Utah Jazz: Was Joe Johnson snubbed from SI’s Top 100 NBA players?

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 6: Joe Johnson (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 6: Joe Johnson (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Sports Illustrated finished releasing their list of Top 100 NBA players today and although he’s far removed from his prime, Utah Jazz veteran Joe Johnson has an argument as being snubbed from the list.

The Sports Illustrated Top 100 NBA Players list reached its apex today as the final group of the league’s Top 10 players were released with LeBron James topping the list and Kevin Durant coming in as the runner-up. Of course, it would be impossible to ever compile a list that every NBA fan was pleased with, so per the usual, there’s plenty to nit-pick on regardless of your overall thoughts on the compilation of players.

For the most part, I was quite pleased as three Utah Jazz players found themselves in the lower half of the list while Rudy Gobert ended up at a formidable number 15, one spot ahead of former teammate Gordon Hayward. However, the one name absent from the list that got me thinking was one of the Jazz’s offseason additions from last summer – Joe Johnson.

First off, I completely understand why the seven-time All-Star didn’t make the cut in the eyes of Sports Illustrated experts Rob Mahoney and Ben Golliver. Without a doubt, prime Joe Johnson would have been a shoo-in as a member of the Top 100 and probably could have even broken into the Top 15 at one point of his career. However, at 36 years old, he’s far removed from that player he once was.

Not to mention, he averaged jut 9.2 points per game this past season on the lowest number of minutes per game since his rookie season. In short, as he reaches the twilight of his career, it’s no surprise that he wouldn’t be considered one of the league’s Top 100 players by several measures.

But on the other hand, Mahoney and Golliver stated themselves in the introduction of the release of numbers 100-51 that “past performance (postseason included) weighed heavily in [their] assessment, with a skew toward the recent.” When looking at postseason play and reliability in the clutch, Joe Johnson was second to none in the Utah Jazz’s latest playoff run.

In Utah’s series against the Los Angeles Clippers, Joe Johnson played savior for the Jazz on more than one occasion. He averaged a staunch 15.7 points per game while shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from deep. The Jazz were able to depend on him on countless occasions when they needed a big shot and that’s a skill that simply can’t be undervalued.

And while the recency factor is important, Joe’s clutch ability didn’t just magically begin in the postseason. He was a stud for the Jazz all season long as he shot a red hot 41.1 percent from deep and was also extremely durable (as he has been for most of his career) which is another valuable factor that very much ought to figure into these rankings. A player could be the most talented of all, but if he can’t stay on the floor, what good does it do anybody?

Joe Johnson appeared in 78 regular season games last season and played valuable minutes while several of his Jazz teammates waded through an onslaught of injuries. Furthermore, he also possesses an incredible basketball mind, is a formidable mentor and a great locker room presence. Sure, some of those aren’t all that measurable, but all are worthy of consideration when putting together such a list of players.

So while I clearly understand that there’s a valid argument for him not landing in the Top 100 given his age and deteriorating usage, I think there’s also reason to believe he ought to be on the list.

Take a look at some of the guys that did make the cut near the tail end of the list and you tell me who you’d rather have with the ball in their hands at a clutch moment if it came down to them or Joe Johnson. They include D’Angelo Russell (100), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (99), Patrick Patterson (98), Ryan Anderson (97), Elfrid Payton (96), Taj Gibson (95) and Julius Randle (94).

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m definitely taking Joe Johnson over any of those guys and certainly could see him worthy of a finish in the 90s.

Granted there’s other so-called snubs that one could make an argument deserve to be on the list above the aforementioned guys or Joe Johnson. Additionally, you could easily say that those players that I listed at 94-100 are overall better players than Joe Johnson at this state in his career and you’d have a fair argument.

However, when considering Johnson’s durability, experience, basketball IQ, shooting touch and overall reliability, even at his old age I would put him within the Top 100, even if he were in one of the lower slots of the bunch.

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The Utah Jazz will need Joe Johnson to be even more of a contributor than ever this upcoming season as they seek to revitalize their offense in the wake of the loss of Gordon Hayward. He still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve and a deadly shot, so I fully expect him to be able to.

And if he can continue to be a consistently reliable offensive piece of this Jazz team all season long, then he could very well prove to the league that he completely deserved to receive credit as one of the NBA’s Top 100 players.