Michael Scotto, SNYNets.com
Prior to his sore left heel injury, Joe Johnson was the only member of the Brooklyn Nets to start every game this season.
Johnson has averaged 38 minutes per game, his most since the 2009-10 season with the Atlanta Hawks.
Despite the increased minutes, Johnson’s numbers have declined across the board. Johnson is shooting his lowest percentage in 10 seasons (.423), is rebounding at a career-low rate per game (3.1), is averaging his lowest assists per game in eight seasons (3.6), and is averaging his lowest points per game in nine seasons (16.9).
With that in mind, it makes sense for Brooklyn to decrease Johnson’s minutes. The move would keep Johnson healthy for the rest of the season while maintaining his closer role down the stretch in fourth quarters when the Nets need him most.
Brooklyn has the backcourt depth to allow Johnson to rest and maintain an offensive rhythm in a variety of ways.
C.J. Watson has shown he can split time in the backcourt with Deron Williams for stretches. Watson is averaging 16.2 points and 4.2 assists over a five-game stretch dating back from Feb. 13-24. Watson has been on fire from the field (.564) and beyond the arc (.625) during that stretch, while averaging 30.6 minutes per game.
Keith Bogans has also provided adequate shooting from beyond the arc (.358), especially from the corner spots, and gritty defense allowing him to defend shooting guards and small forwards if necessary.
MarShon Brooks has been used as a spark plug when the team needs an offensive jolt. Brooks is averaging 21.82 points per 48 minutes played. Brooks scores most similarly to Johnson by using isolation plays and creating space for his jump shot. Brooks can also knife through the defense with this crossover dribble.
Keep in mind; Johnson’s heel injury can worsen quickly due to constant motion on the court. With that in mind, the Nets should limit Johnson to no more than 35 minutes per game and maximize his playing time in the fourth quarter.
Johnson has been at his best as Brooklyn’s closer down the stretch in fourth quarters.
According to the Nets PR Dept., when the Nets are tied or trailing by three points or less with less than one minute remaining, Joe Johnson is 9-10 from the field for 20 points and a +18 rating in just 13 minutes. Johnson’s nine made field goals in those situations leads the NBA.
Therefore, it makes sense to rest Johnson earlier in games to rest his legs. Brooklyn has primarily featured Brook Lopez all season as the go-to scorer in the first quarter. Brooklyn can rest Johnson early during this quarter and insert Keith Bogans to stretch the floor with his corner three-point shooting and defensive pressure on opposing guards.
Another way to limit Johnson’s motion on offense, and stress on his heel, is to post him up more frequently and limit his isolation plays. Furthermore, Johnson can guard small forwards due to his size at 6’7” and 240 pounds, which would limit his lateral movement on defense against smaller and quicker guards.
Michael Scotto is an Analyst for SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter for the latest news from Brooklyn and the NBA: @MikeAScotto