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NBA, The NBA's 30 Best Go-To Players / Nov 10, 2010 / 12:00 pm

Ranking the NBA’s 30 Go-To Guys (#12: Joe Johnson)

Joe Johnson (photo. Zach Wolfe)

Who do you want your offense to run through with the game on the line? Counting down from 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…

JOE JOHNSON, Atlanta Hawks
There is a very good chance that Joe Johnson is as good right now as he’s ever going to get. Which is very good: Solid 20-point, 5-board, 5-dime type, All-Star staple, spontaneous combustions of 35 to 40 points some nights, no stranger to game-winners and daggers, one of the 15 to 20 best in the world at what he does for a living.

That version of Joe Johnson has led the Hawks to the brink of serious NBA championship contention, and is certainly worth “franchise” status. But in securing Johnson with a six-year, $120 million contract this summer, were the Hawks banking on getting the player described above, or banking on something better?

Because he’s closer to 30 years old than 20, majority opinion says Johnson has reached his potential. But considering that Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki continued to improve after they hurdled 30, it’s not quite time to delete the “rising” from Johnson’s “rising star” label.

As a crunch-time option, Johnson is among the best in the League. Last season he scored 39.5 points per 48 minutes of “clutch time,” according to 82games.com, eighth-best in the NBA. Johnson shot 46 percent from the field, 44 percent from three-point range, and 88 percent at the free-throw line in the clutch, all higher than his regular season numbers.

Johnson’s bread and butter is his jump shot, which is effective in both catch-and-shoot and clear-out situations. He can also use his 6-7, 240-pound frame and point guard’s handle to get in the lane and create layups and free-throw opportunities.

As go-to moves go, however, Johnson has one of the most difficult. Every crunch-time performer has a preferred move: When Carmelo Anthony gets the ball, he wants that step-back jumper from the elbow. Paul Pierce wants his two-dribble pull-up going right. Tyreke Evans wants to use his crossover to get into the lane and lay it in off-glass. Johnson’s move is when he goes left, takes off from one leg as he approaches the baseline, and twists his body to shoot with his right hand off the window. He’s almost mastered the art of high-arcing it over shot-blockers like Dwight Howard, but it’s still a tough shot.

This summer proved that Johnson is, though low-profile, one of the most polarizing players in the League. Among fans and analysts, opinions are split on whether he deserved the nine-figure deal, whether he’s truly a franchise guy, whether he is as good as the stats say, whether he is really the best the Hawks have had since Dominique. His rise, like his style, has been steady. Or maybe he’s done rising. But from his current perch, Johnson has soared high enough to warrant elite status.

*** *** ***

13. Derrick Rose (Bulls)
14. Tyreke Evans (Kings)
15. Vince Carter (Magic)
16. Gilbert Arenas (Wizards)
17. Amar’e Stoudemire (Knicks)
18. Monta Ellis (Warriors)
19. Danny Granger (Pacers)
20. John Salmons (Bucks)
21. Rudy Gay (Grizzlies)
22. Stephen Jackson (Bobcats)
23. Baron Davis (Clippers)
24. Ben Gordon (Pistons)
25. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
26. Yao Ming (Rockets)
27. Mo Williams (Cavaliers)
28. Brook Lopez (Nets)
29. Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)
30. Michael Beasley (Timberwolves)

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  • Joe’s Momma

    Let the hating of Joe Johnson commence!

    The guy had one bad playoff series against a good defensive team and people start to doubt this guy. What about the 5 yrs he was with the Hawks and he took them from bottom feeders to a legit playoff team every year? Lets just brush that off and bash him for a weeks worth of work.

    Joe Johnson earned that contract, and he deserves it. I love JJ’s game. He doesn’t look fast, but will blow by you. He doesn’t look athletic, but will dunk on you.

    But him sharing the go-to status with Jamal Crawford last year might knock him down a peg in terms of go to players. But that was just game winners, in terms of crunch time, Joe got that one. You can’t give Jamal the ball and say get me points, because he takes that to mean “shoot the ball.” But Joe Johnson not only can score, he can distribute equally well.

  • AZ

    LMAO…..JOE JOHNSON and NBA go to guys in the same sentence… Watch last years playoffs then slap yourself.

  • nizzio

    He did kill it against Boston in the playoffs

  • Rizwan

    Anyone wanna have a go with the rest of the potential lineup?

    Mine would be:

    11: Deron Williams
    10: CP3
    9: Ginobli/Duncan
    8: Roy
    7: Steve Nash
    6: Dirk
    5: Durant
    4: Melo
    3: PP
    2: Dwayne Wade
    1: Kobe Bryant

    Opinion only! But honestly you could move picks 6-3 around in any order and you couldnt argue.

  • ctkennedy

    he should of been top 10

  • Kendall1

    What, no LeBron? I aint mad at ya!!! 11-1 is a good order IMO