Joe Johnson’s Hall of Fame chances are fairly strong, despite not having the winning record or career stats of many inductees. Johnson made 7 NBA All-Star games and scored 20,000 career points. Players with those accomplishments have nearly always been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Is Joe Johnson Eligible for the Hall of Fame?Embed from Getty Images
As of the writing of this article, Joe Johnson is not yet eligible to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. According to the Hall of Fame’s rules: “A player must be fully retired for four full seasons before being eligible for Enshrinement”.
Iso Joe initially retired at the end of the 2017-2018 season. The end of the 2021-2022 season would have been Johnson’s fourth year out of the league. The Hall’s rules say that a player becomes eligible their fifth year out of the league.
If he had stayed retired, Johnson would have been eligible to be nominated to the North American screening committee on or before October 31, 2022.
But, of course, Joe Johnson did not stay retired. He made a brief comeback last December during the height of the Omicron Covid wave.
Teams were desperate to find bodies because their players were in quarantine. The Celtics signed Johnson to a 10-day deal and he played in one game.
Whether or not that resets the clock on Johnson’s Hall of Fame eligibility is an open question at this point. The rules say “Should a player come out of retirement for a short period of time…his/her case and eligibility for Enshrinement shall be reviewed on an individual basis.”
It seems likely to me that this one-game comeback won’t push Johnson’s eligibility for the Hall of Fame. But, even if it does, it won’t change the analysis offered below.
Is Joe Johnson a Hall of Fame Player?
The question we are dealing with here is whether or not Joe Johnson belongs in the Hall of Fame – not when he should be eligible. If his candidacy gets pushed back, it won’t change the answer to our question.
You can see Joe Johnson’s career counting stats below:
There is nothing written in the Basketball Hall of Fame about what a player must do to deserve enshrinement. But most observers agree that three main factors seem to influence the decision.
The first factor is winning. Players who win at a high level in their NBA careers often get more consideration for the Hall of Fame than players with similar careers who did not win.
Robert Horry, is not someone with the kind of career statistics or accomplishments that would lead to the Hall of Fame, but many people think he should be in because he won seven titles.
Another unofficial factor in Hall of Fame selection is career accomplishments. These are things like being league MVP, making All-NBA, All-Star or All-NBA Defensive teams, or winning Defensive Player of the Year.
A player with enough career accomplishments almost always gets in. For example, every player in NBA history who made 8 or more All-Star teams, except for one, has made the Hall of Fame when they became eligible.
The one player who made 8 All-Star games and did not get in is Larry Foust. I wrote about him here. I cannot figure out why he is not in. Generally, great accomplishments like many All-Star games are enough to make players shoo-ins for the Hall.
The last criteria is career statistics. Players who have amazing career statistics generally get in the Hall of Fame, while those with lesser career statistics struggle without winning or amazing accomplishments.
John Stockton was a slam-dunk selection even though he did not win a title because he’s the all-time leader in both assists and steals.
Meanwhile, Jermaine O’Neal made six All-Star games, but his career statistics are fairly pedestrian and that is why he is not yet in.
In general, these Hall of Fame criteria operate on a sliding scale. You can be a bit average in one area if you are amazing in the others.
We will look at Joe Johnson’s career in all three areas below.
Joe Johnson Hall of Fame Criteria: WinningEmbed from Getty Images
Joe Johnson does not have much of a case for the Hall of Fame based on winning.
All-time elite players like Michael Jordan drag their teams to the Finals when they are at their peaks even if the rosters they are playing on are not that amazing.
But, by definition, players like that are insanely rare.
Other players like Horace Grant can’t claim to be the driving force behind a title, but they can still use winning as their strongest case for the Hall of Fame.
Even getting one title as a serious contributor to a team can put someone’s candidacy for the Hall over the top.
Not only does Joe Johnson not have a title to fall back on, he never even made the NBA Finals.
Johnson made the 2005 Western Conference Finals as a starter on a strong Suns team featuring not just him but Amar’e Stoudemire, Steve Nash and Shawn Marion.
But they were not able to get beyond an even stronger Spurs team led by Tim Duncan.
That was it for the conference finals for Iso Joe. He spent years of his prime in Atlanta and Brooklyn where his teams sometimes did not make the playoffs or exited early when they made it.
He then became a journeyman scorer his last few years in the league but never grabbed a title then either.
Joe Johnson was not a consistent winner in the NBA and never won a title, so winning is not going to get him into the Hall of Fame.
Joe Johnson Hall of Fame Criteria: Career Awards & Accomplishments
Awards and accomplishments are probably the factor most in favor of Joe Johnson getting into the Hall of Fame.
Johnson made seven NBA All-Star games. As I mentioned earlier, Larry Foust is the only player in NBA history to make eight All-Star games and not make the Hall of Fame.
No player has made seven All-Star games and not made the Hall of Fame. Johnson would be the first if he does not.
Johnson made six straight All-Star teams from 2007 to 2012 and then another in 2014.
The first six All-Star games were made when Johnson was on fairly mediocre Atlanta teams. The last was for a Brooklyn team that lost in the second round.
The only other major NBA award for Johnson was a 3rd team All-NBA nod in 2010. He averaged 21 points, nearly 5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game that season.
He also finished 12th in the voting for MVP that year – it was his highest ever finish.
If Joe Johnson gets in the Hall of Fame, one of the major factors is likely to be his seven All-Star appearances. While he does not have many other accomplishments besides them, only one player with more All-Star appearances did not make the Hall of Fame.
Joe Johnson Hall of Fame Criteria: Advanced Stats & Player Comparison
Here again are Johnson’s career counting stats:
For comparison’s sake, here are Michael Finley’s career counting stats:
Finally, let’s look at an obvious Hall of Famer. Here are Kobe Bryant’s stats:
I have chosen these three players to compare deliberately. They all played similar positions in the same general era.
I picked Kobe Bryant for the obvious reason that he is one of the easiest Hall of Fame choices in recent memory.
Michael Finley is someone I chose because he had a nice career and was quite similar to Joe Johnson, yet no one is clamoring for him to be in the Hall of Fame.
Certainly, in the comparison above, Johnson looks a lot closer to the kind of player Michael Finley was than he does to a slam-dunk Hall of Famer like Kobe Bryant.
In fact, Finley and Johnson have nearly identical career stats. Joe Johnson scored a tiny bit more and picked up one more assist per game for his career. But, on the whole, Joe Johnson and Michael Finley have incredibly similar career counting stats.
Maybe that is misleading. Let’s look at some advanced stats.
I am sure nearly all of you are familiar with the numbers below, but, just in case, let me explain.
All three of these advanced stats attempt to quantify everything a player does while he is on the court to help his team win.
Of course, none of them does so perfectly. But, when you look at a bunch of these types of stats for players you often notice that the best players stand out.
|Player||PER||Win Shares||Box Plus/Minus|
The first thing that stands out here is that Kobe Bryant was way better than Joe Johnson and Michael Finley. That is not surprising to anyone. But it is still worth noticing that, when compared to an all-time great Joe Johnson comes up well short.
The next thing that stands out to me is that Joe Johnson has nearly identical advanced stats to Michael Finley. In fact, Finley is just a bit better in each area.
Michael Finley is not likely to ever get in the Hall of Fame, but most of his career stats say he is every bit the player that Joe Johnson was.
What does that say about Joe Johnson? I think it says he is a player who is probably a bit shy of deserving the Hall of Fame. This is not a prediction, but rather my analysis based on his career stats. I don’t think Joe Johnson should make the Hall of Fame.
Joe Johnson Hall of Fame: Other FactorsEmbed from Getty Images
Some players like Alvin Robertson have major red flags that will keep them out of the Hall of Fame. Other players, like Bill Walton, got in based in part on their college careers because it is the Basketball Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall of Fame.
It is good to think about other factors that might help or hurt players’ chances. In Joe Johnson’s case, there are no red flags and his college career is unlikely to help him much.
The only other factors I can think of are total points and clutch shooting.
Johnson hit 8 buzzer-beating, game-winning shots in his career. Depending on what source you believe, that may put him 2nd on the all-time list.
Everyone loves clutch play, so it can’t hurt his chances. At the same time, he didn’t hit buzzer beaters to win NBA Finals games or even huge, pivotal playoff games, so I am not sure how much it will help him either.
Finally, Johnson is a 20,000 point scorer for his career in the NBA. If you look at the list of players who scored 20,000 points for their career, every one of them who is eligible has made the Hall of Fame.
Voters like to look at this sort of list, so I think this helps Johnson’s case. At the same time, there are some players coming up the scoring list who probably won’t quite make it, so I think it may not make him a guarantee.
Prediction: Will Joe Johnson Make the Hall of Fame?
As I mentioned in the career statistics category, I would not personally put Joe Johnson in the Hall of Fame. I think he comes up just short and I don’t think the All-Star appearances are enough for me to choose him.
Will the voters agree with me? I predict that no, they won’t. The Basketball Hall of Fame is not nearly as exclusive as some of the other Halls of Fame. Borderline players get in all the time.
Mitch Richmond is a very similar player to Joe Johnson, and he is in the Hall of Fame. I believe the 20,000 career points and 7 All-Star appearances will push Johnson over the top and result in him being selected.
He may have to wait a few years after he is eligible, but I doubt he would have to wait for the veteran’s committee to select him. Joe Johnson will probably make the Hall of Fame.
Summary: Joe Johnson Hall of Fame
Joe Johnson has career stats and a career winning record that would not usually make the Hall of Fame. But his 20,000 total points and 7 All-Star appearances are likely to lead to his induction. Only one player has played in more All-Star games and then not made the Hall of Fame.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.