With free agency set to begin on July 1st, which is just days away, this is a question the Atlanta Hawks front office and owners will have to ponder. What is Joe Johnson’s proper value?
It’s hard to determine exactly what is proper value for a player in the NBA these days, as players all over the league are being paid much more than what they are actually worth. Many mistakes have been made by giving players max deals in the past, and those mistakes have become albatrosses that keep franchises from taking that next step.
More after the jump
Joe is one of the six main free agents that will have all the attention on them come July 1st. Because of position differences and the differences in the make up of each player’s team, it is hard to determine the relative value of these players to each other with basic stats. Because of this, I have done a little research on some of the more advanced stats for each player that has come about in recent years. One of these statistics is win shares and win shares per 48 minutes (WS/48).
Win shares and WS/48 are metrics that were created by Basketball Reference to measure the impact a player has on winning games. I’m not going to go into the definition or the formula of this metric because it is difficult to explain. You will have to read about this metric at their website. Looking at it though, this metric on the surface appears to be a very good metric, and I think this should be a key tool to use in determining a player’s relative value.
In looking at the top 6 free agents available this off season, I looking at their win shares and WS/48 and averaged them over their past 3 full seasons. I did not include seasons where these players missed several games, and in the case of Dwyane Wade, I took only his last two seasons because he had two seasons in a row prior to that where he missed several games. The data that I was able to compile shows that Joe Johnson is a distant 6th among the top 6 free agents available.
- LeBron James 18.0
- Dwyane Wade 13.85
- Amare Stoudemire 12.17
- Chris Bosh 10.0
- Carlos Boozer 9.8
- Joe Johnson 7.6
- LeBron James 0.287
- Dwyane Wade 0.228
- Amare Stoudemire 0.213
- Carlos Boozer 0.179
- Chris Bosh 0.175
- Joe Johnson 0.118
As I stated above, Joe is a distant 6th among the top 6 free agents relative to his impact on winning. In fact, he’s actually tied for second on his own team Al Horford (0.145 WS/48) and Josh Smith (0.118 WS/48) are equal to or better at contributing to wins as Joe Johnson. This past season, Josh Smith surpassed him. Josh’s WS/48 took a big jump this year as he created almost twice as many wins as he had in the previous year. I think this has a lot to do with him becoming more efficient as a scorer and shooting less three point shots. Even so, at his age, there is still some room to grow, because he needs to cut down on the 16-23 footers he takes.
Another difference between Joe and his two teammates is the fact that the majority of Joe’s win shares come from his offensive game. Joe can score at a decent rate (though not quite as much as his usage would suggest) and he’s fairly efficient with a high shooting percentage for a guard overall. However, Joe isn’t one that will attack the basket and draw fouls, so this does diminish the value he brings offensively some. Defensively, his two teammates have a much bigger impact. Al and Josh are basically the keys to the Hawks defense. When one of them is off the floor, the Hawks decline defensively. When Joe is off the floor, the Hawks actually get better defensively.
It appears to me that to keep Joe Johnson as an Atlanta Hawks, it is going to take a max contract or a near max contract. At 29 years of age and relatively limited athleticism as it is, giving a 6 year deal to Joe Johnson at max numbers could very well cost the Hawks the ability to resign Al Horford in a couple of years. This could be a topic for another blog, but based on these numbers, the Hawks will be better off committing to Al Horford as a building block than resigning Joe Johnson.
Overall, I feel like the value the market will place on him is going to end up being a lot more than what his true value is. Joe Johnson is a very good basketball player, but he’s not an alpha dog that is in the LeBron James/Dwyane Wade category. Joe is more of a complimentary player, and complimentary players shouldn’t get maximum deals. The contract the Hawks offered to Joe before this past season was a four year extension worth $60 million. That contract is much better than the 6 year, $120 million deal the Hawks may be willing to offer him. The four years would cover for the anticipated decline once he hits 32 years of age and will be much less difficult to move once that decline starts.