NBA Playoffs: Why Joe Johnson Stays in Atlanta After the First-Round Win

Jose SalviatiCorrespondent IIMay 4, 2010

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 24: Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks dribbles the basketball against the Milwaukee Bucks during Game Three of Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at the Bradley Center on April 24, 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bucks defeated the Hawks 107-89. 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 Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

Do you know what's worse than being a high-profile celebrity caught in a scandal?  It's being a high-profile celebrity caught in a scandal on a slow news day!

Trust me, the first thing Tiger was hoping for as he awoke from that nap on his lawn was for an 11.5 earthquake to hit LA.  A slow news day insures that the most titillating story gets front-page exposure. No matter how unworthy that news "story" might be.

Where extra attention works well to shield a celebrity caught with his or her pants down, it may have the opposite effect in the NBA this offseason. 

If I asked you to rattle off the available free agents in 2010 who comes to mind first? Second? Third? My guess is it would take a little counting before we got to Joe Johnson.

I'm sure he is on the white boards of several NBA teams, but he is likely under the heading "Plan B" or even "Plan C".  In 2010, there are bigger fish to lure than Johnson.  Nothing speaks to the wealth of talent available in the free agent class of 2010 than when you realize that JJ is an afterthought.

This "afterthought" is a 6'7" shooting guard who, at 28, is still at his peak.  A player that lists as one of the best players in clutch situations in the Association. 

His resume shows five straight seasons averaging 20 points or more, above average FG percentage, FT percentage, and 3-PT percentage, and a key component in revitalizing a once-dormant Hawk franchise.  This is an afterthought?

When LeBron James is in the conversation, everyone is an afterthought.

Aside from hurting the egos of everyone in the 2010 free agent class whose initials aren't LBJ, does it hurt their checkbooks as well? 

For Johnson, I believe it can.  Franchises have long been gun-shy about giving out max contracts to players who weren't firmly established as superstars.  JJ, at best, is on the bubble.

In years past it wouldn't of mattered.  His resume would have been enough to cajole a club to fork over the big bucks.  In this economy and in this free agent class, however, it matters.  The money, the fit in Atlanta, and the bright future of this club all point to Johnson staying with the Hawks.

Matt McHale is a Bulls blogger.  He writes, "If Joe demands a max or close-to-the-max contract this offseason, well, I'm not sure that would be the best use of the Bulls' money. Johnson is an All-Star, but not a superstar."

That's about as good a bare bones financial scouting report on Johnson there is. Teams like him and would love to add him, but likely not at the type of salary Johnson will want.

The current collective bargaining agreement allows the free agent's current team the ability to pay more then anyone else and add an extra year to boot.  The idea was to encourage free agents to stay with one team as opposed to jumping around from team to team after their contract expires. 

Where other clubs might see Johnson as a complimentary component, the Hawks know he is a key piece of their puzzle.  He can get more money and a longer contract with them than anywhere else.

As currently constructed the Hawks are one of the, if not the, most exciting teams in the Association.  They boast a veteran, steady point guard in Mike Bibby, arguably the most athletic player in the NBA in Josh Smith, and consistent performers in Jamal Crawford and Al Horford.  Johnson can look far and wide and not find a supporting staff to match that one.

As exciting as the Hawks are now, the future looks even more promising.  The season before signing Johnson, the Hawks win total was 13.  What followed were seasons with 26, 30, 37, 47, and 53 wins.  Do you see a trend? 

With the Celtics getting old, the Magic relying on a shell that was once Vinsanity, and the Cavs about to say bye to the King, the Hawks are primed to own the East for years to come.

Why would Johnson leave?

Add to all of the above the fact that the Hawks dispatched the Bucks and are moving on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the second year in a row and the choice is clear.  Johnson must remain a Hawk.

On the off chance I didn't convince you Joe, rumor has it the Clippers are interested in you. Mhm, Atlanta is looking really good now, huh?