Joe Johnson is, as Chris Webber put it on Twitter, a "free man." With a host of contenders sure to be in play for his services, let's see not only what the Pistons could use to lure him to Detroit, but also why it may be a good idea for Stan Van Gundy to consider this avenue.
Joe Johnson is a free man.. Waived from The @nets - where would you go if you were him. And What team should sign him?— Chris Webber (@realchriswebber) February 26, 2016
The Benefits of Detroit
While Detroit is a small market team, the roster as currently constructed could prove to be appealing to Johnson for a number of reasons. Firstly, this Pistons team as constructed has a very good chance to not just sneak in the playoffs, but potentially climb as high as the 5th-6th seed and cause damage. The only problem is that our bench is an affront to the human soul on most nights. And that's before guys like Anthony Tolliver and Stanley Johnson go down with injuries at the worst possible time.
Since Jodie Meeks was injured during the second game of the season, the one thing the bench has sorely lacked is a consistent scorer on the wing, which has forced Marcus Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to soak up minutes with the second unit, meaning that they are among the league leaders in minutes played. Adding a guy like Joe Johnson would not only provide much needed creativity and scoring for the second unit, but it would mean less of a burden placed on KCP and Morris, allowing them more rest time ahead of the playoffs.
Detroit is also sure to be an interesting team to consider for prospective free agents because of our upwards trend and the wealth of talent on the roster, not to mention a well-respected coach in Van Gundy. Despite the market of Detroit perhaps being not as desirable as other Eastern Conference teams, there is an appeal to play with the likes of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. Detroit is a team on the rise, on pace for at least 40 wins this season, with the entire starting lineup not in their primes yet (you could argue Morris is in his, but Stanley Johnson is likely the future at small forward).
Why Iso-Joe for Motown?
Joe Johnson provides things that the Pistons lack on the second unit - playmaking and three-point shooting. Individually, Anthony Tolliver is the only bench player really known as a threat from distance, with guys like Johnson and Morris (when he plays with the bench) really not the same threat with their low 30s percentages.
Joe Johnson would provide a boost to the three-point shooting. For the season, he is shooting 37.1% on four attempts per game, and those numbers have skyrocketed in 2016. Since the calendar has flipped, Armadillo Cowboy has shot 46% from downtown on 4 attempts per game (46-100 in 25 games in 2016).
What's interesting, however, is where he's shooting these threes. In 2015-16, Johnson has taken 229 three point shot attempts, nailing 85. What's interesting, however, is that most of these threes have come from above the break. If we look at his numbers on the NBA.com stats page (and filter through to their wonderful shot-tracking system) he is 14-38 from the left corner and 13-26 from the right corner, making him a 42.2% shooter from the corner threes. Above the break is a different story. He has gone 58-163 on above the break threes, which is a 35.6% accuracy rate. Whilst it's not sniper precision by any stretch, above the break threes are longer and harder to hit, and the chance of these threes being wide open is smaller than corner shots. If we look at the above the break numbers for our bench players, you'll see what Johnson can offer.
|Player||Above the break 3 %|
As we can see, the Pistons don't have a real threat from above the break. For what it's worth, both Stanley and Steve Blake are far more lethal from the corners than they are from up top, and this just means that different players are more comfortable in different spots. Also, for Blake and Hilliard, the sample size is small because both have had minor roles for most of the season.
Now that the Pistons have traded away key depth in Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, the bench needs to find a way to generate looks, which is something Johnson can do. However, he is efficient at creating his own look in the midrange, a skill he shares with Marcus Morris. Nearly 91% of Johnson's threes are assisted, but that number drops to 24% on two-point field goals.
Johnson takes 23% of his shots between 3-10 feet, 16% between 10-16 feet, and 17% between 16 feet and the three point line. He is shooting 43% from 3-10 feet, 47% from 10-16 feet, however, only 33% between 16 feet and the three point line. If he were to cut down on the amount of longer twos he takes (where have we heard that before), and focus more on closer mid range looks between 3-16 feet (which appears to be an efficient zone for him, as well as layups and threes) he would be a very reliable bench presence. In terms of attacking the basket, this season, only 6.3% of his looks are at the rim, which he is converting at a 57.9% rate, whilst 37.7% of his shots are threes, resulting in his 37.1%.
It's fair to say that the regression in some of his numbers over the course of the season has been the fact that he was stuck on a terrible team in Brooklyn with a severe lack in playmaking. The previous two seasons, his efficiency was a lot better thanks to the presence of a good playmaker in Deron Williams, but with Williams gone, Johnson was tasked with being the main creator in the Brooklyn lineup, whilst Shane Larkin was starting at point guard.
What would it cost to get him?
The deal we're looking at here is very similar to what Josh Smith got when he was cut by the Pistons and signed with Houston. The circumstances are slightly different here as Johnson was bought out, whereas Smith was waived, but Johnson still won't be chasing a big contract due to him being given a handy check by Mikhail Prokhorov and Sean Marks. I'd hazard a guess at the vet minimum or slightly above being good enough to land him.
What are the roster implications?
Justin Harper currently holds the 15th roster spot for the Pistons on a 10-day contract. Were Johnson to sign with the Pistons, I would imagine it would be fairly easy to waive Harper given his salary is only 50-60k and his deal is temporary anyway.
How realistic is it that he picks Detroit?
Honestly, not very. Sure, I feel he'd be a great fit here for our potential playoff push, but when there are contending teams firmly entrenched in the playoffs already (Cleveland, Toronto), he's probably not going to risk signing with a team that still has a fair chance to miss the postseason altogether. He'll almost certainly stay in the Eastern Conference as it's the easiest path to the Finals for him, but I'd expect him to be signed by the likes of Cleveland or Toronto, both mentioned as possible destinations.
There you have it. With Joe Johnson being bought out by the Nets, he could be an intriguing option for the Pistons. Would you want him? Have your say below.
Tl;dr...Joe Johnson on a vet minimum contract is a bargain for a playoff team and we should look to sign him.