Joe Johnson Boosts Miami Heat’s Sporadic Small Forward Rotation

Feb 19, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets small forward Joe Johnson (7) drives against New York Knicks small forward Lance Thomas (42) and power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) during the third quarter at Barclays Center. The Nets defeated the Knicks 109-98. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 19, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets small forward Joe Johnson (7) drives against New York Knicks small forward Lance Thomas (42) and power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) during the third quarter at Barclays Center. The Nets defeated the Knicks 109-98. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Joe Johnson provides a boost for the Miami Heat’s sporadic small forward rotation.

Few contenders needed a jolt at the small forward position more than the Miami Heat, who signed veteran Joe Johnson Saturday after clearing waivers, per the team. The Heat reported they had signed Johnson, but Yahoo! Sports’ initially broke the news that Johnson was likely headed to South Beach.

The Brooklyn Nets failed to move Johnson after for years of trying odue to his egregious contract, but Miami added the 15-year pro without having to give up any assets. That’s a win for a Heat team that collected a boatload of second-round picks at the trade deadline in order to shed excess salary.

At a fraction of his original cost, Johnson is now playing on a team looking for its first playoff appearance post-LeBron James.

Last year, trade deadline acquisition Goran Dragic couldn’t salvage an injury-riddled 2014-15 campaign for the defending Eastern Conference champs. The injuries have been apparent this season for Miami as a facet of being one of the league’s older rosters, but they’re contenders for a top-five seed heading into the contender/pretender part of this year’s slate.

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By adding Johnson to one of the league’s most unappealing small forward rotations, Miami is doing their due diligence to make sure their playoff run lasts longer than one series.

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With the evident aging of Luol Deng and the sporadic efficiency of both rookie Justise Winslow and high-flying veteran Gerald Green, head coach Erik Spoelstra is having trouble extracting production out of an underwhelming trio. Winslow could become one of the league’s premier three-and-D wings when he reaches maturity, but his defense far exceeds his offensive ability.

Johnson is a replacement for Deng, allowing Winslow to continue aiding the second unit as a defensive pest.

The seven-time All-Star is in the midst of one of the worst statistical seasons of his career, averaging just 11.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while playing for the offensively bereft Brooklyn Nets.

A 34-year-old Johnson won’t replicate the numbers he put up in Atlanta, even with a drastically more potent Miami roster, but he’ll have more confidence knowing he doesn’t have to do much else besides score.

The immense pressure, or whatever it was that carried him last season, that led Johnson to help Brooklyn reach the playoffs won’t be as intense. However, his ability to generate a semblance of offense will do wonders for the Heat.

Miami was limited on the offensive end Saturday against Boston, scoring just 89 points and turning the ball over eight times. The Miami Herald’s Ethan Skolnick explained the necessity that Joe Johnson offers to the ailing team.

"Although Bosh’s status remains unknown, teammates aren’t expecting his return this season. And even though Tyler Johnson, now traveling with the Heat following shoulder surgery, is ahead of schedule and increasingly hopeful of returning in April, that’s a supplemental rather than a central addition. Does the other Johnson – Joe – still qualify as the latter? Most encouraging: Johnson has shot 46 percent from three-point range since Jan. 1, while [Gerald] Green, in that same period, is at 27.1 percent and plummeting. Plus, Johnson is still productive in the post (0.83 points per possession), and has a history of making shots down the stretch."

Making shots has been a struggle for Miami’s small forwards all season. Per, the Heat’s small forwards rank last in offensive efficiency and are 20th in field-goal percentage. Johnson will have to change some of his offensive tendencies to bolster a paltry group.

Johnson, whose been referred as “Iso Joe” for his tendencies to hijack possessions by running isolation sets for himself, has struggled in the aforementioned category. Shooting just 34.8 percent when on an island with his defender guarding him, he won’t have to rely on the infrequent mismatches he presents to fuel his scoring output.

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He can allow a healthy Dwyane Wade, who is second on the team with 100 field goals attempts in isolation sets, to clear out the offense in order to blow by his defender off the dribble. It will be interesting to gauge how admirably Johnson will perform, as his role decreases in an offense.

The 34-year-old wing will probably be asked to leak out on the perimeter and look for shot opportunities created by Dragic or guards to set up Johnson. Instantaneously, Johnson has to improve a Miami team offensively, a team that doesn’t get many three-point makes from their small forwards.

Only the Minnesota Timberwolves’ group of small forwards takes fewer threes per game, and the Heat are the league’s worst team at connecting on their three-point attempts. Johnson has the ability to increase the team’s eyesore 29.0 percent shooting from deep and take pressure off of Wade and Dragic on offense.

The forward can be the primary option Dragic goes to when finding an outlet to pass to on the perimeter.

Here, Brooklyn point guard Donald Sloan attacks the paint, then subsequently dishes the ball out to the perimeter and finds an open Johnson. With enough space and a release that still is effective, Johnson connects on the triple.

One of the more creative point guards in the league, Dragic could be paramount for easing in Johnson’s arrival to the offense. Playing on an expiring contract, this is Johnson’s chance to make an impact for the Heat and convince teams that his career is far from over.

He’s not going to boost Miami on the defensive end, sporting an abysmal 112 DRtg (defensive rating), as a 34-year-old that is declining in athleticism, but Pat Riley brought in Johnson for obvious reasons.

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With a role fitting for a veteran scorer, we might see less of “Iso Joe.” Johnson looks to be one Miami’s of perimeter scorers and could revitalize a team clamoring for any production from their wings.