Joe Johnson has always been a scorer. From his time on the Suns with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire to leading the Hawks to multiple second round berths in the playoffs, Joe Johnson was always renowned for his ability to put up points. When he failed to lead Brooklyn to the same success, people started to criticize him for not creating enough offense. Why? Because for better or for worse, people eventually expected Johnson to carry most of his team’s offensive load on his shoulders. He averaged 20 points per game for five seasons with the Hawks and earned the reputation as a clutch shooter. Even in Brooklyn, he had an impressive portfolio of game-winning shots, but as his career lengthened and he began to age, people began to consider him overrated.
Naysayers claimed that Johnson didn’t play enough defense, took too many shots and wasn’t enough of a facilitator. As he struggled in the apathy the Nets provided, his critics grew both in confidence and number. Brooklyn fell in the standings, and Joe Johnson gained the reputation of an underperformer with a $120 million albatross contract. Since his buyout and subsequent signing by the Miami Heat however, Johnson seems comfortable. He has thrived in a lesser role and has become an important role player for the Heat in the wake of Chris Bosh’s injury issues.
In five games with the Heat, Johnson netted 14 points per game on 60 percent shooting from the field on just under 10 field goal attempts per game. He hasn’t taken this few attempts since his second year in the league with the Suns. Though this is a very small sample size, it’s promising to see that the Heat have gone undefeated since Johnson joined the team. Without the burden of being the go-to guy, Johnson has been able to pick and choose his shots, either getting spot-up opportunities or posting up smaller guards. He also has the freedom to drive into the lane and put up floaters and runners over the defense, not unlike Dwyane Wade’s style of play as both players grow older.
Johnson really does seem at home in Miami. He came to the Heat after being wooed by Dwyane Wade and Amare Stoudemire, passing up offers from several other teams, including Lebron James and the Cavaliers. Since his signing, Johnson has said positive things about the culture and the professionalism of the Heat, and it shows in his willingness to adapt and cooperate. Despite being more of an isolation player in Atlanta and Brooklyn, Johnson has made an effort to join the team-wide initiative to push the pace in recent games, which leans more towards the Suns team he used to play for. This example illustrates just how well Joe Johnson has fit in with the Heat.
At the end of the day, Joe Johnson is probably not the missing piece that suddenly propels the Heat to the NBA Finals. The best-case scenario is they put up a fight against the Cavs and make the series interesting. However, this addition bodes well for the Heat’s short-term future. It extends Miami’s reputation of coming in and snatching big names off the market. Most importantly, Joe Johnson has a chance to restore his reputation, thrive in a system and simply settle down and focus on what he does best: score.