Utah Jazz alumni: Fresh off BIG3 MVP, Joe Johnson working out for NBA teams

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - AUGUST 25: Joe Johnson #1 of the Triplets looks on during the BIG3 Playoffs at Smoothie King Center on August 25, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/BIG3 via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - AUGUST 25: Joe Johnson #1 of the Triplets looks on during the BIG3 Playoffs at Smoothie King Center on August 25, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/BIG3 via Getty Images) /

After a scintillating season-long performance in the BIG3, former Utah Jazz player Joe Johnson may be on the brink of an NBA return.

It truly isn’t that hard for NBA players to win over Utah Jazz fans. Show some loyalty by giving the team, city and community some love, play your heart out, and respect the coach, organization and team, and they’ll likely love you forever. It’s why guys like DeMarre Carroll and Trevor Booker are so widely loved in Salt Lake City despite such short stints in Utah that came with little team success.

Couple in those three traits with choosing the Jazz in free agency (something very few meaningful players are known for) and hitting a playoff game winner in epic fashion, and it’s no question why Jazz fans are so infatuated with and grateful to Joe Johnson. Despite the fact that he didn’t even complete a second full season with Utah, his contributions in his first season there along with the fact that he chose of his own free will to join the Salt Lake City squad have made him a fan favorite among Jazz fans.

That said, the Utah faithful should be glad to know that despite not suiting up for an NBA team last season after an inglorious finish in both Utah and Houston, Iso Joe is doing quite well. He was the season-long star in the BIG3, leading his Triplets team to the BIG3 Championship game which will take place this Sunday. On the way, he earned the BIG3 MVP Award, a recognition that he quite frankly ran away with.

Johnson led the BIG3 in scoring with a league single-season record 175 points. He also was the leader in assists, field goals made and four-pointers made, two of which were game winners. Triplets went 7-1 on the regular season and easily won their first-round playoff battle against the 3-Headed Monsters. Sure, the competition he’s faced isn’t NBA-caliber, but it’s far better than many give it credit for. And Johnson has been head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.

His scoring ability in isolation remains as legendary as ever. His shooting and clutch gene are very much intact. His effort and effectiveness on defense even looked better than how he closed out his most recent NBA season.

And his MVP-worthy play in BIG3 has turned heads to such a degree that Johnson is getting looks from NBA teams. And by the sound of things, he appears very likely to make an NBA return at age 38.

On Thursday, Joe Johnson worked out for the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s expected to also work out for the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans.

Of course, Iso Joe is far past his prime. But he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt in BIG3 play that he can still get a bucket when needed. In spot minutes in the right situations and matchups, Johnson should still be a valuable depth piece for an NBA team, and that’s exactly what he’s seeking to prove in these workouts.

The year he had off from the NBA gave him a chance to fine tune his game and his body. He looked in amazing shape throughout the BIG3 which will certainly be an appealing aspect to interested NBA teams. After following the BIG3 closely this summer, his workout invites came as little surprise to me. In fact, on the latest J-Notes Podcast, I spoke of this in detail, opining that Iso Joe deserved a shot back in the league and predicting he would get one.

As such, I feel pretty confident saying that Johnson will find a home in the NBA soon. He certainly looked a step above the competition in his MVP BIG3 season and has the tools, savvy and experience to be a helpful piece as either a veteran on a contender or a valuable mentor on a young team. Of the teams listed above, I’d love to see him as a Buck or Pelican, either serving to help a Milwaukee team bulk up for a deep playoff run where they fell just short a year ago, or reuniting with Derrick Favors to help the young New Orleans squad reach their greatest heights.

If I’m being really honest, though, I’d most love to see him make a return to the Utah Jazz. Yes, I know that it’s far from likely and some Jazz fans may just say his time has long past. There’s a very plausible argument for that. Not to mention, with the likes of Bojan Bogdanovic, Jeff Green and Georges Niang all on the roster, it’s hard to see how exactly Johnson would fit. Minutes would be extremely hard for him to come by, more so than on the other teams I’ve mentioned.

And while he can’t expect to have a massive amount of playing time wherever he goes considering he’s fortunate just to have a chance to return to the league, I imagine he’ll be looking for more of an opportunity in a potential redemption season. He recently told the Salt Lake Tribune’s Eric Walden that he wasn’t happy with how his NBA career came to an end, so he’ll aim to rewrite his final chapter in a big way. He may not be afforded to do so in the most optimal way as a member of the Jazz.

Still, with William Howard and Stanton Kidd the likely final two candidates for Utah’s last roster spot, I wouldn’t be one bit upset if the Jazz instead pivoted and gave their former playoff hero Joe Johnson a spot back on the squad. His familiarity with Coach Snyder, chemistry with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, and veteran leadership would all be highly beneficial.

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Nevertheless, I have a feeling he’ll take his positive traits elsewhere and join a squad where he can flourish further. Even with that being the case, I feel Jazz fans should be nothing but happy for Joe Johnson. It’s no mystery why he was unhappy with how his NBA career formerly came to a close, so this chance to bounce back and make a difference somewhere will be great for him.

Considering all he did to win over Jazz fans during his time in Salt Lake City, the mantra of ‘once a Jazzman, always a Jazzman’ certainly applies here. Don’t be surprised to see him back on an NBA roster in the very near future in a well-deserved and hard-fought role.