Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Joe Johnson More Valuable Than Stats Suggest

Brooklyn Nets' Joe Johnson has had a seemingly inconsistent debut season with the Brooklyn Nets. Some nights he would go off but more often that not his play would result in a poor shooting performance. For the season he's averaging just 17.0 points per game on 42.3% shooting, his lowest averages in those categories since 2002. In addition he's only grabbing 3.1 rebounds and dishing out 3.6 assists in his 38 minutes of play per game. Yet, even with these subpar, his value to the Nets offense is tremendous.

In the three games without Joe Johnson, the Nets played two playoff-caliber teams. They dropped 96 points against the Houston Rockets who don't particularly specialize in defense, in fact its quite the opposite. In the next game, the lack of offense was very noticeable. In the 72-76 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Nets managed a mere 51 points through the first three quarters. As Gregory Hrinya of notes, "P.J. Carlesimo ran the same offense, the Nets just missed Johnson’s ability to make something out of nothing."

If there's one thing that Joe Johnson excels in, its his play down the clutch.
In the final 30 seconds of a game in which the Nets are trailing by five points or less, Johnson is the league’s best. He’s gone 8-of-9 (88.9 percent) from the field, including a make on his lone three-point attempt. Johnson has also converted on both of his free-throws. 
The Nets don’t need a timeout to draw up the plays either. 
“Everybody in the arena knew Joe was getting the ball,” Gerald Wallace said. “We could’ve put him out there by himself. Well, with someone to take the ball out.”
So what happens when Joe Johnson is not in? Whose the next guy to step up?

It should be Deron Williams, but he hasn't lived up to those expectations. Under the same circumstances, Deron has taken nine shot attempts. Only two were converted. That's not the type of play you would expect from a player of his caliber. Nonetheless, it proves the point that Joe Johnson is the Nets offense late in the games. With little creativity in plays to begin with, there is no player better on this squad than Joe Johnson to have the ball and create his own shot.
“We definitely miss Joe,” Williams said. “We count on him so much, especially in closing minutes like we had (against Memphis). We definitely missed him out there, it just a tough game.”
In the closing minutes or in the middle of the second quarter, Joe Johnson has value on this Nets squad that's unparalleled by anyone except maybe Brook Lopez, despite his seemingly poor play.
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