THHB's Top 10 Hawks of the Decade: Number Two



Where are the other Hawks of the Decade posts? Why, they are right here:

A Decade of Hawks Aughts (and Aught-Nots),

Top Hawks by Statistical Category

THHB's Top 10 (and more) Hawks of the Decade, #10, #9, #8, #7, #6, #5, #4, #3

Our Number Two Hawk of the Decade has stirred a controversy or two--which is in total contrast to his own personality on the court and in the public eye.

Still, he was instrumental in righting the franchise and being a rock around which a playoff team emerged.

The #2 Hawk of the Decade is:

Joe Johnson

Let's get right to the statistical reasons Joe is here:

2nd in PER: 18.3

T-2nd in Assist Rate: 25.2

T-1st Assists per game: 5.5

1st Points Per Game: 21.2

1st in Total Points, Field Goals, and Minutes

4 consecutive All-Star Appearances

 

Johnson came to the Hawks in a controversial trade that deigned to send Boris Diaw and (2) #1 picks to Phoenix in a 5 year, 67.4 million dollar sign and trade deal. But it wasn't just the decision of then Hawks GM Billy Knight to make. He had to clear it with the Atlanta Spirit owners who, to that point, had some contention in the past about certain deal, but had always been able to steer around the inner conflicts and make things happen.

This time Hawks NBA Governor Steve Belkin balked at the high cost of acquisition and intended to veto the deal until the rest of the group objected and tossed the whole kit and caboodle into what has become the Gilligan's Island of ownership disputes.

Meanwhile, on the court, Johnson turned out to be most of what Knight intended when he brought the emerging shooting guard on in 2005-2006. What he didn't turn out to be was some kind of proxy point guard, which may or may not have given Knight the comfort of not drafting a PG in the previous draft (Paul v. Williams).

Since the Hawks were coming off a historically bad (13) win season, one might wonder why a young player of Johnson's considerable talent would push (and he did push to leave PHX) to go to such a struggling team?

Johnson was able to become "the man" for the Hawks where he certainly would not have been in the more talent dispersed Suns franchise. For the decade, Joe led the Hawks in Usage Rate with 26.1 (he had 19.0 his last season in PHX), including a career high 28.3 rate in his second season as a Hawk.

It is from this lineage and gift of time and possessions, as well as the lack of alternatives, that Joe was the player the Hawks looked to in the fourth quarter of close games. Johnson became so adept at taking and making these clutch shots that THHB began to label his late game heroics as his "killer sauce."

His defining moments as a Hawk have come as he helped the team into their first postseasons of the 21st century, with his NBA Moment against the Celtics and his Game 7 bombing raid against Miami.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Hawk infamy---the roster, his teammates, got better, so the habits that Joe and Mike Woodson had cultivated late in games became less heroic now that it wasn't necessary to dedicate the entire offense to Johnson. Such sentiment began to permeate the people's opinion of the entire game and thus the term Iso-Joe was born.

Now, as we end the decade, Johnson's infamous contract comes to an end. This past offseason, the Hawks attempted to extend the contract of Johnson for another four years for 60 million dollars. Now, with another season of his teammates getting better, including their young front court, the tread on his 40 minute per game tires another year worn, one wonders if this is the end of the Joe Johnson era in Atlanta.

His production, his dependability, and his incredible shot making will never be forgotten by Hawks fans, no matter what happens this summer. He is an all-time Hawk, near the front of the line of the second tier of such greats, and our #2 Hawk of the Decade.

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