Joe Johnson can score the basketball. He hits big shots in crunch time. He has been the man when the Hawks have been at their best. NBA teams pay well for those things.
However, increasingly they do so over the howls of statistical experts. There's not a stat geek out there who thinks he's anything close to a max player, and the reason is because it's very hard to find players like him -- older wings who don't get to the line all that much -- who age well.
On Basketball Prospectus, Kevin Pelton writes about his systematic comparison of Johnson to others like him in NBA history:
Johnson is expected to heavily decline by the 2012-13 season, when he'll be 30. That will put him only halfway through the six-year contract Atlanta reportedly offered him yesterday. No matter the metric you use, second-tier wings have aged very poorly, and a long-term contract for Johnson could be a disaster for the Hawks.
It's not unreasonable to suggest that within a couple of seasons we will see Johnson's contract as the single worst in the entire NBA because of its cost and its length.
Now that he has been offered a reported $119 million over six years, he'll sign it immediately, right? That's the word, but if you're wondering why he'd hesitate at all, here's one guess: There has been talk that the Knicks would sign Johnson to a big deal as part of their attempts to lure LeBron James. Contracts can't be signed until July 8. It may be worth Johnson's time to hang around a little longer just in case he can get a huge basketball-crazy market and James as a teammate in addition to silly amounts of money.