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NBA / Aug 11, 2009 / 5:36 pm

The most important 2010 free agent nobody’s talking about

Joe Johnson (photo. Zach Wolfe)

Joe Johnson (photo. Zach Wolfe)

If not more talented, the NBA’s 2010 free agent class is at least deeper and could change the direction of the League more than any class since 2000, a group led by Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Reggie Miller and Tracy McGrady.

With so much attention being paid to LeBron (the best player and biggest media star), D-Wade (#2 on both fronts) and Chris Bosh (the superstar who seems most likely to change uniforms) looking ahead to next summer, many have overlooked the rest of the crop: Manu Ginobili, Ray Allen, Carlos Boozer, Shaq, T-Mac, Marcus Camby, Derek Fisher, Jermaine O’Neal and Rafer Alston are among the unrestricted FA’s; Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Luis Scola, Rudy Gay, Randy Foye and Ronnie Brewer lead the group of (barring contract extensions this fall) restricted FA’s; and others like Amar’e Stoudemire, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Yao Ming, Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Peja Stojakovic, Kenyon Martin and T.J. Ford have player or team options on their contracts that could put them on the market in 2010.

But one of the biggest chips on the table, one who can immediately turn one team into a title contender or become the face of another franchise — and, naturally, the one nobody is talking about — is Joe Johnson.

The last time J.J. was a free agent, he was an invaluable piece of what could’ve been a championship puzzle in Phoenix. Faced with staying in that role or taking franchise-player money to be The Man in Atlanta, he chose the latter. Back then, Johnson was criticized for choosing money over winning, but look at what’s happened since: The Hawks are a rising mid-level contender in the East, while the Suns are going in the opposite direction, fresh off the Lottery and toeing the line of rebuilding.

The Hawks have been trying to secure an extension with Johnson, but if nothing happens before Oct. 31, he’s headed toward the open market in 2010 as an unrestricted free agent.

At 28 years old, with a little more than 600 NBA games on his ledger and not many injuries in his past, Johnson is still fresh in his prime. In what some would consider a down year, he still averaged 21.4 points and 5.8 assists and took Atlanta to the second round of the playoffs, making his third straight All-Star Game along the way. An inconsistent postseason run (16.4 ppg) have some questioning whether he’s truly a player who can carry a winning team, but on a day-to-day basis, Johnson is right there with Brandon Roy, Vince Carter and the rest of the second-tier shooting guards in the League behind Kobe and Wade.

For teams like Houston, Chicago and New York that are clearing up cap space in hopes of landing one of the Big Three, Johnson would be a solid Plan D if the James/Wade/Bosh pitches don’t work out. For teams like Cleveland and Miami who might lose their superstars, Johnson wouldn’t be the worst replacement to fill those voids. I could also see Detroit offering Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince in a sign-and-trade with Atlanta in an effort to fully re-make the Pistons and bring in an identifiable go-to guy; or Indiana offering Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy Jr. (in case Tyler Hansbrough develops the way Indiana likes and makes Murphy expendable) to pair Danny Granger up with another All-Star.

Either way (barring an extension with Atlanta, of course), Johnson will make a splash on the free agent market. Maybe not as loud as LeBron or Wade or Bosh, but arguably just as significant in the long run.

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  • robmo35

    I think he might be the only one who leaves. My guess is Bosh gets traded before his free agent madness

  • Drink the Haterade

    Dime– Who the F*uck in their right mind would trade Joe Jeezy for Tayshaun Prince(older, not nearly as offensivley talented)and Rip Hamilton (Old as dirt) or Mike Dunleavy(one of the softest sf out there) and Troy Murphy (who is in love w/ the jumper)

    I’m sure that Detriot and Indy would love to do that trade, but com’ on. You’re killin me smalls! Killin me!

  • Michorizo

    Maybe New York? D’Antoni misses him.

  • LakeShow84

    Lol @ Burton

    “With so much attention being paid to LeBron (the best player and biggest media star), D-Wade (#2 on both fronts)”

    I sense sarcasm in ur subconcious lol..

    And this JJ talk is beyond me.. Dude takes bad shots.. Which is fine but u gotta make them.. plus he disappears in most big games.. hes good but not great and good is only the 4th step on the ladder..

    But he has the chance to make the biggest difference 2010 cuz he wont break the bank and can play offense AND defense..

  • Tim

    i’d love to see the Pistons sign and trade for him…

  • SK

    JJ is the second or third best player on a championship team. So he was perfect with the Suns. But I definitely cannot blame the guy for taking the money.

    Oh and those trades are nonsense for Atlanta.

  • http://astrokidz.blogspot.com T.J.

    I don’t see why he would leave. If he did there really isn’t a better situation he could go to.

  • Kobeef

    I have thought for a while that NY is blowing smoke with this LeBron stuff (he’s unlikely to move) and that their primary targets are actualy JJ and Amar’e….considering the D’Antoni connection.

  • Mack Brownee

    I luv joe’s game, easily one of the most underrated in the assocation

  • http://www.stonerodco.com dennis stone

    comparing JJ to brandon roy is the most idiotic statment i have read this summer. do you really think they compare. If you o maybe i shold start writing for a living since being correct doesnt seem to matter.

  • kevin k

    The fact that you have this scrub: who shoots more 3s than Free throws, who is 6-7 240 lb yet plays like Hedo Turkoglu; disappears in close games; doesn’t D anyone; is a ball-movement killer; takes horrible shots is even mentioned in the class of Brandon Roys is purely insulting. I live in Atl, watch about 50 Hawks game per year, and this guy is OVERRATED. he would be just like Hedo, a perfect 2nd or 3rd option in a team but not a superstar or even a 2nd tier class. I rather take guys like AI2, VC, BR, or any other swingmen than this scrub.

    Oh you lost all credibility with this article.

  • K Dizzle

    Joe Johnson compares better with Brandon Roy better than anybody else in the league. Exact same skill set, except maybe Joe’s a slightly better shooter, but I don’t see this comparison as idiotic. If you gonna shit on an article, better come with somethin better. If not B Roy, then who? When Dime was doin those “Who would you rather have right now” pieces, Joe was right up there with Roy. Callin Joe Johnson a scrub is how you lose credibility. One bad playoffs and all the sudden, he’s a scrub, he can’t d up? Man, Hawks fans are comedy. You ain’t had shit since Dikembe and Smitty left, you weren’t gonna have shit cuz most free agents rather go elsewhere; then you get an all-star caliber player who shoulda been on the Olympic squad and he ain’t good enough LOL Memories get short quick. I didn’t think Joe would leave, but I hope he gets a whiff of how he appreciated by SOME Hawks fans and bounces so they can build around….Josh Smith lol We’ll take you in LA, Joe.

    @ Austin – you been slowly recoverin since your Toronto fiasco. Actually backin up the thoughts with facts is solid. Keep it up

  • UncheckedAggression

    I can’t believe some of you guys are criticizing JJ’s shot selection. That’s just one problem he doesn’t have. He has to be a playmaker on the Hawks (Bibby sure as hell isn’t filling that role) and sometimes he has to make things happen. But I would argue that most the time he doesn’t take enough shots. But that is what makes him such a good teammate and a great pickup for any team. You don’t average that many assists as a shooting guard by accident. The guy could easily put up 20+ shots a night and it would be justified.

    Roy is a fair comparison.

  • tindore

    its totally wrong to hate on JJ, especially Hawks fans. About a decade of the lottery was all erased because of Joe’s presence. The mans a 3x all-star and w/o him u can kiss winning goodbye.

  • Jesse J

    What’s really fucking stupid is that most people south of the border would actually think Bosh leaves the Raptors as opposed to D-Wade, who’s probably gonna be on a lottery team next year. Do me a favor, do your fucking homework before you write shit!

  • ponky_alolor

    They’ve been in the play-offs with this young ATL group. Don’t see JJ leaving. He’s signing another max contract with the Hawks since he’s just 28. He can worry about winning chips after.

    It’s Horford and Smith who need to step up for them to be scary in the play-offs.

  • Heckler…formerly ‘Yallallreadyknow’

    WHY THE HELL IS REGGIE MILLERS NAME MENTIONED ABOVE IN THIS ARTICLE AS A FREE AGENT?!!?

    nevermind joe johnson, he still gonna produce at an allstar level no matter what team he is on.

    but look at some other names on that list: tracy mcgrady, jermaine o’neal, ray allen, shaquille o’neal …..some of these guys gonna have to settle for the vets minimum, or they’ll be out of the league after this year!

  • http://astrokidz.blogspot.com T.J.

    ^This knows what he’s talking about

  • http://astrokidz.blogspot.com T.J.

    Whoops @16 This guy knows what he’s talking about

  • Kenny Smiles

    Am I trippin or was Brandon Roy refered to as a second tier shooting guard? If you still consider B. Roy as a second tier shooting guard after this year, there is something wrong with the way you percieve the N.B.A. Just because B doesnt do what he does as flashy as Bron or D.Wade or Kobe, doesnt mean he some second rate player. I’m sure your magazine didnt describe him as a second tier player when he was thrown on the cover. Joe Johnson is a second tier shooting gueard and be clear. That name should never appear in the same sentence with afore mention, and yeah he is forgotten about for good reason. He has yet to push the ATL into the second round yet consistently show up throughout the whole first round. Well see how much easier his job becomes this year because of the 20ppg Mal brings in or the relief period. Bibby is not a playmaker?! Hahahaha get the hell outta here bro, unchecked aggression needs to go check some film!

  • http://shaqtus.blogspot.com Lets Go Hawks

    Actually, if another team can offer a max contract to JJ, i think he’ll leave. I think Wade is gone and possibly Bosh. It depends on the kind of year toronto has.

    And JJ and Brandon Roy have almost the EXACT same game. Roy finishes a little better but Joe has a better 3.

    Joe’s shot selection is what it is because Mike Woodson runs the “iso-joe” play 4 out of 5 times down the floor. Woodson WANTS JJ takin those shots. If you look back to his Suns days or his Olympic stint a couple years ago, he’s actually a really unselfish player.

  • rick773

    I gotta disagree with TJ on one thing. There are better situations for JJ like the Chi. He wouldn’t have to be the man Rose is the face of the franchise for the next 10-15 so he could come in and get his 20 5 5 and not have to be labled as the franchise.

  • chester

    Heckler…formerly ‘Yallallreadyknow’ says:

    WHY THE HELL IS REGGIE MILLERS NAME MENTIONED ABOVE IN THIS ARTICLE AS A FREE AGENT?!!?

    @ heckler,
    are you reading this article cAREFULLY?? it’s said that this 2010 free agent class is at least deeper and could change the direction of the League MORE THAN ANY CLASS SINCE 2000!!! SINCE 2000… AYT! THAT WHY REGGIE’S NAME IS IN THIS ARTICLE… BETTER READ CAREFULLY BEFORE MAKING ANY DUMB ASS COMMENT. BUT ATLEAST YOU SAID NEVERMIND IN THE END. LOL!

  • p-dizzle

    Joe is nice……. I love his game. Franchise player? The jury is still out but he’s def a top 5 shooting gaurd in the league. The only thing I would like to see is for him to take it to the rim a lil stronger in games. His build is close to LBJ and he’s a much better shooter. 26 7 7 is what he is capable of I think.

  • ponky_alolor

    @23 i agree with you on a stronger drive to the rim for JJ. sometimes, he just settles for the J. It seems like B-Roy, who moves at the same pace as JJ, finishes better.

  • AB_40

    roy is more explosive then joe johnson. and he has a better drive and a vert over 20 inches haha.

    but joe johnson is a great player, not a franchise type player but a great one. he’d do great as a seccond best player with a big man as that number one. I could see him ending up in houston next to a healthy yao and an even better aron brooks.

  • kevin k

    @ K dizzle

    you fucking retarded? do you even watch the hawks games?? compare JJ to Brandon Roy?? I am sorry but that’s an insult to Roy. Go look at the team wins. Compare their stats. Roy has only been in the league 3 years while JJ plays softer than Dirk getting bitch slapped on the face by West. If you are 6-7, 240 lb and is suppose to be the team leader, quit jacking up 3s and fade aways on 3 guys and take the ball to the hole and get to the FT. People always criticize VC for being soft and taking too many jumpers. Watch and compare stats of VC and JJ and tell me who fits that description.

  • Ike

    Joe Johnson average 16.4ppg in the ’09 playoffs (2nd on his team) while Brandon Roy averaged 26.7ppg, basically carrying his team against a very good Rockets team. All comparisons need to stop. Comparing Joe Johnson to Brandon Roy is a complete joke. And I’m a resident of the city if Atlanta.

    Johnson is good enough to average 20 ppg and make an all-star team but he’s not going to carry a team in the playoffs. Josh Smith is a complete headcase and his mercurial ass still averaged more than the “franchise player” in the playoffs.

    http://blogs.ajc.com/jeff-schultz-blog/2009/08/05/whats-the-hawks-rush-to-re-sign-joe/?cxntfid=blogs_jeff_schultz_blog

  • Ike

    Joe Johnson ranked 28th in scoring in the ’09 playoffs.

  • Rapsfan

    You dumb fucks.. Bosh loves T.dOt and T.Dot loves Bosh.

    bookit he aint going no where

  • Diego

    @ kevin k:

    You are a complete ass. You’re probably one of those carpetbaggers in Atlanta who goes to the Atl/Boston game wearing a Boston jersey, the Atl/Detroit game wearing a Detroit jersey, etc., etc. Please stay home–the Hawks can live without your limited $ spent on the partial plan in the cheap upper-tier seats!

    Joe drives all the time and, in fact, sometimes too much in clutch situations, with 3 guys on him. Yes, he really sucked in the playoffs last year, and yes, he has hot and cold spells for spans of games during the season, but he is a deserved all-star–and lead the team in assists also!

    Please spare the true Hawks and hoops fans from your uninformed Yankee hater drivel.

    Joe will not lead a team to an NBA title, but paired with another solid all-star (not necessarily LeBron or Wade), he definitely could.

    Joe stays in Atlanta unless the cash-poor Hawks owners are too cheap to resign him (like the Phoenix owners were a few years ago), which unfortunately is a strong possibility.

  • Ian

    jj is a bit overrated imo he cant be the second best player on a champ team. sorry austin hes not in the roy group and you ignored the third best sg in the game. NO WAY JJ is that good.

  • http://astrokidz.blogspot.com T.J.

    @22 It would basically be restarting for him. Dude just spent the past 4 seasons playing in ATL. Where we improved greatly every year. If NO OTHER hawk left then why would he? Seriously any of the hawks that where FAs could have left and possibly got more money but they didn’t. This team has a good bond man. This isn’t any team chemistry wise. They’ve been together for years. Really if he went to Chi he’d be in basically the same sitaution with a team thats not as developed. Other then Derrick Rose theres not really anything that they would/do have that we don’t.

    For the people that say don’t compare Broy to JJ. Your stupid. I’m sorry but thats the best way I can put it. Like really theirs not much of a difference statistically and just watching them play you can tell their games are alike. Only difference is that JJ has to shoot more (but now that we have Jamal and Jeff I’m sure that will lessen.) Really JJ and Broy both take over games the same way. Theres not a different comparison for either of them that fits better.

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    Hahahaha don’t know if this has been commented on, but I love that Dime threw Derek Fisher’s name in there. Whew that’s good.

  • Jt2ballin

    man why does everyone keep bringing up the fuckin playoffs from last year when Joe only averaged 16.4 ppg and because of that they question him as a franchise player?!? No other player in the nba played more minutes than Joe did so show him some respect because he was worn down. And secondly the statement that he doesn’t show up in big games was obviously made by someone who has no idea what they’re fucking talkin about. In game 7 against the Heat, Joe made 6 three pointers and scored 27 points. there is no doubt in my mind that joe johnson is a FRANCHISE player.