Atlanta Hawks: Is Joe Johnson simply slumping?

J.J. is forcing some shots but he's also missing lots of open looks. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

J.J. is forcing some shots but he's missing lots of open looks. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

As J.J.’s offensive struggles have continued he’s started to force things. He’s still a willing passer but he’s also tended to fall back into his habit of holding the ball, setting up his man and going one-on-one. And it just doesn’t seem like he’s been as good as that as usual, a development that’s in stark contrast to how his teammates have taken to the L.D.’s more balanced offensive approach.

But beyond those issues, my perception is that J.J. simply has missed a lot of good, open shots, particularly spot-up 3-pointers. Those are the kind of shots that tend to have little to do with forcing things. By definition, they don’t require J.J. to create his own shot. A teammate already has already made the play to create space; all J.J. has to do is catch the ball in rhythm, square up and make an open shot.

I think J.J. just hasn’t been able to do it consistently this season, but that’s just my perception. So I turned to the Synergy machine, which smashes false perceptions with the cold facts of shot-type statistics and video evidence*. And the numbers confirmed what I’ve perceived: Joe has attempted 54 spot-up jump shots and made just 11 (20.4 percent), including 9 of 46 on 3-pointers (19.6 percent).

J.J.’s shooting percentage on spot-ups is worse than his shooting percentage on every other type of halfcourt play: isolation (24 of 62, 38.7 percent), pick-and-rolls (14 of 44, 31.8 percent), post-ups (11 of 23, 47.8 percent), off screens (9 of 20, 45 percent), handoffs (7 of 15, 46.7 percent), and cuts (18 of 23, 78.3 percent).

It seems there is some merit to the idea that J.J. is slumping. (He’s questionable to play against the Grizzlies due to a sore elbow that apparently has nothing to do with his shooting slump but developed overnight Monday.)

“He is getting some good looks,” L.D. said. “It’s not a concern. I know his hand is bothering him a little bit. But I am confident he will get on target. The fact [is] that he hasn’t shot it with consistency and we’ve been able to still win some games without him shooting the ball very well. When he does get back on track it will make us that more effective. I am not concerned with that. It’s just a matter of him getting out of that little slump.”

As a team, the Hawks have more shot attempts on spot-ups than any other play and have made 133 of 351 (38 percent). J.J. has been the worst spot-up shooter among the perimeter rotation players; Bibby has been the best (25 of 52, 48 percent, which Synergy says ranks No. 7 in the league ). Jamal has made 17 of 45 (37.8 percent) and Marvin 11 of 30 (36.7 percent). Anyone who has watched Al shouldn’t be surprised that he’s made 16 of 30 (53.3 percent) and even Smoove is 26 of 69 (37.7 percent).

So J.J. has been the worst spot-up shooter on what is the league’s No. 15 ranked team for that type of shot, according to Synergy. There’s not much L.D. or anyone else can do to help J.J. if he can’t make simple, open, shots. Putting the ball in J.J.’s hand risks bogging down what has shown signs of becoming a very potent offensive attack as the team’s turnovers decrease (H/T Hoopinion).

But L.D. keeps doing what he can to get his All-Star guard going.

“I try to put him in situations, some of the usual stuff, the pick-and-pops,” Drew said. “Against the teams that do double team, I try to keep him in the middle of the floor where it’s harder to double team him. He’s missing shots that he normally knocks down. It’s just a matter of time until he finds that groove, that stroke again.”

(*My plan had been to review all of J.J.’s spot-up jumpers to see if nearly all of them have been quality shots, as I suspect. Alas, though I tried all day I couldn’t get Synergy’s video function to work so I’ll have to do that some other time.)

MC

120 comments Add your comment

theZaZaguy

December 1st, 2010
1:39 am

Surprising stats…I wonder what would happen if they start hitting those shots like Randy Wittman…First I would tell Mark Bradley to S**K it.

Gilk

December 1st, 2010
1:42 am

Excellent analysis! Joe’s shot will come back. He is too good a shooter naturally. I wonder if he is feeling the pressure of this mega contract!

Pls provide analysis of overall team defense for this year versus last year. D is where this team seems to really be lacking. As we all know, you have to be a great team defensively in order to win a championship!

tckr83

December 1st, 2010
2:28 am

Let the game come to JJ…He will come around, his hand injury has alot something to do with those stats. Till then (and even after JJ finds his shot)… Keep feeding Horford, he is shooting at a 60% clip! He needs 12-15 shots a game, defenses will hover closer to the paint… then MAKE the spot-up kickouts! Turn around and play defense, cant win too often by trading off baskets…

Hawks Fan In New Orlesan

December 1st, 2010
2:44 am

I think it is the nagging hand injury coupled with added pressure of having the most lucrative contract in the league that is confounding JJ. He should break out of it eventually. I like LD’s approach to his slump.

MsDee

December 1st, 2010
2:51 am

Wow, didnt realize how bad he was shooting. What he needs to just do is work on in practice decide what he is going to do b4 he gets the ball weither to drive it to the lane or turn and shoot. He is thinking too much out there and that will not help matters when you are already in a slump.

tony

December 1st, 2010
3:34 am

Rather JJ is healthy or not he will never be able to consistently create shots for himself because he’s not creative enough offensively and he is too passive. In order to get the most out of JJ he has to be surrounded with muture players. His personality speaks volume.

When JJ, JS and JC1 are in the game at the same time JJ appears to be distracted for what ever reason. These are professional athletes but they don’t act like it. It’s Sund’s responsibility to put the right combination of players together so this team can be successful.

They invested a lot of money in JJ so they need to surround him with right people in order to get the most out of him so he can start earning that 119 mil.

dmortone

December 1st, 2010
3:36 am

Interesting, hopefully JJ should be able to break out of his slump and really get this offense on track.

Great analysis, keep up the good work MC!

northcyde

December 1st, 2010
4:31 am

Good article MC. And it’s pretty obvious that he was simply missing wide open 3s.

So the solution would be to get him the ball more in the midrange area, and put him more in post up situations.

If Drew posts him up more, he may draw more fouls. And with him being as big as he is over most 2 guards, I’d definitely be calling more post ups for him anyway.

JJ should put himself on a self-imposed “two missed 3s rule”. If he misses his first 2 threes, or if he misses 2 threes in a row, he should simply abandon the shot.

Set up in that 21 foot area like Marvin used to do, and see if he can make the closer shot. Or catch the ball and dribble toward the lane to shoot the 15 footer off the dribble.

MsDee

December 1st, 2010
4:47 am

@northcyde,

“If Drew posts him up more, he may draw more fouls. And with him being as big as he is over most 2 guards, I’d definitely be calling more post ups for him anyway.”

EXCELLENT/GREAT SUGGESTION but now you and I both know JJ, when posted up on the block, NEVER POSTS TO CREATE FOR A SHOT, he immediately waits for a double team to pass out. If he could ONLY post to do exactly what you just said, I WOULD FOREVER BE A JOE JOHNSON FAN, because then he would be using ALL OF HIS OPTIONS to be affective on the court other than high in assists and sub-par on rebounds!

leear1n

December 1st, 2010
5:25 am

It is not a slump JJ shots has been getting worse for the pass 2 years
JC1 took up the slack last year.He has thrown up enough bricks to build a 3 bed room house.

MsDee

December 1st, 2010
5:32 am

lol @leear1n

JoJo the Godfather

December 1st, 2010
6:39 am

Trade ideas:

Joe Johnson, Mo Evans & Jason Collins to Dallas for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood & Dominique Jones.

Jamal Crawford & Jeff Teague to Washington for Kirk Hinrich & Kevin Seraphin.

New roster:

Hinrich / Bibby
Butler / Jo. Craw & D. Jones
Smith / Williams
Horford / Powell & Seraphin
Haywood / Pachulia

tony

December 1st, 2010
7:10 am

JoJo the Godfather, I like Kirk Hinrich. Now that young man is a true facilitator(pg) who can take a lot of pressure off of JJ. Not just JJ but the whole team. We should try to make a deal with Washington to bring him to Atlanta. He won’t solve all our problems but he will solve a good bit.

P

December 1st, 2010
7:31 am

Sooooo, Jo Jo, you basically want to be the Wiazrds from a couple years ago?… terrible trades. Kirk WAS good but not recently

O'Brien

December 1st, 2010
7:33 am

“JJ should put himself on a self-imposed “two missed 3s rule”. If he misses his first 2 threes, or if he misses 2 threes in a row, he should simply abandon the shot.” northcyde .

You know how shooters (Jamal included) are. If they are hot, the keep shooting. If they are cold, they keep shooting until they get hot.

Lakers lost their third game in a row last night (I wonder how concerned their fans are) to Memphis, so Hawks better be ready for the Grizzlies.

The first Hawks-Memphis game, Memphis was without Gasol and Randolph, which helped ZaZa to go off.

Speaking of ZaZa, what’s up with his game? His last 9 games, he has scored a TOTAL of 22 points in 113 minutes, and grabbed a whopping 24 rebounds. That’s horrible.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/gamelog?playerId=2016/

dtc

December 1st, 2010
7:43 am

As I said when he signed that blasted contract, “it would not be long before everyone realized he wasn’t worth the money.”
I do not like it that he is having the problems he is having, but it could be that he is trying too hard to justify his own contract, that he knows himself he did not deserve.

dukester

December 1st, 2010
7:45 am

When I look at these players i grade them by the mental capacity. When I looked at Joe’s life story on sports south and his uncle said he “remembered when he had to force Joe as a youngster to play in AAU games” I knew then this guy doesn’t have the passion night in and night out. You need that passion to overcome the ups and downs of a NBA season and career. Joe has made this far on talent alone. If he Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, or even the great Michael Jordan’s will power he one go down as one of the greatest. Hell if he had Josh Smith will power he would be great.

Dont get me wrong you can win with Joe but he simply dont have the leadership, aggressive, will power to put him in the elite class. That is why his slumps can last or linger because every one has a bad day but it’s how you rise up from that bad day. The ones with will power overcome the next night out on the court. I am glad ASG resigned Joe the business of basketball required that he get that contract so let it go. What makes me mad at ASG is:

Bibby
Marvin
Zaza
Pape Sy
Jason Collins
Larry Drew – I think he is a smart guy but to me he is just a assistant. He doesnt seem he has the alpha dog mentality to be a head coach. His command seems week, It seems like he think he can draw up a play and that’s it. This play will do it. I have coached sports for a number of years and I found the difference between good coaches and average coaches is the good ones can see things before they happen and prepare his team for it. If is hunch is wrong he has a back up plan that is just as a good. Average coaches reacts all game long. No matter the sport.

dtc

December 1st, 2010
7:47 am

Can you imagine how good this team could be without JJ, and having signed a real center.

Section 303

December 1st, 2010
7:49 am

Sure am glad that dipsh#t makes $24-million a year. I love how these guys sign big deals and then think it is OK not to produce. When you make that kind of jack there are, to quote Mike Tomlin, “no excuses and no explanations”.

Time to just face it, Mr. “I could care less” was not worth the money.

Saabotager

December 1st, 2010
7:49 am

Take the money and run. Joe Johnson is a fraud. The only good thing he has going for him is a helluva agent who got him paid. He will be history in Atlanta after producing a couple mediocre years. What’s the incentive for him to play? He need to take his mumbling bumbling ass back to the chicken farm in Arkansas.

Joe Johnson

December 1st, 2010
7:53 am

No I’m not slumping, I got my money now, I’m going to let someone else earn theirs now………

SWAT Native

December 1st, 2010
8:04 am

LIve others have said, Joe’s hand is hurt. It really was hurt in the playoffs, too (I wonder if it’s still the same injury?). That has to affect a shooter. He’ll be fine.

Bailer

December 1st, 2010
8:04 am

He got the big money so like he said- he dont give a s–t , if you come or not. Now we know what he is thinking and his playing shows it.

Rev in Tampa

December 1st, 2010
8:06 am

I agree with O’Brien. JJ needs to shoot his way out of this slump. But in the meantime he better be in the video room comparing his mechanics to last year. He also needs to sit down with the shooting coach and talk through his mental approach to shooting an open jumpshot. In baseball a hitting slump can be caused by the most minor, imperceptible reason.

What worries me about JJ is that there is truth in dukester’s comments about JJ’s inner dog. He seems so indifferent and detached. I’m afraid that if MC asks him about his shooting slump he’s going to say something like, “It will come around eventually…”

Yikes

December 1st, 2010
8:14 am

Leave it to the Spirit group to give max money to a “good” player who flicked off the home crowd during the playoffs. Doesn’t take a genius to find the errors in this. JJ will never be a superstar like Lebron or Kobe and should never be expected to lead, play that way, or get paid max dollars. Another stupid decision by an ownership group that knows zero about building and managing professional sports teams.

G.Rhone

December 1st, 2010
8:26 am

J.J. chokes the life out of this offense far more times than he uplifts. ASG overpaid for JJ. He insists on doing nothing with the ball in the paint excect wait on the the double/triple team then pass the ball, with 5 secs left on the shot clock.

J.J. is the type of player that can score 30 pts a game, but he’s way too reserved and slothful.

Jamal Crawford is a much better player! JJ and Jamal should trade places and salary!

JoJo the Godfather

December 1st, 2010
8:29 am

“Sooooo, Jo Jo, you basically want to be the Wiazrds from a couple years ago?… terrible trades. Kirk WAS good but not recently”

Not really…I’d let Caron Butler walk at the end of the year…My main goal behind these moves would be to have Haywood, Horford & Smith up front, with Marvin, Seraphin & Za Za backing them up…I like this Seraphin kid as a rebounder, defender at 6′9″ 270+ lbs, with long arms and above avg athleticism…He has the build to be a Kendrick Perkins type…I like those 6 playing together up front for the next few years.

dukester

December 1st, 2010
8:31 am

What scares me is if your gonna throw all the money at Joe go ahead and try to win a championship empty the bank account pay the luxury tax!! Pretty much this team has about 2 more years to try and win a title after that it will be a fire sale. Joe will be 33 making 20 million and we will be trying to trade him. it just kills me how we have 20 million of dead money on this team. The resigning of Marvin, Zaza and Bibby is what killed this team not Joe Johnson. Those players should have been traded when their contracts were expiring for Tyson Chandler.
We could have had Chandler for little or nothing the guy has been traded twice since we figured out we need a center.

Loyal Hawks Fan

December 1st, 2010
8:32 am

Joe is a shooter ; he will be fine !

terrell

December 1st, 2010
8:37 am

dtc, we didnt have the cap space to sign a real center. JJ’s contract didnt have anything to do with that. He was the ONLY person we couldve signed to a lucrative deal. Will someone please explain this to everyone who doesnt understand why that 120 mill couldnt be use on any other player but JJ. Unless he woulda took less $, of course. But what center could’ve enticed Joe into doing that? And I dont think Pau Gasol was available at the time. lol!

darrell starks

December 1st, 2010
8:42 am

Joe should get the ball in the paint more because of his size and strength at the big guard position, basket will become more easier for him.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!

terrell

December 1st, 2010
8:47 am

Joe’s afraid of the paint. Guess he’s still having flashbacks of the Phoenix incident?

Joey

December 1st, 2010
8:47 am

“So J.J. has been the worst spot-up shooter on what is the league’s No. 15 ranked team for that type of shot”
************************************
So, MC, you’re saying that we’re not getting our money’s worth with JJ?

darrell starks

December 1st, 2010
8:52 am

If the hawks could keep josh, horford and let josh play small forward
perfect trade would be.
JAMAL, MARVIN, ZAZA, AND 1ST
FOR
ELLIS, BIEDRINS, CARNEY.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!

Mike

December 1st, 2010
8:53 am

Joe Johnson is simply sorry and showing that he’s overpaid like the 5 million people in Atlanta other than the Hawk’s executives knew before they paid him.

darrell starks

December 1st, 2010
8:54 am

STARTER ELLIS, JOE, JOSH, HORFORD, BIEDRINS
BENCH BIBBY, MOE, CARNEY, POWEL, COLLINS
RESERVE TEAGUE, JC2
GO HWKS!!!!!!!!!!!

JeJe

December 1st, 2010
9:20 am

GRIZZ WON GREAT GAME LAST NIGHT. THEY ARE COMING OFF A B2B. WE’VE HAD 3 DAYS REST

IS TONIGHT ANOTHER LOSS AGAINST A TIRED TEAM COMING OFF A B2B?
LOL!

I THINK WE WIN BECAUSE WE ALWAYS DO WELL VS. MEMPH

newkid

December 1st, 2010
9:22 am

MC, good start, but could you say a bit more? What was JJ’s ’spot-up’ shooting percentage last season? What about the past 3 seasons? What about for his entire career? Not sure one can draw many useful conclusions about the extent to which he might be in a spot-up shooting slump without comparison with his longer-term statistics for same. What percentage of his shots this season have been of the spot-up variety? Did he have a significantly lower – or signficantly higher – percentage of spot-up opportunities last year? What about for his career?

Recently Tracy McGrady made the point that some players (e.g., himself, LeBron, etc) are far more comfortable creating their shots with the ball in their hands, as opposed to spotting up or running off screens. McGrady went on to argue that for some of these type cats, it’s a significant adjustment to acclimate to more of a spot-up offensive game when they’re years into their careers. If McGrady’s line of thinking is correct, how then do you account for that possibility when only looking at JJ’s current year shot-up shooting percentage?

Again, a useful line of analysis, but would really appreciate you digging just a tad bit deeper on this. Thx

JeJe

December 1st, 2010
9:30 am

LOL JOE SAID IF SMOOVE PLAYS LIKE HE DOES, WE HAVE A CHANCE OF COMPETING IN THIS LEAGUE

HOW ABOUT JOE? LOL

FAKE SUPERSTAR

IDK IF HE EVEN MAKES THE ALL STAR TEAM THIS YR. COACHES ASSUME HE’S GREAT B/C THEY DOUBLE TEAM HIM.

SO

1) IF THEY DOUBLE TEAM HIM, HE PLAYS AWFUL, MEANING THE ONLY REASON HE PLAYED BAD IS BECAUSE HE WAS DOUBLE- TEAMED

2) WATCH OUT THIS YEAR. BECAUSE THEY ARE PLAYERS ON THE TEAM BETTER THAN HIM. COACHES WILL FINALLY WAKE UP AND REALIZE HE’S NOT AS GOOD AS THEY THINK HE IS

Michael Cunningham

December 1st, 2010
9:32 am

@Rev in Tampa: “What worries me about JJ is that there is truth in dukester’s comments about JJ’s inner dog. He seems so indifferent and detached. I’m afraid that if MC asks him about his shooting slump he’s going to say something like, “It will come around eventually…””

i asked. he said something like that.

drmaryb (*_*)

December 1st, 2010
9:43 am

Dog-Fight!

Mike Vick’s dead dogs still have more fight than these Hawks!
I told yall, Joe seems off and slow – mentally. He looks like a sleep walker in interviews and on the court. But, hey! He got his money so ….

Build around Josh and package Joe. I like Gerald Wallace a lot, get me Melo!
Melo is a head case too, but he does have intestines! Denver may go for it since Melo is not resigning and a change of scenery make spark Joe!

Try something!

dap01

December 1st, 2010
9:43 am

Tracy McGrady is not a good role model in which to compare. What may be good for an individual player is not necessarily good for a team.

JJ’s performance is under a microscope because of the contract. The contract will be a Paul Hewitt sized contract around our neck for years to come. We spend a lot of money on JJ. That money was not to get us better, it was to simply keep a player. Sigh……

Michael Cunningham

December 1st, 2010
9:44 am

@newkid: “MC, good start, but could you say a bit more? What was JJ’s ’spot-up’ shooting percentage last season?”

Synergy has this info for last season but it hasn’t been accessible for some reason. they don’t have it for the years before that. he ranks no. 176 in the league points per play on spot-up jumpers.

but if we are to assume that the vast majority of J.J.’s 3-point shots in Atlanta have come on spot-ups like they have this season (which i think is a safe assumption since we all know how he gets most his 2-point plays) then his 3-point percentages as a Hawks probably roughly correlate with his spot-up shooting.

“What percentage of his shots this season have been of the spot-up variety?”

that info is in the post if you do the math: 16.7 percent spot-ups, 23.8 isos, 15.5 pick-rolls, 8.6 post-ups, 7.1 off screens, 4.5 handoffs, 8 cuts

Scoop

December 1st, 2010
9:45 am

I am not worried about J J’s inner dog. The man is one of the most competitive monsters i’ve ever seen play this game. Ask his teammates about his fire. Up until this season, the man played more minutes then anyone while carrying the load offensively and guarding the best player on defense. He plays through injuries that would sideline most players; ask Marvin.
He is clearly hurt. He is actually settling for jump shots instead of attacking the basket and I think it is his hand. Some time off to heal up would help Joe long term for this season. The long term was something that our former coach never considered at any point in the season but I believe LD is that insightful.

Hawk n the Ham

December 1st, 2010
9:46 am

I think I found who Jamal Crawford is on this blog. Check out ‘G.Rhone’ comment from……

G.Rhone

December 1st, 2010
8:26 am

Greg

December 1st, 2010
9:57 am

He damn well better come around. Those numbers are absolutely horrendous for a guy who is in the first year of a 6 year, $119 million dollar contract. At this point, he’s basically telling the Hawks “you made a huge mistake….now live with it for the next 6 years”. You’d think the Hawks would have learned something from the re-signing’s of the walking corpse, Mike Bibby, and the epic #3 pick bust, Marvin Williams.

To think that any of these guys have what it takes to lead the Hawks past the first round of the playoffs, much less to a championship, is laughable. Horford is the only guy on the team who has what it takes and he’s playing out of position.

Greg

December 1st, 2010
9:58 am

Should have said past the “second” round of the playoffs. They got past the first round last year…barely.

O'Brien

December 1st, 2010
9:59 am

My opinion on JJ? He does not have the fire and passion that some of the elite players have.

Win or lose, playing well or playing bad, he just goes out and does his job to the best of his ability. Bibby and Marvin are somewhat reserved too.

IMO, Our most passionate player is Josh, followed by Al, but they still have some learning to do.

I think LD’s mentality is a soft-spoken one as well, and that is probably one reason why the players embraced him as coach.

Yes, JJ is struggling. But the guy is a 4 time all-star and third team all NBA last year, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and time. He will come around eventually.

And for those complaining about his contract, please keep in mind, that if the Hawks did not resign JJ last off-season, they would have had between $6 mil and $8 mil to sign a free agent.

Who were they going to get for that money that would have been an impact player like JJ?

Did the Hawks overpay? Yes. But it’s all about supply and demand, and JJ was in high demand.

Chillin on paradise island.

December 1st, 2010
10:08 am

Joe Johnson simply sucks no other way around it. He is a 2nd or 3rd option forced to be a leader. We would have been the same if we let him walk. Jamal Crawford could have started and Jordan Crawford could have been the back up. We could have had to money to get a center.

drmaryb (*_*)

December 1st, 2010
10:08 am

Scoop said:

“He is clearly hurt. He is actually settling for jump shots instead of attacking the basket and I think it is his hand. Some time off to heal up would help Joe long term for this season. ”

I agree, vehemently. Rest Joe, Start Jamal at SG and bring JC2 off the bench to back up Jamal.

G.Rhone

Is that slick for: Gone-ehr …. A Goner ands Gone? If that is Jamal?
Either way, Coach drew should shake things up if, JJ needs to rest a little and heal. To be fair to Joe, he is sacrificing his game and habitual style to run this new system and we should all expect time for the adjustment.

With all the talent Miami has, there still is a learning curve for all things new!