As free agency looms, general manager Billy King is reportedly looking for landing spots for Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. While these contracts won’t be easy to move, King is wise in taking the market’s temperature.
Although the basketball world collectively agreed that the opt-out decisions of Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young were expected, the fact remains that those decisions come with a negative consequence: money. If the Nets stand pat with their identical roster, they will pay considerably more for the same talent assembly.
The only other way to give the team a fresh look and improve upon the group that won 38 games last season is to deal. It’s undoubtedly a buyer’s market for both players, and the possibility exists that the Nets would need to sweeten the pot with a player like Bojan Bogdanovic in order to move one of the two players.
Williams is slated to earn $21,042,800 while Johnson stands to earn a whopping $24,894,863. Of the two, Johnson will be the easier to move given that he is on the last year of his contract.
On Monday, it was reported that King discussed a Johnson trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. Although it did not materialize, those discussions should be ongoing. Reports also stated that there is a market for Williams, with the thinking being thta he just needs a change of scenery. That said, it would benefit the Nets to leak both of those reports to try and drum up interest for two aging players with bloated contracts.
With the Nets set to lose Alan Anderson and possibly Mirza Teletovic–and having already lost Mason Plumlee–the Nets’ bench is considerably thin. The added benefit of moving either Johnson or Lopez will be the bodies coming back. To make the deal work financially, the Nets will need to receive a comparable amount of player salaries, which is no small task given Johnson’s bottom line.
When the Nets had a framework in place to send Williams to the Sacramento Kings during the 2014-15 season, they would have received four players. Given that Steve Blake is closer to retirement than playing 30 minutes a game, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a rookie with offensive question marks, and Chris McCullough won’t be fully recovered–we think–from ACL surgery until November, the Nets need depth.
By moving one of the two, the Nets would also regain some financial flexibility going forward. If the roster fails to change in any shape or form, the Nets would be looking at another $100 million collection of players. It is also no secret that the Nets are trying to get under the tax threshold, which will be difficult to accomplish with Lopez and Young due raises.
Johnson would make sense on a team like the Grizzlies. His size and strength would make him an ideal candidate to go alongside Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol (who is expected to re-sign with Memphis in free agency). The Nets would receive a package like Jeff Green, Tony Allen, Vince Carter, and perhaps another bench player. While Memphis’ package was never officially leaked, the Nets would expect that type of package from the Grizzlies or any other team should talks progress.
Nevertheless, the Nets can prepare for a wild free agency, even though they don’t have the possibility of landing any of the prized free agents. They will explore ways to improve the team via trade and also those to keep their own players in the fold.
Among those free agents likely to switch teams are: