‘Joe Jesus’ – Enough About the Money!

Updated: May 6, 2014

Fresh off of their thrilling first round victory over the Toronto Raptors, it is obvious who the Brooklyn Nets’ most valuable player was in that series – Joe Johnson. With the inconsistencies of Paul Pierce and Deron Williams throughout those seven games, Johnson was the one constant who Brooklyn could rely on. It’s pretty remarkable that he averaged nearly 41 minutes on the court and scored at such an efficient rate.















Cynics are always quick to point out that he is grossly overpaid and claim that his contract is amongst the worst in the league – if not THE worst. Yes, his statistical production doesn’t match up with his annual income, but to say that the Nets aren’t getting anything for their money is a joke. It’s not like what the Knicks have with Amare Stoudemire.

When he arrived in Brooklyn, his role was always supposed to be a complementary piece next to Brook Lopez and Williams. With the additions of Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Johnson’s offensive role would continue to diminish. However, even with all of the star power on this team, Johnson is still the guy who the Nets want to have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.

Smaller wings don't stand a chance against the Nets' smooth operator.

Smaller wings don’t stand a chance against the Nets’ smooth operator.

What makes Johnson unique and underappreciated is that his game  isn’t “sexy”. He doesn’t wow you with freakish athleticism and you’ll never see him playing above the rim. Nope, that’s not Joe. To the casual or younger fan his game may be too “boring” which is unfortunate because it truly is a thing of beauty to watch when he is on.

Johnson’s game is more suited for fans with an acquired taste – post up fade-aways, running floaters in the lane, and the methodical dismantling of opponents in isolation sets. It may not be dynamic, but you can’t deny that it is smooth. If Joe was a boxer, he would be the type who would win a 12-round decision in which he surgically picked apart his foe rather than score a quick knockout.

With all of the criticism over his contract, it’s possible that his skill set is somewhat underrated to the collective NBA fan base. Teams continue to agonize how to defend him, evident with what we just saw in that Toronto series. Assign a smaller player to cover him, and watch Joe use his size and strength to get to the paint. Use a bigger forward, and Joe will use his slick dribbling to get around and create an open look. At this point, it’s pick your poison for the Nets’ opponents.

Of course, his most impressive attribute is his ability to stay cool in the most pressurized situations of the game. For two years now, Johnson has proven that when the game speeds up for everyone else, it slows down for him. At this point, the sample is big enough to dismiss the notion that his knack for being clutch is fluky.

Fans around the league and members of the media will continue to mock his lucrative contract, but the truth is when the game is on the line, the ability to execute is priceless. These are skills that you cannot teach or develop in a player. You either have them or you don’t.

It’s a shame that his stealth demeanor and/or annual salary may be preventing some people from truly appreciating his craft. Aside from LeBron James and Kevin Durant, no player is worth over twenty million per season. Is it Johnson’s fault that the Atlanta Hawks offered that money? What would you had done if it was offered to you?

No time left against the game's best shot blocker - no problem for Joe Cool

No time left against the game’s best shot blocker – no problem for Joe Cool

You aren’t named to seven All-Star Games without having the talent to validate the honor. There aren’t many players around the league who play the game the way he does, and I believe his move to small forward this season will allow him to continue to play at a high level for years to come. Even when he loses some of his athleticism (not like he’s fast to begin with), Joe will be that old guy at the playground schooling the younger kids.

Those who are fixated on the balance sheet are missing what type of asset he is on the basketball court. If you feel so compelled to bring up the dollars, then it’s only fair to admit that Joe is “money” when it really counts.