By now you’ve heard: Joe Johnson, along with his mega-expensive contract, has been traded to the
New Jersey Brooklyn Nets. After signing Gerald Wallace earlier this week, the Nets are attempting to build a contender in the East, a conference with one championship caliber team (Heat), one questionable team due to injury (Bulls), one team missing a piece to make them a contender (Pacers), and then a bunch of scrubs. What does trading for Johnson mean in the grand scheme of things? Here’s how I think it will shape the landscape of the NBA:
1. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez (restricted free agent) will resign with the New Jersey Nets
Deron Williams is the premiere free agent on the market this summer. He’s already decided that the two teams he would play for are the Nets and the Mavericks. Now let’s compare. Would Williams rather play for a team with Johnson, Wallace, Lopez, another random free agent and promising young shooting guard MarShon Brooks, or a team with aging superstar Dirk Nowitzki and not much else? Plus, the Nets play in an easier conference (see above) than the Mavericks, making it a much more likely situation for that team to succeed. The new, crazy, Russian billionaire owner of the Nets has already shown that he wants to win and is willing to spend money in order to do so. To top it all off, Williams can make somewhere around 25 million more dollars by staying with Brooklyn, not to mention all the marketing and endorsements he will get being the face of that franchise. Do the right thing Deron. Stay with the Nets.
2. Dwight Howard will get traded to the Los Angeles Lakers
As much as this pains me to say so, I think this is what will happen. Earlier this week, Dwight announced that the Nets were the only team he wanted to be traded to. But by taking on Johnson’s monster contract, plus paying Wallace, Lopez and Williams, the Nets will have absolutely no cap space for Howard. That means they are out as a suitor. So if Howard said he only wants to go to the Nets, why do I think he’ll end up on the Lakers? Because the Lakers have the right trade bait (Andrew Bynum), and they have the balls to believe they can change Dwight’s mind about playing there. The Lakers are a proud franchise, probably the proudest. I’m sure Kobe, Jim Buss and everyone else there believes that all they have to do is get Dwight to L.A., and he’ll fall in love with the city and the team.
3. The Lakers will trade Pau Gasol to… someone
Once the Lakers get Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol will become expendable. (“Who are you kidding, Gasol is already expendable! Did you see him last season? Absolutely worthless.” – Direct quote from every Lakers fan I know) But to where? Houston becomes a player again since Dwight Howard is off the table. For some reason, Houston is strangely infatuated with Gasol. How about a three team trade with the Lakers, Rockets, and Pacers? The Lakers get: Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, and Kyle Lowry. The Rockets get: Gasol, Metta World Peace, and Darren Collison. The Pacers get: promising young forward Patrick Patterson. This looks like a win for everyone. The Lakers shed the insane contracts of Gasol and Peace, while also getting a competent point guard in Lowry that solves their biggest weakness. The Rockets get Gasol, the man they’ve wanted for years, while also getting rid of Lowry who was obviously disgruntled and wanted out of Houston. And the Pacers get rid of Darren Collison, who was obviously no longer their point guard of the future due to George Hill getting a fat five year deal earlier this morning.
Where else could Gasol go? Minnesota is another destination that’s been discussed, and it seems a lot more likely. The team has already said they are willing to part with the number 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, Derrick Williams. Could a package of Williams, a Michael Beasley sign-and-trade, and a first round pick get them Gasol? We’ll see. Whatever the case, Gasol won’t be a Laker for much longer.
4. The West freaks out in response to Dwight Howard, and offers ridiculous contracts to big men
Big men already get disgustingly overpaid. Roy Hibbert was offered a max deal from Portland. Omer Asik just got offered 25 million over three years from Houston. Once Dwight’s in the West? Big men are going to get supremely, grossly, makes-you-want-to-vomit overpaid. Look for players like Javale McGee, J.J. Hickson, Spencer Hawes, Carl Landry and Chris Kaman to get outrageous paydays from teams in the West. The Dwight Howard effect.
5. The West continues to beat the crap out of themselves, leaving the championship for the East to win
Due to these moves, the Lakers (With Lowry, Kobe, Dwight) and the Wolves (Now with a Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Gasol super core) become contenders in the West. They join the young gun Oklahoma City Thunder, L.A. Clippers (Now with Lamar Odom and a healthy Chauncey Billips), and Memphis Grizzlies (With a healthy Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay trio) as legit contenders. They still have to compete with the strong Spurs, Jazz and Nuggets rosters. That is a competitive conference. 5 powers, 3 dark horses.
As discussed above, Miami remains a superpower, and Brooklyn joins their ranks. Chicago can compete, if Derrick Rose recovers completely from his ACL surgery and they sign a decent free agent guard (Brandon Roy anyone?) A Rose, Roy, Deng, Boozer, Noah starting lineup in Chicago would cause problems for anyone. And then maybe the Pacers. And that’s it in the East. 2 1/2 powers (depending on Rose’s health), 1 1/2 dark horses.
That makes it tough for anyone out of the West to win the championship, because they will kill each other on their way to the Finals. You’re looking at a lot of 6 and 7 game series throughout the playoffs for the West. In the East, the Nets and the Heat will cruise to the conference final, where the Nets would actually match up well with them. Deron Williams is a big, strong point guard that would tear apart Mario Chalmers. Gerald Wallace is a lanky small forward, perfect for attempting to slow down LeBron. (Let’s face it, no one can stop LeBron. Slowing him is as good as it gets.) Joe Johnson can hang with Wade, and Brook Lopez has an offensive game that can exploit Miami’s other glaring hole at the center position.
Book it: The Joe Johnson trade leads to the Nets winning a championship their first year in Brooklyn.
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