasm is both frivolous and annoying. Never said he wasn’t a good player. but 23 points? he gets iso’s, can shoot whenever he feels like it, and doesn’t really have to compete with anyone for shots. it’s impressive when your the teams focal point. but 23 points in the regular season isn’t impressive to me when measured against his playoff performances. that’s not a knock on him but give me Paul Pierce, OJ Mayo, Manu Ginobli, Monte Ellis or even Danny Granger. Not saying he doesn’t belong on the list, but I think he’s overrated. He’d be a great 3rd option on a contender, great 2nd option on a good team, or what he is now – 1st option on a team taking up a playoff spot and ruining the parody of the league. We know what ATL’s going to do. decent record, first or second round exit. Never threatening to contend, content with overpaying to stay where they are. He’s overrated, and I’m sure more people agree w/ me than you.

  • slick ric

    Twenty-three points in the regular season is very impressive, it’s the three points in the second round of the post season that aint.

  • arjae828

    i’d take rudy gay too…btw.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    WHEW! Almost had a heart attack, I thought for a hot sec it said James Johnson was number 18…

  • http://sdklff.com Jukai

    So I guess most of the SLAM staff put him high twenties low thirties and Lang put him at 1, so it evened out to this, hahaha.
    It’s not TOO bad of a spot, he has very well-rounded, impressive numbers, and so what if he doesn’t show up in the playoffs? He’s not in the top ten. Maybe a bit too high, but not atrocious.
    This has been probably the best SLAM list thus far.

  • chinesestar30

    How can you brush aside his complete no-show in the playoffs like that? So he performs well against decent teams in the regular season, that somehow excuses his postseason disaster? I love JJ but that was the most dismal postseason performance by a “star” in recent memory, that alone would merit him not being included in the top 20 for me.

  • jdn41

    the way this list is going i dont think neither nash nor duncan will make top ten
    my guess for slams top ten in no particular order(okay i lied):

  • jdn41

    well slam always undervalue nash so its not that shocking but i say duncan and melo are off the top ten judging from the way things are going

  • Overtime

    Ive only just realised Stephen Jackson isnt on this list.
    Oh dear Slam, oh dear me

  • Tupack Shackur

    I love how this year’s ranking seems to be a mashup of wrongly-valued players and writers who don’t agree with the ranking, but have to write in such a way that it makes sense.

    “the young man effortlessly drives to the hole, scores buckets in bunches and proves serviceable on the defensive end.”

    That sure sounds like the 18th best player in the NBA.

  • http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=pan&pcode=BEZ ANTONIS FOTSIS

    i don’t know much about fantasy ball but i’ve heard that salaries matter in those games. If this is the case then Joe Johnson is seriously underated in our beloved annual videogame/fantasy bball top-50 that is SLAM top-50.

  • http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=pan&pcode=BEZ ANTONIS FOTSIS

    by the way….where is Anna…??? IN CHINAA??!!!Unbelivable…..

  • unrel

    i like the Prestige ref.. but you missed something a tad.. i think he is the prestige.. the 3rd/last piece.. as in.. he’s not a first/second option.. he’s like LO.. great great player.. but lacks something that puts him as a franchise players.. i would have loved seeing him in NY with Stat and Wade.. instead of the current big 3..

  • unrel

    actually.. he can pull the second option.. i was being to literal with the prestige thing..

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    no stephen jackson… definitely the biggest shun

  • http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=pan&pcode=BEZ ANTONIS FOTSIS


  • http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=pan&pcode=BEZ ANTONIS FOTSIS


  • http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=pan&pcode=BEZ ANTONIS FOTSIS

    I think (!!!) SCOLA is coming somewhere between 13 and 16…..(i would prefer to see him between 20 and 25 but after wait he did ONCE AGAIN this summer most propably he will be slightly overrated)

  • http://slamonline.com Kap

    ^^^^^^WTF is wrong with this guy…

  • bashmo

    Rondo over Joe Johnson??? WTF just when I thought that the list was starting to make some more sense lool…wow I wonder where they gon place CP3 if he isnt in the top 10 someone’s losing they’re job here

  • http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=pan&pcode=BEZ ANTONIS FOTSIS

    @bashmo……:CP3 will definitely be top-6 here !! you see, everybody expects him to be once again really ‘productive’ (ha,ha,ha,ha!!). “where bball players became factory workers judged by the number of units they produce and the salaries they make!!!!!!”

  • Overtime

    I really dont know whats happening to these comment sections. Slam, u need to screen em more carefully

  • ripslam

    Should not be in the top 20. Maybe 21, 22, even 20 would be a good spot, but not above Paul Pierce. And also, really, the Hawks as a 3-seed? They just (in my opinion) downgraded in the coaching department and they’re up against Orlando, a better Boston team, the Heat, and the reloaded Bulls. I see them at #4 at the highest.

  • fizzrocket

    @Antonis Fotsis: You’re an idiot. You’re a flaming idiot, there’s no better way to put this. If you think your cute little “Where is Anna? In China?” comments are somehow funny, then you’re severely disillusioned. Incidentally, Luis Scola was going to play in Turkey before the Rockets re-signed him. Shut your mouth. You’re just spamming the comments section with your bullsh*t, and we don’t want it here.

  • JD

    Its incredible how this guy is overlooked so much, he deserved to start the All Star game over AI the last two years running.I reckon he’s better than 18. As for the Hawks themselves, I think that they are like Joe Johnson themselves in that they are overlooked, and people constantly say they’re overated but are always among the leagues elite year in, year out. Two years in a row now the media have ruled out the hawks for reasons which i dont quite understand, but they’ll be there come playoff time. Whilst 3 is beyond them cos those teams are just on a different level too the Hawks, i have no doubt the Hawks will fight Chicago for the last homecourt advantage in the East.

  • http://slamonline.com rocksinmypants

    umm who is anna?????????????

  • JTaylor21

    Anna is the greek’s secret Slave Master that he loves to met late at night in “strange” places and gets punished the Siegfried & Roy way.

  • http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=pan&pcode=BEZ ANTONIS FOTSIS

    yeah, harder, again & again!!!!!

  • http://sdklff.com Jukai

    Scola sucks…..

  • http://slamonline.com rocksinmypants

    Well I guess thats all cleared up…. But really

  • http://Slamonline.com Nbk

    Someone block Antonis’ IP address dudes out of control

  • j4zzm4n

    pau better be top 8

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    JJ is better than 18, alot of great players have had bad playoff series, so I will not hold it against him, because just a few years ago he had his Hawks on the brink of upsetting the Celtics. So he is way better than what people think and this is the first person on the list, that I feel should have been higher than what he is now. BOOK IT!!

  • http://www.google.com/news BETCATS

    I cannot believe that Stephen Jackson didnt make this list, and am even more shocked I am not the only one complaining!

  • Groves@UWA

    @rocksinmypants… i think its his dodgy nickname for iverson.. it hasn’t stuck. just note ANTONIS is a tool

  • Groves@UWA

    @derby, i will respond… you were correct, i extrapolated my personal attack on ANTONIS to way beyond reasonable… i’m just ticked off that he is still allowed to spam like that

  • TrailBlazing&SportingLisbon

    next should be Rose, or this will get out of hand, overating the guy to a new degree

  • SpaceJam

    This is upcoming stat projections so it’s entirely possible rose gets the number 10 spot

  • http://letsseeifitwillletmepostwithmyregularemailaddressandscreennamenoworifimstillbanned.com what

    Joe Johnson may be overpaid, but there isn’t a SG ranked below him who would have the Hawks winning 53 games and in the second round of the playoffs. He is miscast as a #1 option and doesn’t deserve a max contract, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good player. With that said, Smoove will be the best player on the Hawks by the end of next season at the latest.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Co-sign the Seed actually. Good point about the playoffs before last.

  • TrailBlazing&SportingLisbon

    co sign what, and @space jam, its not only bout stats, and even if it was Rose would still be nowhere near the top ten

  • http://Slamonline.com Rockinmypants

    Thanks groves. And yeah this guy seems pretty douchey. Is douchey a word?

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Good write-up, DeMarco.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    cosign BETCATS….what in the world happened?

  • Will

    Book it! Book it! Such an overused term. Even if you’re right about a couple things you can’t say Book it! about everything. It is mundane. You do not predict the future. Stop acting like the Greek dude. BTW Joe who? You’re right about the prestige, dude just magically disappears when he is most needed. Definitely deserves the max salary. He should hang out with Rudy Gay.

  • http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=pan&pcode=BEZ ANTONIS FOTSIS

    @Will……:France is losing it’s next game against Greece. BOOK IT !!!! (be carefull my little one, i take this bet for the last 25 years and i’ve never lost.)

  • http://hoopistani.blogspot.com hoopistani

    whatever… hawks third in the east? above who? heat? celtics? magic? bulls?

  • Benji

    Trade ANTONIS FOTSIS for Shaq!

  • Groves

    trade ANTONIS FOTSIS for eddie griffin, RIP

  • The Fresh Prince of Nsam

    I don’t know if I agree, but great piece DeMarco.

  • T-Money

    I can’t even say that JJ choked in the playoffs, he just looked completely disinterested. Crazy. And the WAY they were getting their a–es handed to them. Wow. Not a fan.

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  • Elvis Freshly

    What is all the hype about this guy? I really don’t understand it.. he’s a good player but that’s about it. This guy blows in the playoffs and that’s where it counts. I’d take rudy and double P over Joe.

  • kos87

    Most terrible contract ever!!!
    In a few years his contract will be like a hot potato,tossed around the league and the thought of him being just a solid SG in a mediocre team will be a distant memory..

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