With the Brooklyn Nets retaining the services of Deron Williams while bringing in Joe Johnson and his giant truck, they boast one of the best passing/playmaking backcourts in the league. Williams is one of the top point guards in the world. Joe Johnson is a combo guard in the positive sense, when it’s used as a complement for a wing with point guard instincts, not a shooting guard in a point guard’s body as the term is so often used.
Granted, both Williams and Johnson posted some of the lowest assist rates of their careers last season, according to Hoopdata, but they’re each still deft passers who can boost offensive numbers.
Never mind the badly missed 3. This is preseason, lower your standards. What you see are two players able to play off of each other and make plays for themselves and others. In short, they’re going to be fun to watch together.
Where these two also excel, and where I’d like to see more emphasis, is in the post. Williams is listed at 6’3″ and 209 lbs, that’s a lot of bulk for a point guard. Johnson is a 6’7″, 240 lb. 2-guard. Both of these players are big for their position and have a size advantage over a lot of defenders they match up against.
According to Synergy Sports, Joe Johnson produced 1.01 points per possession (PPP) in the post last season. Deron Williams had .82 PPP. These numbers don’t take into account assists or whether or not each player’s team scored on the play, just the end result for the individual. If you factored in how often each player’s team scored on the play when they initiated the offense out of the low block, I’m sure the PPP would be much higher.
You can see in the following play how much attention Williams draws in the post. Even after kicking the ball back out to Keith Bogans at the top of the arc, Bogans’ defender is still concerned about the ball getting back into Williams on the block. After some deliberation, Bogans ends up with an open 3. In related news, the Nets are playing the Wizards.
Here you can see Williams kick off the action in the play by drawing the double team in the post, while Joe Johnson is able to take advantage of an off-balance defense when his man closes out. With the defense scrambling all over, Brook Lopez ends up with an open put back, which Nets fans will tell you is no small feat.
It’s a little easier to get the ball in the post as well using a point guard. With Williams often initiating the offense, he can simply isolate on one side of the floor and back his man down. Using his wide frame, Williams bodies his man down low and draws in the defense. The end result is Brook Lopez getting an open six-foot shot.
Joe Johnson boasts similar advantages to Williams in the post. While maybe Johnson doesn’t have the wide frame Williams does, Johnson is tall enough to see over a lot of defenders he’ll go up against. Here he takes on a double-team and makes a cross-court pass to Gerald Wallace, who is spotted up on the weak side of the floor. He misses, but still, the process is there.
In this last play, the Nets are able to get the ball in the post and force the defense to react. With good passers like Johnson and Williams, the ball moves quickly and the Washington defense is always a step behind. After moving to the weak side of the floor and back, Johnson ends up in the corner with an open 3.
There are some limitations to how often the Nets will realistically be able to through the low block with Williams and Johnson. Brook Lopez and starting power forward Kris Humphries are limited spot-up shooters, as is Gerald Wallace to an extent (although he did shoot 38% from 3 in his time with the Nets last season). Either way, the Nets are fortunate to have an advantage with Williams and Johnson in the post. Avery Johnson doesn’t want to base his entire offense around said advantage, but it should be a significant part of Brooklyn’s offensive diet.