Can Iso Joe Contribute to Motown’s Bench?


This has been one of the more rumor-filled Pistons offseasons of recent memory.  None of what is happening is necessarily franchise altering, save for the possible Andre Drummond opting out of his option.  But for once it is nice to be in the running for veteran free agents that other teams also want.

The latest name connected to the Pistons could be the most exciting one yet.  Fresh off a title and an MVP season in the BIG3, Joe Johnson is making a return.  While Iso Joe is certainly not his prime self anymore, he still presents an interesting case for a team looking to return to the playoffs. So, did the Pistons make the right decision?  Surprisingly, it is not as easy as it seems to decide.

What Iso Joe Adds

Joe Johnson built a reputation as a lethal scorer and smart playmaker over a 17-year career.  His numbers clearly tailed off in his last three seasons, as he bounced around some contenders chasing the final piece.  While stats for the BIG3 are not as readily available and obviously swayed by such things as 4-point shots, he showed that he still has something left. His efficiency metrics add something that most teams would love to have.  Shooting splits of 44%/41%/82% would be a high-tier reserve player for a team in Detroit who lacked much scoring punch off the bench last season.  It is the reason fans were ecstatic to see the signing of Derrick Rose and able to sell themselves on giving Michael Beasley a chance.

Something Johnson adds that the two above-referenced players do not is veteran play making and leadership.  He is a smart and willing passer– something that no one has ever said about Beasley.  He is a calming presence who is looking to finish his career on his terms.  The fact that his former agent works in Detroit’s front office does not hurt that possibility.  If Johnson can reclaim some of his former scoring punch, bringing Rose and Johnson off the bench will help balance a reserve unit light on scoring.

What Johnson Costs

Given his partially guaranteed contract, money is not the issue.  Opportunity is the only cost of this move.  Depending on how someone feels about the bottom of the roster that may also be negligible.

Michael Beasley is a similar fit with the team without the veteran leadership and dependability– so the choice there is pretty simple.  The real questions come when we get into the training camp battle for the final roster spot.  Christian Wood is a little tougher to make the call on.  Being younger is a benefit for a team that trends older.  Wood also fits a position of need more than Johnson.  The only other backup center behind Drummond is Thon Maker.  Johnson would be entering a moderately-filled wing rotation.  While he would have a chance to be the best one off the bench, differentiating the roster may have more importance.

Worth It?

Ultimately, if a trade opens up that allows the Pistons to offload an expiring contract such as Langston Galloway or Thon Maker, this move will make a lot of sense.  Keeping Christian Wood and bringing in Joe Johnson feels like a strong swing for a team looking to capitalize around what could be the last year of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin together.  This front office is not afraid to take swings and has done quite a bit with very little.  Iso Joe could prove to be the correct next logical step.


About Corey Rausch

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