Seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson had his mammoth contract bought out by the Brooklyn Nets earlier this week, and almost immediately the rumblings about where the 14-year veteran would end up began. Dating back to the offseason, a bondage between Johnson and the Cleveland Cavaliers was birthed as reports indicated that the Cavs would try their hardest to pry Johnson away from Brooklyn. Many speculated Joe would end up in “The Land” to assist LeBron James in his hunt of another championship, and this is what ESPN reported a few hours after Johnson was waived:
There is a strong belief within the Cavaliers’ organization, league sources said, that they are in prime position to win the Johnson sweepstakes and add him to their title-chasing roster.
But when Johnson was cut loose by the Nets, several suitors emerged for his services, including the likes of the Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. What once seemed like a foregone conclusion was complicated by playoff teams trying to buff up their roster by adding a veteran who has been shooting blistery percentages since the New Year.
After mulling over his choices for a couple of days, Johnson decided to make Miami his new home, and prior to his Heat debut on Sunday night against the New York Knicks, a contest in which his team won 98-91 and he scored 12 points in 30 minutes of action, Johnson revealed that Miami’s continuity as a team led him to make his decision.
“Man, I had a connection with a lot of guys here,” Johnson said prior to playing at Madison Square Garden with his new team. “D-Wade, [Amar’e Stoudemire], UD [Udonis Haslem], guys I’ve been in contact with. Not just throughout this process, but over the years, and I just felt it was right.”
Johnson and Miami is a good marriage, especially if Johnson’s hot shooting can be sustained for a Heat team that has been starved for a competent three-point threat for majority of the season. Miami is dead last in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage at 31.7%, and they don’t fare better in any other three-point metrics either.
Miami shoot’s a league-worst 33.5% on catch-and-shoot threes, and make only 32.8% of “open” three-pointers, what NBA.com/stats classifies as an attempt with a defender six feet or further away.
These shooting deficiencies make Johnson the perfect remedy for Pat Riley’s crew, as Joe’s 45.6% from downtown (minimum 30 MPG) since January 1st is 4th best in the Association, grouping him amongst the likes of J.J. Redick and Stephen Curry. Johnson also has a 60.9 TS% in that same timeframe, which ranks 5th best amongst guards logging at least 30 minutes a night.
Johnson has also thrived in catch-and-shoot scenarios since the New Year, as he’s shooting 47.4% in C&S since January 1.
Here are Johnson’s numbers from his last 26 games: 13.3 points, 4.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds per on 48% FG, and 45% 3PT FG. He’s bounced back nicely from his brutal start to the season, and although his offerings on the defensive end won’t be much, this is a smart move by the Miami Heat.
In a conference where the 3rd and 6th seed are separated by a mere four games, calculated moves such as these can move the needle just enough to help you win a few more games and possibly capture home court in the first round. Things such as these matter to a Heat team that has been uneven all season long.
Johnson will serve as Miami’s shooter and as a form of reinforcement with them battling a slew of injuries.
Miami can find solace in the fact that Goran Dragic is beginning to resemble the guy who captivated the NBA with a sexy style of play down in Phoenix en-route to the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 29, 2016
Johnson said he wouldn’t mind finishing his career in Miami, but he also added a “let’s see what happens,” at the end of that statement. Johnson acknowledges there are multiple channels through which Miami could operate through this offseason, making him an expendable piece.
But for the time being, he’s tasked with being a consistent shooter and scorer for the baby-contender Heat. How this pans out will have a huge bearing on where Johnson spends the final phase of his career. Let the audition begin.