Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 at 12:26 pm  |  35 responses

Top 50: Joe Johnson, no. 22

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players for ’12-13.

by Allen Powell II

This is a familiar place. That is because for all of his flaws as a player, Joe Johnson has been a model of consistency. Johnson’s consistency is reflected in his statistics, his team’s success and his rankings on SLAMonline’s Top 50 during the past four years.

Since Johnson left the Phoenix Suns after the ’04-05 season, fans and critics have had little trouble predicting what he’s going to provide his team: 18-22 points, 4-5 assists, 4-5 rebounds, and a second-round Playoff exit at best. At this point in his career, people feel like they know what Joe Johnson can do.

So maybe it’s time to talk a little more about what Johnson can’t do. First of all, he can’t justify the $120 million contract the Atlanta Hawks gave him. To Johnson’s credit, and possibly detriment, he’s never seemed too concerned about that inability. He’s played his game the same way despite being the second-highest paid shooting guard in the League. Johnson has shown either a remarkable level of self-assurance or shocking obliviousness.

That segues nicely into the next thing Joe Johnson can’t do; he can’t keep doing the same things he’s been doing. Anyone who has watched Johnson extensively should be able to understand exactly why he’s overpaid.

Johnson has shown himself to be a mildly efficient jump shooter, with passable athletic ability and a penchant for uneven Playoff performances. Most folks see those qualities and can’t understand how the Hawks could be convinced to hand him a max contract. But, look a little closer, and it becomes clear that those qualities are exactly why Johnson got his big deal.

Yes, he settles for jumpers. But, watch Johnson those times when he’s determined to get his 6-8, 225-pound frame close to the rim and it’s easy to imagine what could happen if that was his focus every game. Consider his confidence on the low block and his above-average defense, and it’s simple to picture Johnson seamlessly helping any team.

Notice his impressive handle, his good court vision and his unselfish demeanor, and Johnson’s game becomes downright tantalizing. There was a reason the Suns and Hawks both thought Johnson could play point guard, and while that belief was mistaken, he still possesses skills most 2-guards lack.

Honestly, the Hawks paid Joe Johnson because they were enticed by the potential they saw beneath his steady production. Conversely, fans loathe Joe Johnson because that same mind-numbing production blinds them to his potential.

As Johnson enters the downside of his career, he has to do something very few players can do, and that’s change. He has to recognize how to score with a dominant point guard, and a serious low-post threat. He has to take full advantage of his amazing skills, and break the habits that made him a $120 million man. That means setting up teammates, and taking efficient shots. It means being assertive without dominating the ball.

Joe Johnson has occupied the same place on this list and in the minds of NBA fans for years because most people believe they know what Joe Johnson can do. Now it’s time for him to prove all of those people wrong.

Where should Joe Johnson rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10
40 Danny Granger Pacers SF 6
39 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 11
38 John Wall Wizards PG 9
37 Monta Ellis Bucks SG 8
36 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 10
35 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 6
34 Tyson Chandler Knicks C 5
33 Eric Gordon Hornets SG 7
32 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 9
31 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 6
30 Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 8
29 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 4
28 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 3
27 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 5
26 Andre Iguodala Nuggets SG 5
25 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 4
24 Josh Smith Hawks PF 7
23 Derrick Rose Bulls PG 8
22 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • hum


  • spit hot fiyah

    in the f@g contest

  • spit hot fiyah

    joe johnson is probably one of the most underrated defenders in the league, and it’s not his fault the hawks grossly over paid him twice

  • Shifty

    Hmmmm no way should be 22. I can’t bothered explaining it but deep down when I see his name and 22 best player in the NBA and 4th beat shooting guard…..it feels like their is a disturbance in the force. Or it could be the 120 million dollar contract he got that makes me feel this way.

  • Perry the PlatyPteranodon

    For what he has in talent, he lacks in fucks to give

  • russian guy

    Shooting Guard might have become the weakest position in the NBA right now.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Really good AP

  • Anthony Dixon

    “Joe is not a Finished product” Avery Johnson

  • hum

    come at me bro

  • Datkid

    Allen P the GAWD. excellent work. speaking of which he has to get back on his twitter ish.

  • http://twitter.com/niQknacks niQ

    Good job on the write up!

  • Max

    On another note.
    It looks like Brook Lopez learned how to rebound, he had 9 and 11 in the last 2 pro-season games if im correct..
    Let’s see if he can keep it up a whole season.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    Nice write up, Allen.

  • LakeShow

    Both with less than 27 minutes of PT I believe too.

  • LakeShow

    Naw that’s still Center….

  • http://twitter.com/AjpDos Allen Powell

    Thanks homie

  • http://twitter.com/AjpDos Allen Powell

    If Brook Lopez averages anything close to 18 and 11 the Nets will make the Eastern Conference Finals and challenge Miami for a shot in the Finals. Not saying they will beat Miami, but they won’t be pushovers.

  • LakeShow

    I’m hoping for big things in Brooklyn. I hope they play some mean ball this year. Joe is a nice wing for D-Will that will work well, i’m certain.

  • http://twitter.com/AjpDos Allen Powell

    I got a new gig man, I’m almost never on the Internet now.

  • shockexchange

    Joe Johnson showed a lot of promise in Phoenix. From the games I saw when he was with Atlanta, he was chuckwagon who went one-on-one a lot, and settled for a lot of contested shots. If Johnson is indeed the #22 player in the L, as anyone asked themselves why Atlanta was so eager to get rid him?

  • north

    Before you start to hate on JJ in the comments section of this post take a look at the amount of games he’s won with last second shots. Or how he steps up to defend positions 1-3 on the other team for their last second shots. At the end of a close game, even when teams knew where the ball was headed they still couldn’t stop him. As a huge ATL fan I’ll miss that. He got paid to win games, he did, it’s just too bad those weren’t playoff games.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    that’s a huge if

  • Sérgio

    Well, it is, if you’re refereeing to the rebounds, because i believe he is gonna average more than 18 ppg.

    But Allen, do you really think the Nets are better than the Celtics? Boston’s team this year is stronger than last season’s, and, even with uncountable injuries, they almost went to the finals…

  • LeroyShonuff

    He wasn’t overpaid twice, only once. Very good player but his demeanor (unlike Timmy) works against him. Still, any team without kobe and wade would have that guy in a heart beat. He just gives off the consistent vibe of not caring. He’s a lesser version of A-rod

  • http://twitter.com/AjpDos Allen Powell

    I do think the Nets are better. I am not a fan of Jeff Green playing the four. I think the Nets have better talent, Boston has more chemistry and experience. If the Celtics slip at all, the Nets will take them.

  • SirGrey

    Nice article. I was always the type to be more into his or Brandon Roy’s game when they went off over Kobe and Wade. Just smoother to me. Harden as well; it’s kinda crazy to think he would be right around top 20 after just his third season as a bench player.

  • Sérgio

    I’m not that big of a fan of him playing the 4 too. But if they paly Miami in the Playoffs, they’re gonna play small ball, with Chalmers, Wade, Battier, Lebron and Bosh. So, in this scenario, I think Jeff Green at the 4 spot, guarding Lebron, could be a good spot. But he might get destroyed if he has to guard big 4s, like Bosh or Stoudamire.

  • Datkid

    he’ll get destroyed regardless. he’s guarding Lebron.

  • Datkid

    smh that’s a shame.

  • danpowers

    nice article

  • shockexchange

    Is this the AllenP who has been tryna to catch fade with the Shock Exchange all these years? This is a very fair and balanced article on Joe Johnson. Cudos. However, the Shock Exchange would have labeled this an “excellent” article if you had pointed out how leaving college early has hampered Johnson’s basketball IQ.

  • http://twitter.com/AjpDos Allen Powell

    Same Allenp.

  • RG190

    I’m !@#$%^& terrified of the Nets’ back-court…

  • Andy416

    Chris Bosh better be on this list

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