A common theme during the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce press conference was sacrifice, the ability to give up one self for the good of the team. Garnett said specifically that some players may have to do what they don’t want to do and if you are a guy who takes 20 shots, you may have to become a guy who takes 10 or 12.
The Nets didn’t exactly have a guy who took 20 shots per game last season, but Joe Johnson lead the team with 14.6 field goal attempts per game. If anyone is going to have to sacrifice it’s going to be him and the time to cut back on Johnson’s game seems to be now especially if you believe Bradford Doolittle of ESPN.
Doolittle used Wins Above Replacement Player, or WARP, to rank the shooting guards in the NBA and Johnson finished all th way down in 17th place. That’s quite a thing to say about a player who is still owed $69.5 million over the next three years.
Here’s his explanation:
“We’ve long warned about the perils of age 32 when it comes to shooting guards, and Johnson hit that age just after the Finals ended. His value dropped like a stone last season, with a winning percentage that dipped from .564 to .443. With so many alpha-personality players to share possessions with in Brooklyn’s new lineup, Johnson has entered the role-player phase of his decline.”
I acknowledge that Johnson had one of the worst years of his career last season. He averaged just 15.9 points per 36 minutes, his lowest since 2004-05, and shot just 42.3 percent, his lowest since 2002-03. It was a bad year, but he was also adjusting to a new team, played for two different coaches, and had plantar fasciitis in his foot at the end of the season.
This also hasn’t been apart of some larger trend where he’s been getting worse for years now. In 2011-12, Johnson’s 19.1 points per 36 minutes and 45.4 shooting percentage where better than his career averages.
So while he may be on the wrong side of 30, getting closer to the downside of his career and we may have already seen the start of that downside, I’m not ready to write him off just yet. It’s true that Johnson will have to make adjustments in the coming season, but he’s a talented player who showed us multiple times during the regular season last year that he’s not afraid to back down when the pressure gets tough (although he does need a healthy foot).