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NBA / Apr 28, 2009 / 9:00 am

Joe Johnson is “good, not great”

Joe Johnson, Dime #37

Joe Johnson, Dime #37

That was according to Charles Barkley, leading up to yesterday’s Hawks/Heat game. Recapping Joe Johnson‘s subpar showing in the series’ first three games, Barkley blurted out, “He can’t be the best player on a team.” As Kenny Smith was fixing his mouth for a nice way to ask Chuck, “The hell are you talking about?” Barkley clarified that he thinks J.J. is better suited as a complimentary player (like he was in Phoenix) rather than a franchise guy. While you can win with guys like Joe on your roster, you’re not gonna win if he’s The Guy.

Can’t say I agree. These aren’t the pre-2008 Hawks, the Lottery regulars for whom Joe was all set to go down as another Mitch Richmond (23 career playoff games). In Atlanta’s back-to-back playoff runs in ’08 and ’09, Joe has — short of actually, you know, advancing in the playoffs — done his job as the Franchise Guy for a team nobody ever expects to do anything. True, he’s struggled in this Miami series (13.7 ppg, 37% FG, 52% FT), but don’t forget how close J.J. had the Hawks to upsetting the Celtics last year (20.0 ppg, 40% FG, 90% FT), don’t forget that Atlanta wouldn’t have won 47 games or secured a 4-seed this year without J.J. taking them there, and don’t forget he’s still 27 years old and leading a young team with a thin bench and Mike Woodson for a coach.

Is Joe Johnson Top-10 in the League? No. He’s well behind Kobe, Wade, LeBron, Pierce, Duncan, CP3, Chauncey, Dirk, Parker, Nash and Deron; but he’s at least on a pretty even plane with Brandon Roy, (healthy) Arenas, Bosh, Carmelo, Yao, Dwight, Vince and Iguodala: Franchise Guys who have proven they can win, just haven’t taken it to that next-next level on a championship-caliber squad.

You could see the flaws last night. In a game where Wade was just bad and the Heat struggled all night to generate offense, the Hawks — and specifically Joe — took too long to put them away. After Miami cut the lead to three late in the third quarter, Johnson (14 pts, 5-12 FG) had a chance to deliver one of those crowd-killing daggers that Top-10 guys make out of habit and the Second-Tier guys make less frequently. Joe promptly fired a pass to the Miami bench. And as Atlanta held off the Heat down the stretch, J.J. did pick up some assists, but left the clutch shot-making to Mike Bibby and Flip Murray.

But with the series tied at 2-2 and going back to Atlanta, Johnson has ample opportunity to start making that leap into the top tier. Taking down Wade in Round 1 would be a start, then he’ll get tested against LeBron in Round 2. As he learned last year against Boston, win or lose, you need to be tested against the top tier before you can join the ranks.

Is Joe Johnson a great player, or just a good player? Can he be the best player on a championship team?

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  • pete

    chuck, must be out of his damn mind,he’s the Russian judge this time, JJ#2 is my main man

  • Gerard

    I mean he’ll never be hall of fame or anything…Barkley’s right. And this article basically said the same thing; nobody is taking the Hawks as a championship contender, and it’s hard to foresee a situation in which they do. Joe Johnson may not have the team to do it, and his game is nice, but ultimately the onus falls on the best player.

  • Dukesman2000

    Good point, Austin

  • Ben

    Great player who is tired from excessive minutes. When he’s on, he’s the 3rd best SG in the game and better than many of those listed players

  • Deez

    I forgot Joe Johnson was playing in this series…

  • Quedas

    Well, I actually do think Joe Johnson is at times overrated with all the ‘he’s SO underrated’ comments, but I like him and yeah, he’s a second-tier franchise guy.

    But now, for the second part of my comment, allow me some homerism but you drastically underrated Dwight Howard in those lists – he’s AT LEAST as good as Chauncey, Dirk, Parker, Nash and Deron (sometimes he evens moves to the Pierce, Duncan, CP3 tier). Of course never reaching the Top 3 caliber…

  • Student Of The Game

    Joe Johnson is a good, but not great player. I watched the game last night, and like you said, Joe was finding ways to keep the Heat in it while Flip Murray (who can just flat out score buckets off the bench) Mike Bibby and Josh Smith were doin their thing.

  • ian

    hes not as good as roy, howard, carmelo, or yao… i can see the igoudala comparison

  • karizmatic

    Joe Johnson cannot be ‘The Man” on a championship team without significant help. The point is that only a few guys can really be championship franchise guys. Over the last few years those guys have been Shaq, Kobe, Tim Duncan, Dirk, D-Wade, Lebron. That’s it. Everyone else has either been on a very solid team or a role player on a team with one of these guys. The rest of the stars in the NBA over the last few years have lost to these guys repeatedly When we look back at the last champions or finalists. Guys like Joe Johnson Gibert Arenas,Brandon Roy, Vince Carter, Iguodala, and even Dwight Howard, have proven that they can win you some games, but they won’t get you to that elite championship level being the man. They are better suited being the second guy on a championship team than being the man. So in short Joe Johnson is a good player that can win you ball games, but not a great player that can win you championships.

  • http://dimemag.com Melo2TDot

    when has Cp3 elevated a near championship squad?

  • Kobeef

    This is how I see the “best players” shaking out

    Tier 1: “The GOAT Club”: dynasties are built around these guys
    Kobe, Lebron, Duncan

    Tier 2: Still not sure you could build a dynasty around him
    JJ, Dirk, Yao, Nash, Carmelo, Dwight, CP3, Pierce, KG, Wade

    Tier 3: Somewhere between star and superstar
    Bosh, Iggy, Deron, Parker, Chauncey

  • bone0315

    I’m over the Chris Paul is a great player hype. In college, he never made it past Round 2 of the NCAAs. His team blows a Game 7 at home last year to a clearly overmatched Spurs team they had destroyed in three prior wins, now he leads a team to a 58-point drubbing at home with a chance to tie a series. Give me a break. This article should be “Chris Paul is ‘Good not Great'”

    And oh yeah, the Hawks aren’t winning anything with JJ as their best guys. He would be a great Pippen to a superstar’s MJ.

  • willie

    I agree…Joe is not great, but few are. There are only 10 or so players in the league that are clearly better. Not everyone has the luxury of having a Kobe, Lebron or Wade. The rest of the teams need 2 or 3 really good players to go deep. The Hawks need one more scorer.

  • TJ

    No way is JJ better than Roy, Arenas, Yao, Howard, Carmelo, or Bosh.

  • TJ

    Or Garnett, Pierce, Caron Butler, Gasol, Boozer, Amare, Nash, Granger, Carter (when he wants to play hard), Ginobili, Al Jefferson, Ray Allen…….

    JJ running a team means the team is a piece of shit lottery team. Why did the Hawks make the playoffs last year and play better this year that they have in a decade? Bibby. He gives them swagger and experience when JJ disappears.

  • http://www.espn.com Sho-Nuff

    AB,

    How long can the Hawks hang on to the Celtics playoff series from last year? They got BLOWN OUT two games in a row once AT HOME, this year. C’mom man. Chuck Wagon is right, he’s good not great.

    One more point AB…… you, me, KFED, and Jurg from Denmark can get blown out by 30+ in game seven against the Celtics. Last year was last year. Let it go Hawks fams.

  • http://www.espn.com Sho-Nuff

    My bad we need a fifth. How about we resurrect Tyrone, because he’s a true thug and would never lie.

  • heavy d

    The Hawks are constructed to be a collective (like Detroit was) rather than a star vehicle (like Cleveland). Joe Johnson is normally the best of that collective, but that don’t make him a superstar. The Hawks need several guys clicking to win and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who played well in games 2 or 3. Joe needs to play better for Atlanta to win this series, but he doesn’t have to carry the team by himself.

    Also, I’m not saying they are as good as the Detroit teams of the last 6 years (excluding this year), just that is how they are constructed.

  • Notorious

    Barkley was on point, Joe Johnson is not and will never be a franchise player.

    He is a very good player, but just because he is the best on his team does not make him a franchise player. We are seeing how far he can carry a team, saw it last year and saw it again this year. He is good enough to get the Hawks to the playoffs in a top heavy East. But he will never win a championship as the alpha dog and will be lucky to win a playoff round.

  • E$

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sXp6SCa2o8

    Joe let the rookie get his lunch $$

  • iLL Mago

    “In Atlanta’s back-to-back playoff runs in ’08 and ’09, Joe has — short of actually, you know, advancing in the playoffs — done his job as the Franchise Guy for a team nobody ever expects to do anything. True, he’s struggled in this Miami series (13.7 ppg, 37% FG, 52% FT), but don’t forget how close J.J. had the Hawks to upsetting the Celtics last year (20.0 ppg, 40% FG, 90% FT), don’t forget that Atlanta wouldn’t have won 47 games or secured a 4-seed this year without J.J. taking them there, and don’t forget he’s still 27 years old and leading a young team with a thin bench and Mike Woodson for a coach.”

    Ummmmmm, sorry to burst your bubble Austin (other than those damn spurs getting eliminated) but the true star of this Atlanta team is not JJ but 2 time NCAA Champion Al Horford. Do you even remember how bad Atlanta was this year when Horford was out with that hamstring injury? It’s not so much a question of whether JJ brought Atlanta 47 wins than of Having Hordford healthy to win 50+! JJ is the “Leader” only because he is paid to be it but make no mistake on who leads by example….now if that idiot Woodson could give horford more touches rather than allowing all these chuckers(Smith, Flip, Bibby, JJ) to shoot at will then MAYBE Atlanta will escape the first round but until then…MIAMI 4 – ATL 2

  • kevin k

    Austin, you are out of your damn mind. You compare Joe Johnson to Brandon Roy, Yao, Dwight, Arenas, and Bosh?? that statement is worse than any statement that Andrew Katz have made.

  • Ashlov

    JJ is very good, but if you had to pick a franchise player, would he be on your list?

  • Daniel Bui

    Kobeef says:

    This is how I see the “best players” shaking out

    Tier 1: “The GOAT Club”: dynasties are built around these guys
    Kobe, Lebron, Duncan

    Tier 2: Still not sure you could build a dynasty around him
    JJ, Dirk, Yao, Nash, Carmelo, Dwight, CP3, Pierce, KG, Wade

    Tier 3: Somewhere between star and superstar
    Bosh, Iggy, Deron, Parker, Chauncey

    You cannot build a dynasty around Kobe. Around Shaq, sure, but no team has built a dynasty around Kobe yet. And Lebron, we’ll see. No team has built a dynasty around Duncan either.

  • doc

    AB u fishing with Tony Parker and Nash in the top 10 players.Nash washed up and Tony never got there.When has he ever carried a team.Joe Johnson would NEVER be my franchise player,but he could play on my squad anyday.

  • karizmatic

    No team has built a dynast around Duncan? I think that’s a misstatement.

  • JoeCozi

    anytime you can throw in the most underrated all star of all time Mitch ‘The Rock’ Ritchmond in an article it’s gooood real good as nacho libre would say..

  • Diego

    JJ is having a really bad series. Stuff like that happens.

    Good, not great? Let’s say very good. JJ should have been on the Olympic team over Redd. He is in top 20 in league right now–maybe in the 15-20 spot (maybe higher). He lead Atlanta to a better record than Miami, with a weak coach, lots of injuries, and a supporting cast that has gotten lampooned by most of the mainstream sportswriters. (Marvin is still out, and he had a very solid season when he played.) JJ is Atlanta’s best player, not Horford, not J-Smoove.

    He could still make HOF, if he switches to another team and gets 4-5 more all-star nods.

    Of course JJ cannot lead a team to a championship–and neither could big-mouth Barkley!!

  • gmoney

    look, everyone needs help. name one team that won anything with just one player being “the man”. jordan didn’t do it, duncan didn’t do it, bird didn’t do it, russell didn’t do it..the only one you can really make that point for is D-Wade when he ripped dallas a new stinker. my point is this, JJ is going to need help to be a contender. He’s obviously the most skill player on my Hawks, and is a top 10 player when he’s cookin’ and everyone knows this. Pour out the haterade and take these stars, whatever tier they’re on, for what they are and not for what they are not.

  • kevin k

    Diego, quit snorting them crack

  • Ian

    daniel bui
    no team has built a dynasty around duncan???? 4 titles 3 in 5 seasons??? wtf but ok

    ian is right only arenas is worst than johnson on the list.

    willie
    “I agree…Joe is not great, but few are. There are only 10 or so players in the league that are clearly better. Not everyone has the luxury of having a Kobe, Lebron or Wade. The rest of the teams need 2 or 3 really good players to go deep. The Hawks need one more scorer.”

    so the other teams need 2 or 3 players to go deep hum how deep did kobe go before having the best all around team around him??? or allstar gasol??? yeah thought so
    EVERYONE needs 2 or 3 really good players to go deep. you can throw bron and wade that have proven they can carry teams kobe HASNT.

    quedas
    lol sorry but u said sometimes jj moves top a duncan tier?? but not top 3?? i want to ask you what tier is duncan that johnson is so close to him.

    ben 3rd best sg nah top 5 maybee
    the 3rd best sg is injured and comes off the bench for another team.

  • hucklebuck

    I agree with Barkley.
    I also hold Bibby more accountable having had the tough playoff experience and not getting on Johnson more.

  • http://www.espn.com Sho-Nuff

    Diego,

    Chuck Wagon was a John Paxson jumper away from game 7 with the dynasty that was the 92-93 ChiTown Bulls.

    Look at his Philadelphia talent, that was not a good team. When he want to Phoenx that was his chance and the got beat. Look at Chuck’s stats for teh 92-93 Finals. You’ll be shocked….28.6 ppg 14rbg, including a triple double (32/12/10)….what more can he do?

  • Ian

    btw barkley talks out his ass alot.

  • Ekstor

    Replace Kobe with JJ… and the Lakers are NOT a championship contender, just a good team making it to the playoffs.

    Replace LeBron withh JJ… and the Cavs are NOT a championship contender, just a team fighting for the playoffs.

    Replace DWade wtih JJ… and Miami would be fishing for lottery balls.

    THAT is the difference!

  • Quedas

    @ Ian

    I was talking about Dwight Howard on that second part of my post, not JJ. I was stating that sometimes Dwight shows glimpses of “Mega-Superstarness”, but he’s young, he’ll get there. Joe Johnson is nowhere near that level. Also, when I compare Dwight to Duncan I’m talking “present day Duncan”, not all-time. All-time Duncan is the best PF ever.

  • Diego

    @ 23:

    So you are confirming to me that Chuck was not good enough to lead his team to a title? Thanks! Or are you just making excuses for him? Apparently, as much as Chuck could do, it wasn’t enough to lead his given teams to a title.

    But, I never said that winning a title defines one’s career or season. (But maybe Chuck thinks that, and that’s why he’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder?)

    JJ is better than “good.”

  • Diego

    I meant #33.

  • Ian

    elkstor
    replace kobe with jj and the lakers are STILL a championship contender maybe not the favs but that team with jj does have a chance at winning. you can say kobe is the best ever if you want that is your opinion but dont talk like hes carrying scrubs.

    the other 2 you are prob right.

  • Diego

    Replace Kobe with JJ, Lakers still championship contender; replace LeBron with JJ OR with Kobe, Cavs not championship contender; replace Kobe with LeBron, and just go ahead and crown the Lakers, and forget the playoffs!

    LeBron > Kobe > JJ.

    Lakers supporting cast > Cavs or Hawks supporting cast.

  • Ian

    quedas oppps sorry thought it was jj

  • Ian

    diego i have to say i dont like bron but you are right

  • Ian

    quedas one more thing you are right howard is being underrated he should be on the the other group

  • Brian

    I’m a huge Joe Johnson fan so I’d like to think he’s in that top tier. Realistically, however, I don’t think you can place him there. Charles, while controversial, makes a decent point. And I also believe that Carmelo and Dwight can and should be placed in that first tier.

  • http://www.nba.com Jay

    I wouldn’t even put JJ into that second tier. I wouldn’t put Iggy in there either. You’re telling me that if you’re doing a draft for this upcoming season alone, you would give a second thought to JJ or Iggy if guys like Brandon Roy, Chris Bosh, Carmelo, Yao, or Dwight are still on the board??

  • http://www.espn.com Sho-Nuff

    My point, Diego, was that when MJ was in his prime no one was winning the title. He wouldn’t allow it.

    Chuck Wagon is still a top 10 all time player, title or not.

  • Ian

    top 25 no way top ten
    2nd best pf alltime sure

  • http://deleted Luigi

    Damn…Healthy Gilbert next year will be new Chauncey Billups…

  • karizmatic

    @Brian

    Melo should not be in the first tier of anything. He has consistently shown that he is a great scorer…nothing more…he is the current version of Glen Rice…he has consistently let other guys come in and take over his team. Say what you want Denver was AI’s team when AI was there. It is now Chauncey they call commander in chief. Melo has never been the main guy on his team and probably never will and if he is…that team won’t win either.

  • AY

    how does no one call ill mago out? Al horford according to you is the leader on the hawks, that’s why he played 16 minutes yesterday in the crucial hawks win, while zaza got 18 boards to in his place. And that’s why zaza has gotten more rebounds in less minutes than horford in this series. are you watching the nba or reruns of the ncaa from 3 years ago?

    Joe Johnson is not great only because he doesn’t play defense as hard as he can. If he did, he’s up there with anyone. Certainly better than nash, nash isn’t even better than shaq at this point.

  • ctkennedy

    no wing player in the league can win a title without the big men to get it done the only player in nba history to do it is jordan but he still had the best player in the league at his position at the time in pippen remember kobe have never won 50 games in a season without gasol but gasol have without kobe

  • T.J.

    I’ve watched JJ ever since he’s got to Atlanta and I know for a fact he’s underrated. If you ask any Hawks player the key to the team is JJ. Just because he has one series (that isn’t even over) where he’s not murdering the other team doesn’t mean we should discredit all the work he puts in throughtout the season. Watching his progression over the years theres no way I could say he wasn’t better then at least Roy and Nash. JJ gets treated like crap by the media all the time.

    Could someone please compare the amount of games played nationwide between the Hawks and the other teams we’ve been mentioning. I wouldn’t say he could lead a team to a championship because not many championships are won were the credit is given to one player alone. (Ex. MJ had Pippen, Dwade had Shaq, TP had TD, Paul Pierce had KG and Ray) Championships are usually won by teams that have more than one all-star. (If you toss Dwight or Amare on our team you couldn’t say we couldn’t contend for a championship) I’m a big fan of JJ and I don’t believe half the stuff Chuck says anyway so we should all see more of JJ before we judge him. (BTW He could make HOF! I figure anythings possible if you put in the work to achieve it)

  • mcbeeef

    jj has some of the sickest handle in the league at the sg spot in the league, great change of pace and very strong. people forget how good a shooter he is too, he’s REALLY good. although he has a bit of that big man thing where they’re great shooters in the 1st quarter but get progressively wore as they get more tired.

    anyway i have a feeling that a coach who utilised him better would bring the superstar out in joe johnson, and if they had a go-to big man in the post atlanta would be at another level. bibby is hurting that team way more than anyone realises, although hes getting away with it vs chambers

  • DPGC

    If Joe Johnson isn’t a great player, then why does he get double-teamed every time he touches the ball?

  • Ekstor

    Ian,

    You can reread my statement if you like, but I neither said that Kobe was the best player NOR did I say he’s carrying scrubs. In fact, my statement shows that of the three teams (Lakers, Cavs, Heat), the Lakers would be the strongest of the three after replacing them with JJ. Whether they’re still championship contenders is a matter of debate.

  • Jim

    What Barkley says is really debatable. You can make an argument that CP3, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Carmelo, and any other superstar who hasn’t made the NBA Finals are in the same category. Even when it comes to Wade, Kobe, Lebron, which of them has actually won a title without another superstar? None! It’s proven that NBA champions have a well rounded team with role players that step up in big moments. Fact is Joe Johnson may be in between a great player and a really good player. All I know is I’ve seen him in clutch situations (last year vs. Celtics for instance) where he does take over games. But when their team is getting blown out by 20-30, how do you judge him? Is it his fault they get blown out?

  • VCFanInToronto

    I do think JJ has a chance to be a great player…probably won’t get into the Hall but he’s gonna be something to remember when its all said and done. A lot of these players you mentioned are great players no doubt but in order to win, you need a solid TEAM regardless. Individuals don’t win championships, teams do. Every team that has won with a superstar on their roster still needed other guys to step up and hit shots, play defense etc etc…So sure the Hawks could eventually win something if you have a solid TEAM around Joe Johnson. Bulls, great team…Miami 06, great team and the list goes on.

  • Hoops88

    Umn, Joe Johnson is better than Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups, and Andre Iguodala is not great, he’s just really good. Tony Parker hasn’t proven to be great, but in the 08-09 season was his first season that he may have been a great player. Chauncey Billups is not great, he’s just really good.
    You’re only a great player if you’re a great scorer that can be a franchise player or if you’re a great point guard like Steve Nash, John Stockton, and Jason Kidd who aren’t great scorers. If Dennis Rodman makes the hall of fame, then I guess also if you’re freakishly great in a stat like he was.
    I don’t agree or disagree with Chuck. In the 06-07 season Joe avg’d 25ppg, but that doesn’t mean he’s a great player though. Latrell Sprewell once avg’d 24ppg but he’s clearly not great, he’s just really good. Spre wasn’t like Peja who was just surrounded by great passers, Sprewell can actually create his own shots. As of right now, I’ll say I dk.