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Joe Johnson is fit for his contract says...Bill Simmons?


Alternate title: Second look at fiscal sanity for Joe's contract?

Buried within an entertaining read regarding some problems/solutions for the NBA's haves and have mores comes this Hawks-centric tidbit from Simmons regarding the highest payed players in the league and those who should and shouldn't have the sized contract.

And Joe Johnson, who has been married to the fact that he signed the biggest contract of last season, for better or worse, comes out on the "belongs on the list" from Simmons.

Really, it's true:

Twenty-two players are scheduled to make more than $15 million for the 2011-12 season: Kobe Bryant ($25.5m), Tim Duncan ($21.4m), Rashard Lewis ($21.4m), Kevin Garnett ($21.2m), Gilbert Arenas ($19.1m), Dirk Nowitzki ($19.1m), Pau Gasol ($18.7m), Dwight Howard ($18.1m), Carmelo Anthony ($18.4m), Amar'e Stoudemire ($18.2m), Joe Johnson ($18m), Elton Brand ($17.1m), Chris Paul ($16.4m), Deron Williams ($16.3m), LeBron James ($16.0m), Chris Bosh ($16.0m), Dwyane Wade (15.7m), Paul Pierce ($15.3m), Zach Randolph ($15.2m), Antawn Jamison ($15.1m), Brandon Roy ($15m), Rudy Gay ($15m). Only Lewis, Arenas, Brand, Jamison and Roy don't belong on that list ... and if our "four-year max" rule was in place, Lewis' deal would be done; Arenas, Brand and Jamison would be in their final year, and Roy would have two years left. Either way, we're batting 78 percent on big-ass deals. Not bad.    


What? Well, no matter that Joe made the fictional cut of Simmons' "earns it" list, the stats say otherwise.

Of the players listed above by Simmons, Johnson actually doesn't show well in spreadsheet form. Here is a chart highlighting the advanced statistics of Adjusted PER (Hoopdata), Win Shares and Win Shares per 48 minutes (Basketball-Reference).


Uh-oh. Joe does not fare well in any of these categories, trailing even Brand in every category.

Well sure, but how about the playoffs? 


Granted, the playoffs are a small sample size, especially when it comes to teams that are gone after round one, like the Knicks and Amar'e Stoudemire, but Joe still doesn't rise very high in this look, either.

So how/why doesn't Simmons toss Joe in the bad contract fire? Well, he had no choice after listing how he determines franchise players in this system:

"3. We define a 'Franchise Player' as someone who's played at least four consecutive years with one team and made three All-Star teams OR two first or second All-NBA teams during that time. Any 'Franchise Player' automatically gets a $17 million cap figure, but can be paid $500,000 per years of service beyond that number without it counting on the cap. For instance, if Dwight Howard wants to sign with the Lakers next summer, they could offer only his franchise cap number ($68 million over four years). Orlando gets the benefit of that $500k bump - eight Howard/Orlando seasons multiplied by $500,000 - so they can offer him a four-year deal worth $87 million.13 The longer he stays in Orlando and keeps playing at a 'Franchise' level, the more money Howard can earn.    

Joe Johnson: 6 years as a Hawk, all consecutive----(5) straight All-Star appearances. Bingo.

In this system, Joe Johnson fits the "Franchise Player" profile and still qualifies heading into next season, no matter what the other numbers, as shown above, say.

So, despite a second look, it looks as if the value Simmons sees in Johnson is related to days past and status as an All-Star and former All-NBA player, which is why he's not thrown on the fire as one who doesn't fit the bill for his contract.

Johnson has 5 years and 100 million dollars left on his deal and needs a bounceback '11-'12 campaign to turn back his statistical decline and avoid further comparisons to Michael Finley.

I'm hopeful that Johnson, who just turned 30 on June 29th, can battle back and play to his 2009-2010 level and return to Simmons' list again next offseason.