With the draft, an insane free agency flurry, and some “whoa” trades all in the rearview mirror, we’re starting to hit that dead zone for major roster related moves in the NBA. But there’s one big trade still out there that makes sense.
I’m on the record as saying that the Nets have no chance of moving Joe Johnson’s nearly $25 million expiring contract, but that was before the Cavs made it clear that there’s no check they won’t write.
The trade proposal isn’t a secret, we know exactly how it would go down.
For the Nets, the thought process is simple — dump a huge contract from a team that’s not going to contend (the only larger contract next season is Kobe’s). In exchange, they receive Haywood’s non-guarenteed contract (as long as he’s waived by August 1) and three years of Anderson Varejao’s hustle. The Brazilian would be a great fit with the Nets, who sent Mason Plumlee to Portland on draft night, as they try to re-tool following years of unwarranted spending. Varejao would also make a nice trade piece, assuming he is able to play his value back up after suffering a season ending injury last season.
Varejao’s $9.6 million would obviously be much more attractive to Brooklyn in the short-term than Johnson’s contract (and that’s all they’d be paying since Haywood’s $10.5 million would be cut without penalty). Cleveland could also include a pair of second-round picks they recently acquired to sweeten the pot since the Nets would be taking on Varejao for three seasons.
For the Cavs, the thought process is even more simple — go ALL OUT to win now no matter the price. Johnson’s contract is ridiculous, especially when you consider what owner Dan Gilbert would be paying in luxury taxes. But Johnson also only has one year left on that deal, and would be a huge boost to the starting lineup over Iman Shumpert (a perfect fit with a now stacked second unit).
If the Cavs didn’t go on to win the title in 2016 with this new roster, it would potentially be the biggest upset of all-time. Take a look at what their roster (and 2015-16 salaries) would look like.
PG: Kyrie Irving ($16.4M), Mo Williams ($2.1M)
SG: Joe Johnson ($24.9M), Iman Shumpert ($8.9M), Joe Harris ($845K)
SF: LeBron James ($22.9M), Mike Miller ($2.8M), James Jones ($1.4M)
PF: Kevin Love ($19.7M), Tristan Thompson ($16.4M — based on an expected 5-year/$80M deal)
C: Timofey Mozgov ($5.0M)
Total: ~$121.4 million (the salary cap is set at $70 million) — and Cleveland is still deciding if it wants to bring back J.R. Smith and Delly. This would likely only be a problem for one season, though, as Johnson’s contract would expire, and the cap is expected to jump up once again.
Although talks have stalled on the trade, something tells me the Nets would bite on this trade if it was revisited. Since it was last discussed, Brooklyn has parted ways with Deron Williams, so why not clean up the last remaining piece of the mess in Johnson?
If Cleveland feels like making a super aggressive move towards their title chances, Johnson could be the last piece to the puzzle.
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