Charlotte Hornets Should Acquire Joe Johnson


The Charlotte Hornets somehow continue to reach new lows. Their most recent failing saw them blow a large lead to the Phoenix Suns on their way to a 111-106 loss. The Hornets now sit at 6 and 19, which is a far cry from where fans and pundits expected them to be this season.

An easy scapegoat has been recently acquired shooting guard Lance Stephenson, and there is a legitimate reason for that. Stephenson has not been good for Charlotte, in fact he’s been quite bad. Stephenson is averaging 10.2 points per game, while shooting 38.6 percent from the field and a shockingly bad 15.1 percent from three-point range.

Stephenson’s poor play has led some to speculate that Charlotte is interested in trading him. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports even stated that Charlotte has been in contact with teams about Stephenson, though talks have not gotten very far.

Stephenson’s trade value is not likely to be very high after his disastrous start to the 2014-2015 season, but one potential trade partner could be the Brooklyn Nets. Stephenson was “Born Ready” in Brooklyn, and spent his high school days there. The Nets are also rumored to be looking to unload some of their high priced veterans, including Joe Johnson

Now, this is a topic of discussion that has been hotly debated here at Swarm and Sting. We have a fantastic and diverse group of writers who all share different opinions on things. These differences of opinions make for great discussions, and this was one of our most interesting yet. Should the Hornets attempt to acquire Joe Johnson in a deal for Lance Stephenson?

The Swarm and Sting contingent was split on this issue. I am fervently in favor of the move, while some others are against it. Later in the week there should be a post from another warning of the dangers of going after Johnson, but for now I will attempt to explain why this would be a great move for the Hornets.

First of all, the Charlotte Hornets need outside shooting. They are currently 28th in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage at a chilly 31.3 percent. The only team that ranks worse in that category is the lowly Philadelphia 76ers. They also rank 26th in three-point attempts per game.

The bench unit features a bit more shooting. Gary Neal and Marvin Williams lead the team from outside, shooting 36.6 and 36.2 percent respectively from three-point range. However, the highest three-point percentage in the starting five is Kemba Walker at 31.1 percent. Yikes. A lineup of Kemba Walker, Lance Stephenson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, and Al Jefferson features absolutely zero outside threats.

This subpar floor spaces allows defenses to clog the lane, making it more difficult for Al Jefferson to go to work on the low block, or for Kemba Walker to get to the rim with his dribble penetration.

The addition of Joe Johnson helps remedy this issue. Replacing Stephenson with Johnson adds a player who is a 37.2 percent shooter from three, who is shooting 38.6 percent this season and shot 40.1 percent last season. Johnson can knock down shots from outside.

Johnson is more than just a shooter. Even at his advanced age he can still create for himself off the dribble. He is shooting 53.2 percent from shots between 3 and 10 feet, and 65.7 percent at the rim. Johnson is still an all-around scorer.

As NBA twitter likes to remind the world, Joe Johnson is also a seven time all-star. So there’s another feather in his cap.

He also adds another “clutch” scorer into the mix. We can debate the existence of “clutch” another time, but in his career Johnson has shown that he is not afraid to take and make big shots. As evidenced here.

There are real concerns about acquiring Johnson, and I understand that. He has an enormous contract, he is 33 years old, he does not fix the defensive issues, and giving up on a young talent like Stephenson so early in his tenure with the team is foolish. I just believe that the positives outweigh the negatives.

There are only two years left on Johnson’s deal (really one and a half) so his expensive contract is not something that will hamstring the Hornets several years into the future. In this scenario they will commit themselves to a core of Kemba Walker, Joe Johnson, and Al Jefferson for the next one and a half seasons. If it is not working out then both Jefferson and Johnson will leave town when their contracts expire and Charlotte will be able to regroup during the summer of 2016.

All this being said, I’m not 100 percent behind Charlotte moving Lance Stephenson. If they feel they can still make it work in the long-term and that this is just a blip on the radar then they should continue trying to develop his game despite the poor early results.

However, if the players, front office, and coaching staff views him as harmful to the organization and someone that cannot ever fit what they are trying to do then the team should not hesitate in moving him.

If I were the general manager, and I felt it was time to trade Stephenson, I would approach Brooklyn about a deal to send Stephenson, Gerald Henderson, and Marvin Williams to the Nets for Joe Johnson and Mirza Teletovic. This would allow Charlotte to at least attempt in fixing their outside shooting woes.

We are now in wait and see mode. You never know. Anything could happen.

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