It’s a tradition that transcends time, generations, and front office regimes: the Detroit Pistons wasting a roster spot on a washed up player.
The Allen Iverson trade inspired it. What followed: Chucky Atkins. Damien Wilkins. Ben Wallace’s second tenure. Chauncey Billup’s second tenure. Tayshaun Prince’s second tenure. (Love the guys, but they were dumb signings on their season’s roster construction that was nothing more than fan appeasement) Caron Butler. Aaron Gray. Steve Blake. Beno Udrih. Jameer Nelson. Jose Calderon. And now, Joe Johnson.
Generally when the Pistons sign or trade for an obviously washed up player, that player is out of the league the next year. But with a fun twist this season, Ed Stefanski took the unique route of signing an obviously washed up player that wasn’t even in the league last year. That’s neat!
Can we just stop with this yet? Veteran presence isn’t a thing. If you want to have a former player around to be a positive influence on the younger kids, hire him as a coach. It’s cheaper and doesn’t require a roster spot. This is so stupid.
The main thing we always hope for at this position is that the guy never sees the floor. But then they always do. Calderon played over 600 minutes last year. Steve Blake nearly hit a thousand. Then after the season we all rejoice about how the guy is gone and everything will be better now, then we sign some new guy like Johnson to create a dumpster fire of minutes.
What’s particularly sardonic about that is that even though they’re a problem, they’re not the problem. And so instead of addressing the real problems - levels of talent or fit of roster construction or key players not actually being all that good - we focus on the guy who played 600 minutes as actually being the problem.
In case you can’t tell, I’m so tired of this shit.
At this point in his career, Joe Johnson sucks. In his last NBA season, he had a 49% true shooting percentage between two different teams. He shot 27% from three. He’s a scorer who can no longer score. But hey, he was pretty good in Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 league, so let’s definitely pencil him in to help out at forward! Hey, and Reggie Evans led the league in rebounds so that makes Andre Drummond replaceable! Score for me!
Johnson led the Big 3 in scoring, but only on 48% from the field with 37% of his shots coming from three or four (seriously, this has become far too many words about Joe Johnson) point range. I’d tell you his true shooting percentage, but Big 3 stats doesn’t show his free throw numbers (why am I doing this to myself?).
And he was just as washed up in the preseason for the Pistons. He shot 16% from three, had 46% true shooting, and is about as spry as a leather glove that’s been left in the Las Vegas sun for a fortnight.
I always prefer to include at least a little film in my articles, especially one as incendiary as this, so here’s a performance art piece on the Pistons small forward position:
He shouldn’t make the roster and, as we’re about to get to, probably won’t. But if it weren’t for a lanky, talented, but underperforming dude out of UNLV, we’d probably see way more Joe Johnson than anyone should reasonably be subjected to in 2019 or 2020. Just like we did with Jose Calderon. Or Steve Blake. Or...well, you get the idea.
Last year, The One Big Question
How relevant is professional three on three basketball between retired players to the current competitive NBA environment?
Honestly if it weren’t for Christian Wood, this guy would have started 20 games. But Johnson is probably going to be cut to make room for Wood. Christian Wood, our savior.
But if he does make the roster? It is far too easy to see a world where Joe Johnson is among the top 10 on the team in minutes.
Best Case Scenario
Christian Wood leads to Joe Johnson being cut, Wood goes on to fulfill the potential he’s always shown, and the franchise finally freaking figures out that the best use of final roster spots is for young fringe NBA players with talent and potential rather than guys whose best years were more than 10 years ago.
Worst Case Scenario
Joe Johnson starts 20 games, plays more minutes than Svi Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya. Something we’ve seen way too many times now.