One-time Utah Jazz standout Joe Johnson is tearing up the BIG3 and proving that he still has enough gas left in his tank to compete in the NBA.
There have been ample reports that the Utah Jazz could likely make one more move in free agency prior to the start of the regular season. Though they are done making significant splashes, even an additional veteran to shore up their depth would be an exciting next step.
And while I don’t think it’s likely to happen at all, former Jazzman Joe Johnson is a guy that could very well merit a look from his former team. Although Johnson failed to make an NBA roster in the 2018-19 season, he is absolutely dominating the BIG3 and proving that he has plenty left in the tank as he seeks to further stave off Father Time.
In his latest BIG3 outing on Sunday, Iso Joe dropped 26 points, grabbed seven rebounds and notched four assists. Nine of those 26 points came on three-pointers and two of those were as clutch as they come. Johnson’s team, Triplets, trailed Bivouac by as many as 12 points on several occasions, but Joe’s heroics led them to an incredible 51-45 victory, despite the team scoring just 14 points in the opening half.
Triplets are undefeated, thanks principally to the impeccable play of Johnson. Thus far, Joe leads all BIG3 scorers with 24.3 points per game and is one of only seven players to notch a four-point shot on the season. He’s also shooting a rock-solid 38 percent from the three-point line.
Johnson has appeared a level above his competition and seems built for 3-on-3 ball. His ability to back down players of any size, shape or athleticism, then methodically and patiently score over top of them has been incredible to watch. He’s definitely lived up to his nickname Iso Joe in BIG3 play as teams simply haven’t had any answer for him once he gets them in the post. And when he’s been doubled, he’s simply found the open man for an easy shot including former Jazzman Al Jefferson who also plays for Triplets.
During his debut season with the BIG3, Johnson has thus far shown that he yet possesses many skills that could still help a team in today’s NBA. He can create a shot at will, take on defenders one-on-one while easily exposing mismatches, drain shots from the perimeter and pass expertly. True, in his final outings with the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets, he often looked a step slow (especially on defense) and as if he could no longer hold his own at the highest level.
But, even though the BIG3 is obviously much different from the NBA and features a lower level of competition, Johnson’s knack for the game of basketball is still very much intact. And there’s no question in my mind that he could still help out NBA teams in need of another creator and floor spacer.
The Utah Jazz just so happen to be a squad that could benefit from those aspects. Johnson will forever be a hero in Salt Lake City thanks to his late-game heroics in the 2017 NBA Playoffs when he hit the game-winner in Game 1 against the LA Clippers.
During that game and throughout his time with the Jazz, he excelled in a stretch-four position. After dealing Jae Crowder and Derrick Favors, the Jazz now find themselves quite thin at that position, even after adding Bojan Bogdanovic (whose natural position is the three), Jeff Green (who’s a bit under-sized against some fours) and Ed Davis (who will principally play the five). With such being the case and considering they have nothing left to offer save minimum contracts, reuniting with Johnson makes sense to at least some degree.
Unfortunately, I highly doubt such is in the works. As I stated, Joe struggled to keep up with Utah’s defensive needs during his last run in Utah, and I imagine that would hurt his chances of returning. Not only that, but due to the fact that the Jazz parted ways with him mid-season of his final year, I have a hard time believing either party would be all that open to re-committing to one another.
The Jazz definitely are a contender in the Western Conference, though, so if a late-career ring is what Joe is looking for, it is possible that Utah could lure him into their ranks. My guess, though, is that if Johnson does get an opportunity to return to The Association after dominating the BIG3, he’ll most likely sign with a team like the LA Clippers (who he once helped disband as a member of the Jazz), Los Angeles Lakers or his former Brooklyn Nets team.
Joe Johnson is the early frontrunner for BIG3 MVP due to his incredible play and breath-taking heroics. And due to the abilities he’s shown of late, he could very well be in for an NBA comeback. Even so, as much as I’d like to see him back in the blue, green and gold, and although he could help fill some areas of need for the Utah Jazz, I highly doubt we’ll see him reunite with the Salt Lake City squad.
He definitely still has NBA-ready skills, though. And after how entertaining he’s been to watch in BIG3 this summer, I hope to see him get a chance to come back and compete at the highest level in 2019-20.