Now that the NBA trade deadline has passed, it’s become abundantly clear that some teams came away winners and others came away losers. However, with Thursday’s news that the Brooklyn Nets waived Joe Johnson after the two parties agreed on a a buyout, perhaps one of the clubs that struck out could strike some gold with the newly-available wing player.
“The Nets want to thank Joe for his many contributions to the team and the organization,” said Nets General Manager Sean Marks. “Joe has been a quality professional since joining the Nets four years ago, was a valued member of three playoff teams, and provided many thrilling moments for his teammates and Nets’ fans. We wish him much success in the future.”
The main thing one should take away from this situation is that Johnson has shown that he wants to play for a team that will contend for a championship. Thanks to the timing of the release, he will now be eligible to play in the postseason for the club he signs with. And while that can’t happen until he clears waivers on Saturday at 5 p.m. EST, that won’t stop us from guessing where the former All-Star will end up. With that in mind, here’s a look at three potential landing spots for Joe Johnson.
3. Miami Heat
Johnson might not end up with the Miami Heat, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t an intriguing option for the 14-year vet. The Heat currently hold a 32-25 record, sit in first place in the Southeast Division, and are the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. In a league that lacks the overall depth of the West, the Heat certainly fit the bill of what Johnson’s looking for in a contender.
That being said, it’d be foolish to think that Dwyane Wade and company couldn’t use a little help of their own. When you look at the numbers, it’s clear that this group is lacking on the offensive end of the floor. The Heat are only averaging 97.1 points per game (28th of 30) and their 103.5 offensive rating is eerily close to the bottom of the NBA barrel (26th of 30).
Johnson may no longer be the same scorer that he once was, but he still has what it takes to create his own shot and offers the kind of offensive versatility that the Heat could benefit from. Also, it doesn’t hurt that, according to The Vertical’s Chris Mannix, Miami is a destination that is “high on Johnson’s list.”
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Another contender who has what it takes to come away victorious in the Joe Johnson sweepstakes are the Oklahoma City Thunder. With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the way, OKC sits atop the Northwest Division standings with a 41-17 mark and holds the third-best record in the Western Conference.
Unlike the Heat, however, the Thunder are efficient on offense (an 113.0 rating, which is second in the NBA) and show that they are more than capable of putting the ball in the basketball by averaging 109.8 points per game (second of 30). Still, they play in the West. And that presents its own set of problems. By problems, of course, we mean the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors. These two clubs have managed to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the top teams in the NBA.
While talented and plenty athletic, Oklahoma City could always use another wing who is capable of taking some of the scoring load off of KD and Westbrook. If the Thunder believe that adding Johnson could take them to the next level, then they should absolutely make a push for him. However, if you’re Johnson, you have to ask yourself one important question: Are the Thunder my best chance of winning a championship?
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
When it comes to possible landing spots for Joe Johnson, the Cleveland Cavaliers appear to be the frontrunners. As they should be. The defending Eastern Conference champions are legit on both ends of the floor and, with a 41-15 record, they remain the team to beat in the league’s less competitive conference. They also have LeBron James; the ultimate game-changer.
However, while most would agree that the road in the East runs through Cleveland, the addition of Johnson wouldn’t be as much about helping the Cavs get to the NBA Finals so much as it would be about helping them once they get to the NBA Finals. Even with a more defined identity under new head coach Tyronn Lue, like OKC, Cleveland will probably still need to take their game up a notch if it hopes to get past either San Antonio or Golden State.
A step in the right direction would be to surround James with as many shooters as possible. And despite his decreased numbers this season, Johnson is most certainly a shooter. A union between these two parties makes the most sense. Ultimately, we think it’s what’s going to happen in the end.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.