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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Not Your Average Joe

Isaiah Joe has solidified himself as one of the deadliest shooters in the game. He proved this once more against the Warriors last Thursday, having a ludicrous true shooting percentage of 138% and 7 of 7 from deep. He followed it up three days later by shooting 5 of 6 from three against the Trailblazers. Over the five game Thunder win streak, he’s shooting an otherworldly 77% from long distance. No that is not a typo, Joe is shooting 10% better from three than he is from the freethrow line. 

This sniper wasn't always guaranteed though; he’s been overlooked, overshadowed, and waived. Joe has climbed out of adversity to become one of the best specialty players in the league.

Joe’s shooting prowess was evident early on, the young guard from Northside High School shot 41% from three as a sophomore. As a senior, he led his team to the state championship game and was named the State Player of the Year while doing so. His hot streak continued at the collegiate level where he shot 41% from behind the arc in his first year with the Arkansas Razorbacks and was given SEC- All-Freshman honors. His momentum slowed as a result of a sophomore slump, shooting a mediocre 34% from three and 37% from the field. After being a surefire first-rounder, Joe’s draft stock slipped after a pedestrian sophomore year along with concerns about his slender frame and limited impact outside of shooting. The slide went on as Joe fell to the 49th pick in the 2020 draft, selected by the Philadelphia 76ers. 

This was certainly not the ideal landing spot for him as he was behind a slew of guards in the rotation, including the Sixers first-round pick Tyrese Maxey. He had a hard time cracking the rotation as a rookie and only played 41 games while averaging 3.7 points in 9 minutes per game. But in his limited time he did show that long-range potential that got him this far, shooting almost 37% from deep. However, Isaiah’s sophomore slump would rear its head once again and his three-point percentage sank to 33%. His playing time barely increased to 11 minutes per game due to the addition of James Harden and Maxey’s emergence as a young star guard. His shooting and playing time woes continued into the playoffs where he only received 14 total minutes. 

Just five days before the 2023 season started, the 76ers waived Isaiah Joe on October 13. After a promising freshman start where he was one of the best young sharpshooters in the nation, Joe’s career was in a freefall and without a job just three years in. He wouldn’t stay unemployed for long though as he would find a second chance not far from his hometown.

On October 15, 2022, the Oklahoma City Thunder signed Isaiah Joe to a three-year six-million-dollar contract. A very generous deal to someone who hadn’t even played 1,000 minutes in two regular seasons. The pairing did make sense though as the Thunder were one of the worst three-point shooting teams the past two seasons and desperately needed a spark plug to help with spacing. However, this fairy tale signing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be at the start. In the first 17 games of the season, he only received 5.9 minutes per game, even less than his stint in Philadelphia. In the last four games he didn’t even play in two of them and got just 10 minutes of run in the two he did play.The bottom was falling out under Joe yet again and was on the verge of losing out on his second chance. 

Two days later OKC would play the Denver Nuggets and late in the first quarter, Joe would sub into the game. In a four-minute stretch, he missed three straight triples and was yanked once the quarter ended. It looked like he had blown one of his last opportunities at cracking any meaningful rotational minutes. For reasons known only to Mark Daigneault, Isaiah checked back into the game with five minutes left in the second 

for one final shot at redemption.

He would not miss a single three for the rest of the game. 

He let it rain for 21 points, every single one of them coming from seven consecutive shots from deep. He grabbed hold of this chance and would not let go as he went on to average 9.5 points on 40% from three for the year. His touch from inside the arc improved as well, jumping from a horrid 37% in his first two years to 55%.

In 2024, Isaiah Joe is a key contributor to one of the best young cores in NBA history and will be a mainstay in the league for years to come. His floor spacing is one of the integral parts of this Thunder team and his game melds perfectly with superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Shai’s driving combined with Joe’s shooting leads to a simple yet effective 2-man game; either let Shai have his way with a defender at the rim or help off and risk Joe lighting it up from three. He’s also superb at relocating and finding open space behind the arc on Shai’s drives. Both the eye test and the stat sheet find this duo elite as they have a 21.1 net rating when they play together, 4th best out of 433 duos that have played at least 150 minutes.

In his first two years he couldn’t sniff real playing time in the playoffs, but now on the Thunder he will be one of the biggest X-factor’s in their 2024 playoff run.

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