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5 Reasons Brooklyn Nets' Joe Johnson Has Started This Season so Slowly

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIDecember 21, 2012

5 Reasons Brooklyn Nets' Joe Johnson Has Started This Season so Slowly

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    Heavy expectations were placed on Joe Johnson entering the 2012-13 season, as his presence on the Brooklyn Nets was supposed to be the difference-maker early on.

    Instead, Johnson has struggled out of the gate.

    He is shooting just under 43 percent from the field and is averaging just 17.0 points per game—his lowest output since he averaged 16.7 per game in 2003-04 as a member of the Phoenix Suns.

    It has seemed like Johnson has been forcing up some shots that he wouldn't normally take this season. Whether he's pressing or not confident with his teammates isn't clear. What is clear is that he's struggling to find the touch that made him one of the NBA's better scorers of the past decade.

    Johnson is getting older—he's 31 years old—but blaming age as the reason for his slow start would be entirely too easy (and probably entirely incorrect).

    There are other factors in play here.

Increased Minutes

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    Johnson playing 38.7 minutes per game absolutely baffles me.

    He hasn't played that many minutes since 2008-09 with the Atlanta Hawks (39.5), and Avery Johnson has the very talented MarShon Brooks sitting on the bench waiting to get into games.

    While I understand that these guys are professional athletes and should have the conditioning necessary to play a high volume of minutes every night, expecting Johnson to play this many minutes each night is unreasonable.

    Maybe he's getting a little fatigued and is having problems with his shot as a result. Or maybe, just maybe, he's not taking high-percentage shots because he's struggling to get open due to a lack of quickness—which again, results from fatigue.

    This is PURE speculation on my part, but it's seems to me that this might be playing a role in his struggles.

    After watching Johnson for a little over a quarter of the season, he just doesn't seem as fresh on a nightly basis as he did when he was with Atlanta.

Chemistry

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    Johnson wasn't the only new addition to the Brooklyn Nets this offseason.

    C.J. Watson, Jerry Stackhouse, Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans were all brought in to revitalize the bench, while Johnson was brought in to provide some more star power to the starting five.

    Throw in the fact that Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez never really got much time to mesh prior to the flurry of acquisitions, and you've got yourself a team that doesn't really have much chemistry.

    A lot of guys came into the season not knowing what their roles would be. Johnson's struggles can then be attributed to the team's struggles finding an offensive scheme that works.

    Avery Johnson has allowed his starters to play a ton of minutes together, but he needs to give Johnson playing time with the bench as well.

    Johnson needs to blend with every player on the roster to get himself out of this funk. It's better for himself and the team as a whole.

Deron Williams' Struggles

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    Deron Williams has struggled mightily this season (16.8 points, 8.2 assists, 39.6 percent shooting on the season), and that could have two effects on Johnson's game.

    For one, it could be causing Johnson to take more shots than he normally would to compensate for Williams' inconsistencies.

    Or, Williams' poor play and lack of assists could suggest that he's having problems finding the open man.

    Either way, Williams is having a negative effect on Johnson and it shows. The two were supposed to be one of the NBA's top frontcourts entering the 2012-13 season; instead, both stars are underperforming mightily. 

    These are the lowest scoring and assist totals since Williams was a rookie with the Utah Jazz in 2005-06. If he doesn't start improving soon, Johnson's season could also be lost.

    Come to think of it, there could be one more reason why Johnson has started poorly with regards to Williams. Is Johnson a system player too?

Too Much Shooting

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    Johnson is known for his great jump shot, but he's taken an awful lot of them thus far.

    Maybe his shooting percentage is so low and his points per game is down because he's simply taking too many jumpers.

    If he attacked the rim a little more often and took some high-percentage shots, we wouldn't be talking about Johnson struggling at the end of December.

    This is likely a result of the fatigue I mentioned earlier on. Because Johnson may be having a hard time getting past defenders, he's settling for shots that are being defended well.

    It could also be a product of the offense that the Nets have been running. Johnson's role may simply be to shoot, and with that comes a high number of misses.

Overall Inefficiency

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    Player-efficiency rating attempts to quantify the overall productivity of a player based on a player's contributions to his team.

    The average PER is considered 15.00, and the best ever recorded was 31.84 by Wilt Chamberlain.

    Over the course of his career, Johnson has routinely put together seasons where his PER ranged from 16.00 to 19.50—thus making him an above-average NBA player.

    This season, however, Johnson's PER is exactly 14.00.

    This low rating is a direct result of his decreased scoring, rebounding, assisting and stealing. It is also a result of the increased number of missed shots.

    Overall, Johnson has just been inefficient this season.

    He'll need to fix the problems in his game if the Nets hope to make a run in the strong Eastern Conference.

    **All statistics as of Thursday, December 20**

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