The NBA free agent frenzy is at a all-time high. Everywhere there are different “insiders with knowledge of the situation” saying where Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and another certain reigning MVP from Cleveland, will land. Come Thursday at midnight, the rumor mill will push to another level all the way to the July 8th signing date begins.
There are so many different scenarios that have been placed into the mix at this point that it gets made to be a foregone conclusion on some players intentions. I’m looking at it from a totally open perspective from the information available from financial perspectives and player intent. For the next few days leading into the July 1 cutting of the ribbon for the free agent race, I will be breaking down individual players roles from THE CHEAP SEATS, continuing with player that could push his new mates to the next level, if the puzzle is just right….
The Basics: Small Forward/Shooting Guard, 29 years old, 6’7, 240 lbs
The Numbers: 21.3 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.3 RPG (2010); 17.6 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.2 RPG (Career); 4 time All-Star
Best Suited For….a team with other athletic options. Johnson has always been a great option on teams that have other athletic forwards to play off of, starting with Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion with the Suns, followed by Josh Smith, Al Horford and Marvin Williams in Atlanta. Johnson is not what you would consider a player that can carry a franchise by himself, but with a supporting cast he can push a team to quick success. This allows for him to play his more individual based game still, while having other options.
Prime Candidates: New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks
New York Knicks: With the Knicks rebuilding efforts and young core, Johnson could step in immediately and make his own niche. It would help by re-signing David Lee or adding Stoudemire to the mix to shared the lead role with Johnson, as he won’t turn the tides for the Knicks by himself. Danillo Gallinari is emerging as a shooting threat and Mike D’Antoni’s scheme is one that will lend itself to his style of play. But without another addition to join him it would be pointless for him to go there, because he won’t lift them to the next level himself. It’s worthwhile noting that Johnson’s representation has floated he may be willing to play for less to join the Knicks as well.
Chicago Bulls: Chicago seems to be in play for everyone out there this offseason, but Johnson doesn’t fit well into what they currently have there, as both Derrick Rose and Luol Deng are the same style of player. A better long-range shooter would be the best non LeBron or Wade perimeter addition for the Bulls. However, Johnson would add experience to a Chicago backcourt that has been depleted with the exits of Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich in the last few years. Joe would be a definite worthwhile pursuit if they miss out on the whole Chris Bosh, James and Wade race.
New Jersey Nets: The Nets are going to be active this offseason in every area as well and have a lot of the pieces thatwould be the best for Johnson to pair with. Brook Lopez and Derrick Favors are athletic post players that can score and rebound. Devin Harris is a great shooter and playmaker. Also they are currently moving out more contracts to be in the position to add more frontline talent, which could be Stoudemire, Lee, or Carlos Boozer. The addition of Johnson alone could push the New Jersey to the brink of immediate playoff contention in the changing landscape of the East.
Washington Wizards: The Wizards are in a full rebuilding mode and it started with selecting John Wall with the first pick in last week’s draft. Johnson may not be ideal for the team with Gilbert Arenas in mix still, at an uncertain position. However, if they unload his contract, Johnson would be a versatile and experienced hand that could help to be a sure option for Wall to gain his confidence with.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Clips are being floated around as players that are looking to make an addition to an emerging core. This would be a good fit for Johnson to go into, as he would have each type of player that brings out the best in him. The Clippers feature a strong scoring backcourt with Baron Davis and Eric Gordon, a frontline that features All-Star Chris Kaman and is adding Blake Griffin and Al-Farouq Aminu to its mix. Johnson could play his isolation office on the wing and push the Clippers (of all teams) into the consistent playoff picture in the West. Whether the Clippers are overall buyers, or just in the LeBron market (as they have been interested in) remains to be seen, but Johnson would make great sense (not one of the Clips strong suits).
Atlanta Hawks: Johnson didn’t leave the Hawks under ideal circumstances. He had some harsh words for the fan base on the way out and the Hawks are looking to make small, but big changes to their structure and Johnson is part of that change. While the money is there to give him a slight raise if they decided to, it’s not comparable to the potentially max contract that Johnson is seeking, and they most likely will use their funds toward reshaping the current roster, post-Johnson.
Johnson is in a unique position amongst the more notable free agents, where he fits in several scenarios and does it as a stand-alone player. While he can write his own ticket, he won’t be able to turn around most of the teams in the free agent market by himself. He is a reliable and balanced contributor, but the team that selects him will need to be ready to make moves towards the top quickly, as he is turning 30 soon and could be headed for a decline, yet not an immediate one.