When a team’s leading scorer and acknowledged biggest star is going to be out for a month, the usual question is: Can they hold on?
In Atlanta, it’s more like “Will it really matter?”
Joe Johnson — the guy who got a bigger contract than LeBron James this summer — is going to be out at least a month due to elbow surgery taking place today. But for the Hawks, the blow will not be as serious as you might think.
Sure, Johnson has been averaging 17.1 points per game but he is shooting just 40.9 percent this season. He’s been inefficient. He is not the same player that was the go-to guy of the Hawks in recent years (possibly because of this injury). Brett LaGree of the Hawks blog Hoopinion explains it all quite well.
Johnson has been, despite maintaining a strong assist rate and rarely turning the ball over, the weak link of the Atlanta offense thus far due to the combination of his high usage rate and low true shooting percentage…
Plus, with Larry Drew’s motion offense now installed, the Hawks do not rely on Joe Johnson to create shots, both for himself and others, to the degree they have in the past which should make the transition from Johnson’s presence to his absence relatively smooth.
The Hawks have scorers. Mo Evans wills likely start in place of Johnson but the real key is this means more minutes for Jamal Crawford, who is finding his groove again and can light it up. Al Horford is having a career year so more of him is a good thing. Josh Smith can light it up. Mike Bibby hasn’t sucked like we expected (on offense anyway) and there are guys like Marvin Williams that can add points as well.
As for defense, the loss of Johnson is pretty much a wash.
The Hawks are better with a good Joe Johnson in the lineup. That’s the Johnson they need to come back from surgery, not the guy who has played the first 18 games of the season.
When he returns, he will likely find the Hawks — currently 12-7 and the third seed in the East — right about where he left them in the standings. Which leads to another question:
If the Hawks aren’t going to miss him, is he really worth the $116 million they are paying him the next six years?