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SLAM Top 50: Joe Johnson, No 22 And Looking For Bounce Back Season

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As SLAM Online was rolling out its Top 50 players for the 2011-12 season I was wondering what kind of effect Joe Johnson's sub par (for him) 2010 season would have on his ranking. The answer was not much as Johnson checks in at No. 22 in this year's rankings down just three spots from last season.

If you have watched Joe Johnson's tenure while in an Atlanta Hawks uniform watching him last year was uncomfortable. It never felt completely right even during January when he averaged 26 points a game. We quickly found out at the start of the season that Johnson had a pretty serious elbow injury that required surgery. He returned to the lineup shortly after surgery and a couple of weeks before anyone was expecting to see him back on the court.

Johnson doesn't miss games and it is a rarity to see him not in uniform. We don't know how long the elbow injury was there and there is a chance that it existed even back into the previous season. I remember standing in Larry Drew's office with Jason Walker as Drew explained that Johnson had woke up that morning and couldn't extend his arm and was away getting it checked.

People were quick to call Johnson out for a 15-point outing here and there, but little did they care to focus on the fact that Joe was ailing. For half of the season the quiet assassin was dealing with serious elbow and thumb issues. Elbow. Thumb. Two pretty vital weapons to a shooting guard’s arsenal, no? He’d miss 10 games for the injuries. Heaven only knows how many others he played through hurt.

Johnson's 2010 averages were by far the worst during his time with the Hawks but it is also worth noting that he played less minutes and attempted less shots on a per game basis than at any other point while with the Hawks. One of the biggest criticisms of Mike Woodson was that he rode Johnson into the ground. If Larry Drew did anything in 2010 then it was trying to lesson the load somewhat on Johnson.