When Joe Johnson was averaging 12 points per game on 29 percent shooting in Atlanta’s second-round playoff sweep at the hands of Orlando, it was the worst possible time to have a slump during a contract year. For a player whose talent has never been doubted — rather, critics question his ability to be a leader and perform like a franchise superstar on the big stage — coming up so short in the playoffs wasn’t the lasting impression J.J. wanted to leave with potential suitors.
But the Hawks showed faith in their top guy, offering him a six-year maximum contract, worth around $120 million, almost as soon as the free-agent negotiation period began. After a few days of weighing offers from the Knicks and presumably seeing where he might fit into Chicago’s plans for world domination, Johnson has reportedly decided to stay with Atlanta.
The debate over whether or not Johnson is truly an elite player has been going for a couple of years now. He’s become an All-Star Game regular and the Hawks have increased their win total in each of his five seasons with the team, but at the same time he’s always been a notch or two below superstar two-guards like Kobe, D-Wade and Brandon Roy, and depending on who you ask, also below T-Mac, Vince Carter and Manu Ginobili in their primes.
Coming off a third straight playoff appearance, with a solid young core and a new coach in Larry Drew, it makes sense the Hawks would want to keep Johnson as their centerpiece. Perhaps they could have kept him for less than a max deal, but seeing as J.J. was getting booed by Atlanta fans at the end of their playoff run and seemed dead-set on getting a fresh start somewhere else, the Hawks probably had to give him all they could to keep him.
What do you think of this deal?