30 NBA players that got better after leaving their first team

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Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

30 NBA players who got better after leaving their first team: 11. Joe Johnson

Is it cheating to pick a player who was traded during his rookie season? Perhaps, but the mistake the Boston Celtics made on Joe Johnson was clear almost immediately. Such a blatant mistake, along with an impressive career, earns Johnson a high place on this list.

Johnson was good in his half-season in Boston, starting 33 of his 48 games and showed flashes of the future star he would become. He came along during a chaotic time in Celtics history and found himself traded at his first deadline. In Phoenix, he became a dynamic 3-point threat. In his final season in Phoenix, he shot a mind-melting 47.8 percent on 4.5 attempts per game. The Suns were a juggernaut before ultimately being derailed by a facial fracture for Johnson and running into the San Antonio Spurs.

Johnson moved on in free agency to join the Atlanta Hawks and Iso Joe was born. He became one of the best scorers in the league and led the Hawks to the playoffs in five straight seasons. He made six All-Star appearances in seven seasons with his new squad (and one All-NBA team), choosing to stay in a smaller market on a max contract rather than chasing a ring in the famous free-agent class that landed LeBron James on South Beach.

After two years on that max contract, Johnson was traded to the Brooklyn Nets. He would make a final All-Star appearance with the Nets but saw his scoring take a precipitous drop. He then became something of a journeyman, playing half a season with the Miami Heat, a year and a half with the Utah Jazz, and 23 games with the Houston Rockets before calling it a career.