Maybe Joe Johnson should go ahead and rest that injured hand

First this:

Hawks coach Larry Drew suspects Joe Johnson's left hand is hurting more than he's willing to admit.

But Drew said he's not inclined to rest his All-Star guard.

"I will consider it, but a high probability of giving him time off? No," Drew said. "We will probably just try to rest him days that we are not playing, especially when we have a couple days in between. Let him get it treated and keep him out.

"With those type injuries they always start to feel good, and then you get it banged again and it becomes a lingering thing through the season."

Johnson got hit in the hand during a preseason game and said he aggravates it with contact in each game. He wore a protective glove for two games and said the hand wasn't as sore after those games, but he took it off for Tuesday's game at the Nets.

Johnson is off to a slow start this season after signing a six-year, $124 million contract over the summer. Entering Tuesday's game, he was shooting 42 percent from the field, including 26 percent on 3-pointers.

Then, this:

Here's what an increasingly typical* night looks like for franchise player Joe Johnson: 16 points on 18 shots (0 points on 4 shots in overtime), 8 assists, 6 rebounds (1 offensive), and 2 turnovers.

*Johnson's True Shooting Percentage is now 49.8% on the season. And he still comfortably leads the team in usage rate. And no combination of injury and ineffectiveness will limit his playing time.

When we wrote our unending series of diatribes against the max re-signing of Joe Johnson this past offseason (and really, in the midst of last season, too), the silver lining was that, hey, maybe we'll get a season, maybe two of his same, better than average production he'd given to the franchise coming into the season.

However, all the forecasting models we referenced in our cases against bringing Joe back showed almost an instant decline:

Consider:

As for Johnson, a fine recent fanpost on BlogABull raised concerns about his long-term development using similar players. Even that post, however, was not quite this pessimistic about Johnson. There are a couple of factors at play here. First, Johnson's statistics have never matched his reputation. Second, players of Johnson's ilk--above-average starting wings--have tended to decline in a hurry in their early 30s. By year three, just two of Johnson's top 10 comparables (Steve Smith and Jalen Rose) were offering their team any kind of value. A max deal for Johnson could end up very ugly.    

and:

SGs/SFs FALL OFF IN THEIR 30s.  WILL JOHNSON BE AN EXCEPTION? 

On one hand, Johnson has the athleticism, health and 3pt shooting to hold up better than, say, Jerry Stackhouse or Michael Redd.  But on the other hand, two red flags stand out to me:

  • Despite Johnson's impressive resume, his numbers with the Hawks - 18.3 PER, .541 TS% - really aren't that impressive.  Those are Josh Howard / Michael Finley type numbers, not ones you'd commit $18+ mil a year till age 33 to.
  • A dropoff at age 32 and 33 is all but guaranteed.  Michael Jordan and Jeff Hornacek were the only players to maintain their numbers through that age.  Jordan is Jordan, and took two years off; Hornacek logged only 14000 minutes through age 28 as a 3rd option.  Comparatively, Johnson will have played 26000 minutes through age 28, with many coming as a #1.
  • Well, if health becomes a factor like say, oh I don't know, a hand injury, then could we already be facing the beginning of the decline? 

    Dude, I think so:

    GP

    Min

    USG

    TS%

    %Ast

    AR

    TOR

    ORR

    DRR

    TRR

    EFF

    WS

    AWS

    PER

    APER

    57

    41.4

    28.32

    55.8

    39.6

    14.63

    10.34

    2.7

    9.6

    6.1

    19.77

    5.71

    6.53

    19.53

    20.15

    82

    40.7

    25.60

    53.4

    47.5

    20.09

    9.45

    2.9

    9.9

    6.4

    19.32

    5.87

    6.37

    17.26

    17.75

    79

    39.5

    26.61

    53.4

    39.4

    20.41

    8.75

    2.5

    10.5

    6.5

    19.41

    5.95

    6.37

    18.21

    19.01

    76

    37.9

    26.35

    53.8

    38.7

    18.28

    7.18

    3.0

    11.4

    7.1

    19.51

    6.62

    6.82

    19.28

    20.09

    14

    36.3

    25.25

    50.4

    49.5

    20.36

    8.43

    2.7

    9.1

    6.0

    15.36

    4.04

    4.65

    15.70

    16.35

    Min

    FG%

    3P%

    FT%

    eFG%

    TS%

    %Ast

    Blkd

    %Blkd

    And1

    And1%

    FTR

    PTS

    41.4

    47.1

    38.1

    74.8

    52.3

    55.8

    39.6

    0.77

    3.9

    0.49

    2.5

    0.28

    25.0

    40.7

    43.2

    38.1

    83.4

    48.8

    53.4

    47.5

    0.66

    3.6

    0.41

    2.3

    0.25

    21.7

    39.5

    43.7

    36.0

    82.6

    48.9

    53.4

    39.4

    0.61

    3.4

    0.30

    1.7

    0.25

    21.4

    37.9

    45.8

    36.9

    81.8

    50.5

    53.8

    38.7

    0.70

    3.8

    0.22

    1.2

    0.19

    21.3

    36.3

    41.7

    25.8

    80.3

    45.4

    50.4

    49.5

    0.71

    4.6

    0.57

    3.7

    0.28

    17.6

    With all of this, and now the Hawks abandoning ship on the motion/flex offense, which had allowed Al Horford to take a big step forward as the best offensive player on the team thus far, the Hawks are continuing to throw good resources after bad by doubling (or is it quadrupling by now?) down on Joe Johnson leading the team.

    Maybe it's time to let Joe rest his injuries and allow the Hawks to go back to the changes that only a month or so ago was defined as necessary and run a more egalitarian offense that allowed for a very efficient offense to this point and one that will resist the effects of a declining star.

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