Joe Johnson Has Checked Out After Cashing In on Ridiculous Free-Agency Deal

Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IMay 7, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MAY 04:  Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks works his way to the basket against Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 4, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Just two years ago, Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson was coming off his fifth consecutive season of averaging at least 20 points per game for the Hawks. Johnson’s stock was soaring high and he was about to cash in as an unrestricted free agent, and cash in he did.

Johnson signed a ridiculous six-year, $119 million deal to stay in Atlanta, and like so many others before him that signed a large-money deal, it appears that Johnson checked out early once he got his money.

He’s failed to average 19 points per game in both seasons since signing the deal.

That average is down to 17.8 during this postseason, with Johnson shooting only 36.8 percent from the floor and 24 percent from behind the arc.

I’d say Atlanta hasn’t been getting their money’s worth from Johnson.

He goes through spurts where he looks like the scorer he once was, but more often than not, Johnson appears to be nothing more than an above-average guard earning a hefty paycheck.

It’s not entirely Johnson’s fault, though. Most of the blame goes to Atlanta for offering a 29-year-old that type of money to begin with.

In the days leading up to the signing of the deal, it was already being called the worst contract in basketball. Johnson will be 35 years old by the time the contract runs out, and I’d expect his numbers to continue to decrease.

Keep in mind that Johnson averaged 21.9 PPG from 2006-10 while dominating the ball. The Johnson everyone sees now is actually pretty much the same player he’s been all along. He’s just shooting the ball a lot less, at almost three fewer attempts per game.

Despite the salary, he’s never really been "the guy.” On a great team, Johnson is a third option at best and on a good team he should be the second option. Yet on the Hawks, he’s their primary scoring option.

Joe Johnson is not the type of player to carry a team throughout the postseason, as is evident by the Hawks' failure to advance past the second round of the playoffs with him as their leader.

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 08:  Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks against the Indiana Pacers at Philips Arena on February 8, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, U
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Also keep in mind that twice in a five-year span, Johnson chose big money over a chance to win a championship, and that ultimately says something.

He’s not a go-to guy when it matters, nor is he a guy that is aggressive and tries to get to the line much, only getting to the charity stripe a paltry 3.2 times per game throughout his entire 11-year career.

Johnson’s got his money, and that’s fine, but he’s not going to do much to really help the Hawks win. For the next four seasons, he will be a guy that gets his shots, but does little else that amounts to wins.

So while Johnson has checked out after signing his big deal, as much blame needs to be thrown the Hawks' way for offering it to begin with.