Atlanta Hawks: Joe Johnson’s D has been strong, too

Much of the discussion about Joe Johnson’s season has focused on his offensive surge since Al Horford went down. And rightly so: In 11 games without Horford, Johnson has averaged 21.2 points per 36 minutes with a 55.9 true shooting percentage (by the way, his 54 percent TS mark for the season ranks fifth among shooting guards playing 30-plus minutes).

With Al sidelined, Joe has made 87 percent of his free throws and 40 percent of his 3-pointers and has eight games of 20-plus points and two with 30 or more. Like all things Hawks lately, those numbers come with the caveat of competition: Since Al went down, the Hawks have faced just three opponents ranked in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency: Minnesota, Portland, and Philadelphia. Still, Joe is balling.

But Johnson’s defense has been overlooked even thought the best available objective evidence suggest he’s also having a very good year on that end of the court.

According to Synergy, Johnson has allowed just .71 points per possession, ranked No. 42 among all players. (Synergy had him allowing .93 points per possession in 2010-11 and .89 in 2009-10). This season Joe has been very good when defending in isolation (.56 ppp allowed, ranked 13th), against screen-roll ball-handlers (.69 ppp, ranked 33rd) and chasing his man off screens (.69 ppp, ranked seventh). Joe’s only defensive weakness this season, according to Synergy, has been defending spot-ups: .94 ppp, ranked 113th.

Opponent PER tells the same story. According to 82games.com, Johnson’s foes at shooting guard have posted a paltry 8.6 PER and small forwards have managed just a 12.6 PER. (The opponent PER is ugly when Joe has been at point guard but that has only been a couple minutes, according to 82games.) Last season Joe’s opponent PER was 11.6 at shooting guard and 12.9 at small forward; in 2009-10, those numbers were 15.3 and 14.4, respectively.

Joe’s on-court, off-court numbers at basketballvalue.com also are positive. The Hawks have allowed 6.24 fewer points per 100 possessions with Joe on the court. And it doesn’t appear as if his strong numbers here depend on having Al and Josh Smith behind him: Joe has been part of strong defensive units that featured Zaza Pachulia or Jason Collins at center and even one lineup with Vladimir Radmanovic at power forward.

If you want to pick at nits, you can use the same “weak opponent” argument for Joe’s defensive matchups. The Hawks have faced six shooting guards who are top 15 in PER: Dwyane Wade, Kevin Martin, MarShon Brooks, Mike Miller, Sundiata Gaines and Danny Green. Of those players, Martin (27 points on 20 shots) and Brooks (36 points on 26 shots in two games) had strong scoring games against Joe (though that’s not to say Joe was solely responsible).

Also, Joe hasn’t been able to maintain the flashes of strong defensive rebounding he’s shown. Then again, he’s raised his block rate from almost nothing last season to something this year and has also increased his steals rate a bit.

I think it’s accurate to say Joe has been excellent on offense but also very good on defense this season. Of course he’ll have to do both when the competition stiffens and stakes are higher but, so far, he’s raised his level of play just like he said he would.

Notes

  • Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports adds the Lakers to the list of suitors for Kenyon Martin and echoes earlier reports that Martin is seeking a large role for a contender. Adam Zagoria reports that Martin is expected to make a decision by the end of the week. I’m guessing Martin also is looking for money because of my oft-proven theory that guys are almost always looking for that above all else (and Martin just lost money with his Chinese adventure). The Clippers, Knicks and Spurs can offer more than the minimum. The Hawks can, too, but likely won’t because it would mean paying the tax.
  • I haven’t heard anything to indicate the Hawks are making a bid for Chris Kaman. Reports indicate New Orleans is looking for a first-round pick, a quality young player and cap relief. Surely that price will come down as the deadline approaches but I don’t see the Hawks wanting or needing to make a deal like that. Kaman can help them because he’s a good post defender and rebounder when healthy, but at what cost for a three-month rental? Plus, the Hawks won’t do a deal that adds salary and they still aren’t sure if/when Horford will return this season.

Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat

273 comments Add your comment

Najeh Davenpoop

February 1st, 2012
3:23 pm

Najeh Davenpoop

February 1st, 2012
3:25 pm

Kaman’s on the Hornets.

Rufus1

February 1st, 2012
3:28 pm

Tears of Joy…. MC, I thought they took you from us. I felt like Cily in “The color Purple”

Ray

February 1st, 2012
3:32 pm

Ahh man we were shooting for 2,000 posts LOL!

Rufus1

February 1st, 2012
3:33 pm

MC,

Can’t the Hawks cut Stack or Pargo and use that money to stay under the cap?…Pay him 2.5mil

Tootsi

February 1st, 2012
3:35 pm

If they let you go, I would have been PO’d. The AJC needs to look at and subsequently fire D. Orlando Ledbetter. He is a disgrace to the profession and to the paper.

MC and DOB are good stuff.

Admiral Ackbar

February 1st, 2012
3:41 pm

MC!!!! THE BEST SPORTS WRITER EVER IS BACK!!!!

doc

February 1st, 2012
3:43 pm

yes first on pg 33 will stand!

welcome back MC from your forced hiatus. we all missed you! yup probably ts, too. heh heh

hope you are proud of your bloggies for holding down the fort in your absence.

yeah jj is ballin bro like never before, all star legit numbers. that three last night over johnson was as good as blake’s slam on monday night. huge shot. hope he continues to play at that bar and doesnt try to crawl under it the next few games.

Melvin

February 1st, 2012
3:43 pm

MC,

Glad to see the rumors of your departure were false. I guess we need to pass the hat around to collect some traveling expenses for you during to home stand.

jon

February 1st, 2012
3:43 pm

Know one in this world could argue that Joe couyld be considerfed for League MVP. The number speak for themselves…. Remember i said “considered”

Michael Cunningham

February 1st, 2012
3:44 pm

@Rufus1: haha, that’s funny. i’m still here.

if my calculations are correct (and i’m still not certain they are because the new tax threshold rules are confusing) the Hawks are just barely under the tax. the roster has to be at least 13 so they can only cut one more guy if they add Kaman. long story short, even after cutting another guy they wouldn’t have much wiggle room at all as far as adding money.

strick

February 1st, 2012
3:44 pm

really pleased with the blowouts of inferior teams. yes, we are supposed to do this to these teams, but Hawks teams of hold have not always done this. winning the games you are supposed to win is critical in a shortened season, esp with Horford’s injury.

Michael Cunningham

February 1st, 2012
3:45 pm

@Tootsi: thanks. they are not letting me go as far as i know. damn . . . did you hear something?

jon

February 1st, 2012
3:45 pm

thank you Melvin for mentioning, the ajc is minor leagues!

Bonifide Big Man

February 1st, 2012
3:45 pm

When the team decides to play defense, they are really good. Joe has stepped it up. Loving Willie Green. Zaza has grabbed some bug rebounds.

ILL-Logical

February 1st, 2012
3:47 pm

Welcome back(?) Joe has consistently stepped up his game as the ALL Star game nears over the course pf his time with the Hawks. The key will be how he plays after the game.
16-6 is very good considering the lack of practice,training camp and the injuries. Maybe this is the year the Hawks get better as the season plays out and saves their best for the playoffs.

Ray

February 1st, 2012
3:51 pm

Depending on how the hawks do come Feb. will really determine just how dangerous the hawks will be when the playoff approaches.

If the hawks only come out of this with 1-5 wins it will force Sund to sign some center any center will actually help lol.

If we have 6-9 I think it means we will stay with what we have.

If we have 10-13 well this is the best hawks team we’ve had in a long time lol.

Honestly if the hawks grab at least 10 wins I’m willing to say they are legit dangerous team in the playoffs and even a true dark horse for the NBA Finals at least at first glance.

We are already dangerous, but this will force most media outlets hands to consider us among those that will contend for the title.

Michael Cunningham

February 1st, 2012
3:56 pm

@Melvin: “MC, Glad to see the rumors of your departure were false. I guess we need to pass the hat around to collect some traveling expenses for you during to home stand.”

haha. . . . thanks. i’m surprised to see the support. i thought my blog people would be surly at me for decisions made above my head.

in fairness, the newspaper has limited resources and so must make decisions on what we will cover. obviously my preference is that every Hawks game gets staffed but that wasn’t an option. but the good news is i haven’t been told that the AJC will skip any more road games.

Soullrenaissance

February 1st, 2012
3:59 pm

9-4 is my prog

That is stated, of course with a “glass half full” perspective. I still feel that another quality BIGMAN must be acquired to catapult The Hawks into true elite status. While I admire is talents, I am growing tired of Dwight Howard’s antics – not the sign of a true throwback champion at all. Kaman, perhaps, may be a better fit. Being that The Hawks aren’t on his “shortlist” of preferred destinations, and we are doing so well without his services I say take you talents to Jersey Clarke Kent, lol…but I would gladly push my Hawk Pride aside if we could pull off a reasonable trade to snag him for a year rental (I know its pitiful but D12 will bring a buzz this team has been had since The Human Highlight Film.)

We need a bigger buzz in this city and nationwide.

LT

February 1st, 2012
4:00 pm

MC!!!! Glad to have you back!!

Michael Cunningham

February 1st, 2012
4:02 pm

@Ill-logical: “Welcome back(?) Joe has consistently stepped up his game as the ALL Star game nears over the course pf his time with the Hawks. The key will be how he plays after the game.”

thanks . . . true about Joe. it was very noticeable last season. but i sense something different about Joe this year. it’s hard to explain (in large part because he’s not the type to offer much insight) but he just seems more determined.

UGA

February 1st, 2012
4:04 pm

Hawks could hope someone like Brad Miller is waived and pick him up……….????

Najeh Davenpoop

February 1st, 2012
4:05 pm

“the newspaper has limited resources and so must make decisions on what we will cover.”

And yet they make the decision to keep 2 Braves beat writers and someone to cover high school recruiting but can’t get you two more plane tickets even though Delta ads are all over this website.

Sounds a lot like the “decision” the DASG has made to not fix their scoreboards.

To be clear this is not a shot at you MC.

Michael Cunningham

February 1st, 2012
4:05 pm

doc

February 1st, 2012
4:05 pm

dad gum MC, maybe if we donated frequent flyer miles?

we know it is tight but didnt think it was that tight. i want to see them do that to the braves on a sorry road stand against say the marlins and the nats.

najeh, who would have though ivan “truck” johnson would be a mama’s boy? nice post from bottom of last blog to check on folks.

The Truth

February 1st, 2012
4:06 pm

Welcome back MC

This Memphis match-up is a very losable game for the Hawks.

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=ap-nuggets-grizzlies

“It’s the grit-and-grind, 48-minute effort from the entire team,” Mayo said of the change in mentality. “We try to put havoc on the opposing team. Defensively, playing hard, scrappy, owning the paint.”

They match-up well against the Hawks at every position except SG. But Mayo can occupy JJ offensively while Tony Allen play “monster” defense and impact the game.

The last “scrappy” defensive team we played against was Houston, we loss.

Najeh Davenpoop

February 1st, 2012
4:07 pm

My prediction is 8-5 for February, losses vs. MEM, @CHI, @LAL, @POR and vs. MIA.

KBB

February 1st, 2012
4:09 pm

MC,

Good to see that the rumors of your demise were greatly exaggerated!

Personally I assumed that AJC sports were just going to ditch the charade and just become the official blog of the UGA football bulldogs and Atlanta Braves only. The resources that are dedicated to the Hawks seem to be obligatory at best. I hope that the powers at be at the AJC realize that not EVERYONE is a UGA football fan. There are alot of people who are fans of ALL of the ATL teams. Even the Falcons coverage leaves alot to be desired and pales in comparison to the fawning and attention to detail dedicated to the Braves and Bulldogs.

Big Lou

February 1st, 2012
4:09 pm

Well, I am done promoting the Hawks within the Cage(Falcons) blog. I am really excited on what this team has done this year, but the true test will be February.

Rufus1

February 1st, 2012
4:09 pm

MC,

I was reffering to KMart. Could we cut someone and offer him 2.5mil

Big Lou

February 1st, 2012
4:11 pm

I think the Hawks will go 9-4. They will get a win @POR or MEM. In all reality, they could beat CHI, too.

Melvin

February 1st, 2012
4:11 pm

I wonder if the Hawks implemented any changes to their facility or routines b/c of the aggressive NBA schedule. One thing as fans we may not consider when we hear/see players signing with teams is the team facilities, training staff or other team related operations/procedures.

Look at what Houston has put in place b/c of the irregular NBA season.

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/rockets-adjusting-lockout-schedule-typical-rockets-thinking-000506207.html;_ylt=AhLPPWxwFSMx9y0mw5vM_1.8vLYF

doc

February 1st, 2012
4:12 pm

you know this blog and hawks fans in general and the hawk team are very similar. man you got to want it bad to put up with all the crap here. we dont even have the thrashers to dump on anymore. we might feel like that old brave catcher bob uecker in the miller lite commercial among the best ever shouting, ‘loving being on the front row!”

doc

February 1st, 2012
4:13 pm

k mart has set his sights higher than vet minimum guys. just dont feel it here.

Big Lou

February 1st, 2012
4:14 pm

MC good link on twitter about Ivan Johnson! Let’s go DEBO!

Tootsi

February 1st, 2012
4:17 pm

Ha, heard nothing, but was concerned based on the fact that they didn’t send you out there, much less allow you to blog about the games.

They should have used the resources/cash they used to send Ledbetter to the Senior Bowl to allow you to go on the road trip. Ledbetter of course provided no insight whatsoever and was instead retweeting all the other media members that were there. MC and DOB are great at giving us info and stats that allow us to think and discuss. Ledbetter could only dream of that. If they send him to the Super Bowl I may have to refrain from reading the AJC for a little while.

mountain_jim

February 1st, 2012
4:18 pm

Add my voice to the chorus happy for your presence and a new blog, MC.

If the AJC will not decently cover the Hawks, then we fans are hurtin’
Cause ESPN, the Daily Dime, Pro-basketball Talk, they all are doing their best to ignore the Hawks great start and position

Tootsi

February 1st, 2012
4:18 pm

Oh, and if the AJC powers that be had any clue, they would realize that this blog gets far more attention and discussion than anything posted on the Falcons blog.

Joe for 3

February 1st, 2012
4:18 pm

Welcome back from the short hiatus, MC!

Slimjr

February 1st, 2012
4:19 pm

I’m going to be optimistic for real and say 9-4 for the Month of February!! C’mon Sund get a big in here YESTERDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Tootsi

February 1st, 2012
4:20 pm

http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-falcons-blog/2012/01/31/georgia-connections-in-super-bowl-xlvi/?cxntfid=blogs_atlanta_falcons_blog

For example, this useless Ledbetter post got all of 15 comments. The game blogs from the last 2 got 32 pages worth of comments.

Slimjr

February 1st, 2012
4:20 pm

The Falcons and their blogs stink!

KBB

February 1st, 2012
4:22 pm

DOB is probably one of the best baseball beat writers in the country. Ledbetter is probably one of the absolute worst in his profession. Go figure.

Slimjr

February 1st, 2012
4:23 pm

D-led aint one of them…So he does not get the retarded responses that Jeff gets vs the Fail-cons….

kwooden

February 1st, 2012
4:23 pm

I haven’t seen MEM play this year, but they look like a tough minded team. I don’t see any real match-up issues, which is good, but we’re going to have to play a consistent game to get a win. Tony Allen is a tough defender, but JJ has to win that match-up for us to be successful. I like our bench in this match-up though because of Tracy’s height and MEM doesn’t have a real quality 6-10 guy coming off the bench. Hopefully we can hit the boards and the bench can apply some pressure. Mayo is going to be a problem this game, along with the other quick players they have coming off the bench. Hopefully LD is ready to give Pargo some playing time, because I think we’ll need his defensive help. This could also be a game where Vlad can get some shots and do some work. Memphis is a lot weaker without Arthur and Randolph.

GO HAWKS!!

Sautee

February 1st, 2012
4:23 pm

LOL, the AJC should have just taken out a full page ad saying “we suck”.

That would have been cheaper than not sending a beat writer to a game, which was the exact result.

Slimjr

February 1st, 2012
4:25 pm

bring back MV7 and D-led blogs would lite up with hate mail…..

Hawks Blog Legend Worldwide Clyde

February 1st, 2012
4:28 pm

Slimjr

February 1st, 2012
4:31 pm

Tony Allen is a freaking beast on the defensive end…He’s a 10 on the D scale. JC1 is a -10 on that same scale!! lol

Rod from College Park can write a thesis if he like but we know a non committed defender when we see one JeJe! Thats why he wears out his welcome after a couple of years….People want to win..You win with defense and rebounding….. Long distance bombs? Not so much….

Najeh Davenpoop

February 1st, 2012
4:32 pm

Joe hasn’t been up against a defender as tough as Tony Allen in weeks.

The weakness in Memphis’ defense is power forward. Marreese Speights is a weak defender and they have a tendency to go small with the second unit. Josh is the guy with the matchup advantage, and he’s shooting under 40% with 11 points per game over the last four games. He needs to step it up on offense if the Hawks will beat Memphis, by which I mean he needs to do work on the inside, not from the perimeter.