I’ve already covered the Brooklyn Nets’ willingness to deal star Joe Johnson and more rumors are surrounding his name as the NBA’s trade deadline nears.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting the Nets are discussing a potential deal with the Charlotte Hornets involving Johnson with players such as Lance Stephenson and Marvin Williams mentioned as players that could come to Brooklyn.
Talk of Stephenson possibly heading to the Nets isn’t anything new. A few weeks ago, word surfaced of a potential three-way deal involving him as a part of a trade that would have sent center Brook Lopez to Oklahoma City. That deal hasn’t gone down yet and, FWIW, a recent ESPN Insider article (subscription required) says that the Nets are leery of dealing Lopez away. What’s been made clear, however, is that Brooklyn continues to have a very real interest in bringing Stephenson back home along with cutting salary, per these recent reports.
After a 6-9 record at the end of November, Brooklyn turned things around a bit last month with a 9-7 record in December. Another reason the Nets are more willing to break up their team now? The train has come off the tracks this past month. The Nets started January with a 1-7 record on their way to a 3-12 mark for the month. That dismal stretch has put the team in ninth place and Brooklyn would be out of the playoffs if the postseason ended today.
By keeping its core intact, the franchise could make the playoffs. However, that wasn’t the goal coming into the season when the Nets were thinking NBA Finals — particularly after the dissolving of the Miami Heat after Lebron James’ exit. The Nets’ Big Three hasn’t panned out and by dealing Johnson away, Brooklyn can avoid his nearly $25 million salary next year.
For Charlotte, the Hornets would give up a bit more than in the original three-way deal that was discussed since only Stephenson was reportedly going to be in that deal. However, with this trade, they also stand to get a greater return.
The earlier three-way trade had Jeremy Lamb and Jarrett Jack heading to Charlotte. That isn’t a bad return for Stephenson, but neither player is capable of doing as much as Johnson. Johnson’s numbers have dipped slightly since heading to Brooklyn, but he would still give the team a third big scoring option to go along with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson.
Stephenson is a fair player and, at only 24, still has solid upside. But right now, there’s little question that Johnson would be an immediate upgrade over him. The Williams loss is also a minimal one. Dealing Williams would mean the team loses a little bit of size, but the 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds he has given the team while eating up nearly 25 minutes per game simply aren’t that difficult to replace. Williams missed the team’s last game with a concussion and Charlotte simply played starter Cody Zeller a little more and also gave minutes to Jason Maxiell and Noah Vonleh off the bench.
We won’t know if adding Johnson to the Hornets’ roster will be the one they need to take a major step forward. The team is already eighth in the Eastern Conference without him, though, and his addition could be the difference between potentially making and missing the playoffs.
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