Top 50: Joe Johnson, no. 22

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
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15
45 Kevin Martin Rockets SG 8
44 Andrew Bynum Lakers C 5
43 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 11
42 Lamar Odom Lakers PF 14
41 Gerald Wallace Blazers SF 7
40 Brook Lopez Nets C 4
39 Joakim Noah Bulls C 3
38 Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 13
37 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 12
36 Eric Gordon Clippers SG 7
35 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
34 Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 6
33 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 11
32 Al Horford Hawks C 2
31 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 9
30 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 10
29 Josh Smith Hawks PF 9
28 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 5
27 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 8
26 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 6
25 John Wall Wizards PG 7
24 Danny Granger Pacers SF 5
23 Monta Ellis Warriors SG 4
22 Joe Johnson Hawks SG 3

• 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.