The underloved and underappreciated Anthony Johnson

Since Anthony Johnson arrived in Orlando last summer, Magic fans have been pleading for an upgrade. Last season, Johnson found himself involved in constant trade rumors as the Magic’s primary backup point guard. And this summer — even after the Magic lured Jason Williams out of retirement — people were hoping the Magic could snag Golden State’s C.J. Watson to battle Williams for the second-string point position. As the season began, it became clear that Williams was the Magic’s undisputed backup point guard and Johnson was the Magic’s undisputed emergency backup — that is, until Jameer Nelson injured his knee and propelled Johnson back into the rotation a few weeks ago. Now, any long-time reader of this blog knows that I’ve vehemently defended Anthony Johnson in the past. This is going to be another one of those posts. Given the eye test — where you simply judge a player based on how he looks on the court — Johnson has very little playmaking ability, doesn’t run the pick-and-roll very well and is the slowest player on the Magic. He looks every bit of 35 on the floor. But a longer look at Johnson provides a more positive review. He rarely turns the ball over. He doesn’t shoot a lot, instead deferring to his more offensively talented teammates. He works relentlessly on defense, always pressuring the opposing point guard at midcourt — perhaps the biggest reason Van Gundy feels comfortable giving Johnson considerable minutes. Essentially, Johnson knows his role, and that’s about all you can ask for from a 35-year-old, third-string point guard. A look at some statistics shows that Johnson is playing better than many other backup point guards in the NBA. For instance, his turnover rate, which calculates the percentage of a player’s possessions result in turnover, is among the NBA’s best. Turnover rate, NBA rank among PGs 14. Rodney Stuckey, 9.88 15. Anthony Johnson, 9.89 16. Brandon Jennings, 10.11 17. Chris Duhon, 10.18 And assist rate, a similar stat that shows the percentage of a player’s possessions that end in an assist, has Johnson even higher. Assist rate, NBA rank among PGs 7. Chris Paul, 34.09 8. Anthony Johnson, 33.92 9. Anthony Carter, 32.95 10. Deron Williams, 32.36 And even his true shooting percentage isn’t bad. True shooting percentage, NBA rank among PGs 34. Will Bynum, 53.0 35. Anthony Johnson, 52.8 36. Monta Ellis, 52.7 37. Jonny Flynn, 52.5 All of this isn’t to say that Johnson is an elite point guard, even if his statistical company may be among some of the league’s best point guards in these efficiency statistics. He’s obviously not counted on or used as much as a starting point guard in the NBA — and these numbers can favor players with a smaller usage rate (Johnson’s is the sixth-smallest among all point guards; Jason Williams usage rate is the fifth-lowest) and players with really good teammates. But these stats do illustrate the fact that Johnson isn’t bad. He’s a serviceable backup and about the most you can ask for out of a third-string point guard.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily