Allow me to lay out Joe Johnson’s salaries for the next 6 years:
That’s right. That’s $119,000,000 dollars. For Joe Johnson. This guy, whose nickname is “Silent” Joe Johnson, got one of the top 15 richest contracts in NBA history.
I have a general rule in the NBA. You’re not allowed to give a guy over $100 million if my sister has never heard of him. Seriously. It is foolproof. Let’s put this to the litmus test. Here are the guys my sister has heard of:
Kobe Bryant: 7 years, $136 million (2004)
Kevin Garnett: 6 years, $126 million (1999)
Tim Duncan: 7 years, $126 million (2003)
Shaquille O’Neal: 7 years, $120 million (1996)
LeBron James: 6 Years, $114 million (2010)
Dwyane Wade: 6 years, $107 million (2010)
Jason Kidd: 5 Years, $100 million (2003)
Chris Webber: 7 years, $122 million (2001)
And here are the guys that she’d go “who?” to:
Rashard Lewis: 6 years, $126 million (2007)
Jermaine O’Neal: 7 years, $126 million (2003)
Joe Johnson: 6 years, $119 million (2010)
Chris Bosh: 6 years, $114 million (2010)
Gilbert Arenas: 6 years, $111 million (2008)
Juwan Howard: 7 years, $105 million (1996)
Amar’ Stoudemire: 5 years, $100 million (2010)
This isn’t disrespect towards Erin Kobashigawa; quite the contrary. It’s actually quite the test. My sister of course knows Kobe, KG, Timmy, Shaquille, Kidd and Webber. And you know why? These guys have 14 titles, 5 MVPs, and 7 Finals MVPs between them. They are household names. They are the silhouettes on sneakers, the faces on Wheaties boxes and the voices from some very bad rap albums. They are winners, in some facet or another. And with the exception of Webber, whose career was destroyed by a knee injury, those guys were worth their contracts in their entirety. Even if you make the argument that my sister wouldn’t have known all these guys when they signed the contracts, that’s not entirely true – with the exception of Kevin Garnett, every player listed was already a superstar, household name by the time they signed those deals.
These other guys? Rashard Lewis and Gilbert currently own 1A and 2A of the most untradeable contracts in the league. And if you’re saying “well, that’s not true, they both got traded this season”. Yes, truth…but they got traded for each other. If you get stabbed on the right side of your head and “traded it” for a stab wound to the left side of your head, that would still really suck. It would suck so much that you would probably die. That’s is the approximate equivalent value of this trade, in real world terms.
(That is obviously an exaggeration. In the real world, you’d be dead. In terms of the Gil for Rashard trade, you just have to watch them play awful basketball. I’m so sorry).
The other two guys, Jermaine and Juwan, were both hurt for the last years of their deals and were largely considered expiring contract trade bait for those years. Even looking at Bosh and Joe Johnson, in the first years of their new deals, they already look like they are not going to be worth the money that they’re going to be paid. Amar’e is the only one on that list that could be worth that money, but as a guy who’s had reconstructive knee surgery and a detached cornea (that could have blinded him for life, seriously), I am more than skeptical. A max contract is supposed to be for a franchise player. For a guy you can build around and win a championship around. And even if maybe you won’t win a title, but the contract at the very least has to be validated by having a guy that people will pay to come and see. Can you imagine your girlfriend saying “Ooh, the Wiz are in town! Let’s go see Rashard Lewis shoot spot up threes the whole game!” or “Forget ‘Bron and Wade – I’m pretty amped up to see Bosh shooting elbow jumpers all game!”.
Look, Joe Johnson is a fine player. He’s a borderline all-star player (exhibited this year when he was, well, a borderline all-star) with a decent skill-set that includes one really great skill (shooting). But riddle me this about Joe Johnson – have you every watched a game where you said “damn, Joe Johnson is really exerting his WILL on this team”. I’ve never said that. I’ve never thought that. I have thought “damn, Joe Johnson is on a hot streak right now. He’s hit like 7 jumpers in a row” or “man, Joe Johnson is a pretty good player. He’s like a poor man’s Ray Allen”. Sometimes, you could say “wow, Joe Johnson is really killing us tonight”. But that’s only sometimes.
And this is the problem with Joe Johnson. He’s a good guy to have on your team, and is a decently reliable source for offensive production. He’s pretty tall, a good rebounder and a good ball handler (even though his assist statistics are inflated because the Hawks have played without a real point guard for Johnson’s entire tenure there, so Joe is doing a lot of the passing). But he is not an elite player and he is getting paid like one. I understand that Atlanta had to keep him because he is their best player and someone that brought Atlanta back to respectability after years of floundering. The guy is just not a game-changer.
So there is no way that you should be paying that much money to a guy if:
a) I described as a “poor man’s” anybody, except if that “poor man” is Michael, Kareem, Magic or Larry.
b) Is nicknamed “Silent”, unless it’s ironic or followed by “Assassin”, “Killer” or “But Deadly”
c) does not, on a regular basis, exert his will during games
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY
d) Erin Kobashigawa does not know who he is.