The Portland Trail Blazers could add one last game-changing shooter in the form of the comeback story of the summer, Iso Joe Johnson.
Answer me this, how many knockdown shooters do the Portland Trail Blazers have on their roster? Sure, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum can light it up from deep, but they will always be at the forefront of an opposing team’s defensive game plan. That’s where Joe Johnson can come in and have an immediate impact.
Johnson has been balling out in the NBA since the start of the century, racking up seven All-Star nominations and even being selected to an All-NBA team in 2010. He last played in the league with the Houston Rockets in 2018. At 36-years-old, he was considered damaged goods and nobody signed him to a contract last season.
For most people, that would mean their career was as good as dead. But nobody was prepared for the huge effect Ice Cube would have on the world of basketball when he launched his BIG3 basketball league. Playing alongside former NBA players like Al Jefferson and Jannero Pargo, Johnson has led the Triplets to a league-leading record of 7-1.
“Iso Joe” has thoroughly earned his nickname in that time, leading the BIG3 in points (21.9) and assists (3.9) while also being tied for the fourth most rebounds (7.5) in the league. Johnson has just thoroughly demonstrated that he’s a higher caliber of player at this moment in time. Most importantly of all, he has hit 39 percent of his shots from deep and even gone 4-8 from the BIG3’s novelty “4-point spot”. Johnson clearly still has the range to be an effective NBA shooter.
This is no outlier performance either, Big Shot Joe has made a career out of delivering these highlight reel performances. Despite a disappointing season in 2018, Johnson has hit 37.8 percent of shots from deep since 2012.
So what does all this mean for the Portland Trail Blazers?
For starters, you can never have too much shooting in this modern NBA. And the Blazers desperately need more of it. After losing Seth Curry, things looked dire on the perimeter for Portland heading into this summer. They did well to add Anthony Tolliver and Kent Bazemore, but that doesn’t mean they should stop there.
Tolliver will be entering his 12th season in the NBA and no longer has the mobility he once did. Bazemore is also incredibly consistent, who saw his 3-point rate drop 7.4 points down to a disappointing 32 percent in 2019. No other player on the roster shot above 34.5 percent from downtown last season.
If Kyle Korver can still be counted to go out there and hit daggers at 38-years-old, why can’t Johnson? Especially considering Joe has a lot more athleticism and agility to offer on the perimeter. Not only is he a great shooter, he’s good enough of a driving threat to become a poor man’s Wesley Matthews for this Blazers team.
Johnson has reportedly scheduled a workout with four NBA teams, including the contending Philadelphia 76ers. Now might be the last chance for the Portland Trail Blazers to scoop up another perimeter threat to round out the team’s improved space-and-pace shooting scheme.