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Joe Johnson poised for Brooklyn breakout?

Roster flexibility could equal a strong second season with Nets
10/21/2013 9:42 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

BACKGROUND
A 6-foot-7 hybrid who can realistically play three positions, Joe Johnson has been an explosive scorer almost his entire career, noted for being an excellent three-point shooter and ball-handler and becoming particularly good in recent years off isolation.

After two seasons at the University of Arkansas, the now-32-year-old was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2001 Draft by the Celtics and spent the first half of his rookie year alongside Paul Pierce in Boston. His star really began to shine, though, when he was traded to Phoenix in February 2002, and he exploded into the stratosphere after getting traded to Atlanta in the summer of 2005 – averaging 18 or more points in all seven of his seasons in the ATL and making all six of his All-Star appearances consecutively from 2007-12.

Johnson said “Hello, Brooklyn” thanks to a trade with Atlanta last summer, and as he enters his 13th NBA season, he has career averages of 17.6 points (on 44.2 percent shooting and 36.9 percent three-point shooting), 4.4 assists, and 4.1 rebounds in 36.7 minutes per game.

LAST SEASON
Johnson’s numbers were “down” in his first season in Brooklyn, thanks mostly to the fact that he was on a team with so many weapons – but make no mistake about it, he was one of the key focal points of the offense on most nights.

A starter who played a lot with the second unit early in games as well, Johnson played 72 games last year (missing 10 because of plantar fasciitis), averaging 36.7 minutes in those contests and posted a line of 16.3 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game. He also shot 42.3 percent from the floor (including 37.5 percent from beyond the arc) and had multiple game-winning buzzer-beaters in that scope, including one in a February tilt with Milwaukee where he actually had to do it twice.

THIS SEASON
With another big roster turnover in Brooklyn, it’s unclear just how well everyone, from Deron Williams on down to Alan Anderson, will truly fare – but if we had to peg it, we’d say that based on everything we’ve seen, you can expect no worse than the Joe Johnson that you got last year.

Johnson should one again be a key focal point in leading the second unit, but the increased flexibility and versatility of the roster could either help or hinder him from putting up even bigger numbers. Of the 15 men who will be on the roster, Jason Kidd could literally pencil in five different names at any one position and still put an effective team on the floor, which means dozens of lineups – and dozens of chances for anyone and everyone to shine.

We figure that between his isolation skills and his ability to hit a three (like, say, Ray Allen in his prime playing alongside Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and a very good point guard), Johnson will actually be one of the guys whose numbers improve, at least slightly; that said, we’ll account for said slight uptick and peg him to average 38 minutes per game and post a line of 18 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists per game.

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