“What the heck are the Nets thinking?” was the reaction from most people when they heard the Nets agreed to acquire Joe Johnson on Monday. Johnson signed a 6-year $119 million contract extension with the Hawks in 2010 and still has four years and about $89 million left on his deal. The 31-year-old still put up strong numbers for the Hawks last season, but his minutes have been down the past two years and he’s not a franchise player despite making max money.
So if the Nets were planning to offer max money to try and retain free agent Deron Williams, if they owe Gerald Wallace $10 million per season, and if they now owe Joe Johnson max money, how would they be able to afford to sign Dwight Howard to a maximum contract when he becomes a free agent next summer? They can’t, and that’s why many people felt the Nets were foolish to agree to the trade.
But fear not, Nets fans: the team can still make a trade for Dwight Howard.
Sheridan Hoops outlined a scenario in which the Nets could trade several players to the Magic for Dwight Howard. Chris Sheridan says the Nets could offer the Magic a package of Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks and multiple future first-round draft picks for Howard in what would be a sign-and-trade deal.
Howard reportedly has made it clear to Orlando that he wants out, and he’s also made it clear that the only team he’ll sign an extension with is the Nets. That takes away a lot of leverage for the Magic; why would a team give up a lot for Dwight if they’re only going to have him for one season? That would be a pretty foolish gamble for a team other than the Nets to take.
If Orlando eventually decides to trade Dwight Howard — which is likely — the best package they might be offered could come from Brooklyn. If Billy King can pull all this off for the Nets, then you’d have to put him in the same category of front office miracle worker as Pat Riley.
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