The word on the street is that 38-year-old former All-NBA swingman Joe Johnson is currently working his way back to a return to the NBA for the upcoming season. According to multiple sources, the seven-time All-Star will be working out with the Philadelphia 76ers, while the New Orleans Pelicans — among other teams — are also reportedly showing some interest in bringing the veteran on board.
This is great news for Johnson, who we last saw in the NBA in the 2017-18 season, where he would average just 6.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists, while also draining 0.7 three-pointers per ballgame on a 27.6-percent clip. This was a far cry from Johnson in his prime, but he has been so impressive in the BIG3 league this season, causing some teams to look in his direction.
On the contrary, one man that still remains available as a free agent up to this very day is 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony. Much like Johnson, Melo was one of the most potent scorers in the league during his heyday, which now appears to be a very distant memory.
In this article, we take a look at these two former superstars, and try to provide an answer to one begging question: does Joe Johnson deserve to get another shot at the NBA before Carmelo Anthony does?
Looking at the numbers, it appears that Melo still holds the advantage. Last season was a disaster for Anthony, as he was only able to play 10 games with the Houston Rockets before he was unceremoniously waived by the team. The season before that, however, Melo was still killing it with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The former third overall pick averaged 16.2 points (on 40.4 percent from the field), 5.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 32.1 minutes per contest. He was also a legitimate threat from the outside, connecting on 2.2 three-pointers per ballgame on a 35.7 shooting from distance.
It is worth noting that this is the very same season that Johnson had his swansong (his numbers were already presented above), so in making a rather simplistic comparison on their respective outputs, it does seem that at face value, Anthony has much more to offer as compared to Johnson.
Continuing on this line of thought, though, Johnson might have a case against Melo if we take into account how the former absolutely dominated in the BIG3 this season. In his debut campaign for Ice Cube’s professional league, Johnson put up a league-high 21.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists (also ranked first in the entire league), and 1.1 steals per contest. What makes this even more impressive is the fact that he reached these marks by playing just 6.1 minutes per contest. This translates to 3.6 points per minute, which is totally amazing, and definitely deserving of the league’s MVP award. Sure, the level of competition in the BIG3 pales in comparison to that of the NBA, but regardless, Johnson’s numbers are still pretty mind-blowing.
Another thing that needs to be taken into consideration is the supposed baggage Melo brings with him. As a matter of fact, this negative connotation on Anthony’s image is perhaps the biggest hindrance to why he still remains to be without a team. Melo has had trouble fitting in with his former teams over the past couple of years, which is likely scaring off some interested parties. At this day and age, team chemistry has become one of the most important elements of success in the league, and the fear of Anthony messing with the same — be it unfounded or otherwise — is a risk that most sides are unwilling to take.
For his part, Johnson was what many would consider as a “silent superstar” in his day. He somewhat fits in the Kawhi Leonard mold, in which hard work and perseverance exudes as some of their defining characteristics. Johnson kept his head down, avoided controversy, and let his game do the talking.
Should either or both of them end up signing with an NBA team this summer, both Johnson and Anthony will be expected to fulfill a limited role for the team. They definitely won’t be relied on to score as much as they did in the past, and at best, they might be expected to provide some firepower off the bench.
Their experience and wealth of knowledge in the league will also play a huge role, considering how they will likely be tasked with more of a mentoring role for the younger players on the squad. Johnson definitely fits this mold, and unless Melo is able to prove that he is now ready to fully accept whatever role is asked of him — while putting aside his superstar mentality — then it would not be surprising if Johnson ends up locking a new deal ahead of Anthony this offseason.