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#pounditMonday, December 6, 2021

Cavs reportedly exploring Joe Johnson trade

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An already expensive offseason for the Cavaliers might be getting even more pricey in the near future.

ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst reported on Sunday that Cleveland is considering a trade for Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Johnson.

The deal is likely to involve Brendan Haywood’s nonguaranteed $10.5 million contract, an asset the Cavs have been shopping around for the majority of the offseason.

Johnson is a seven-time All-Star capable of playing both wing positions and filling up the scoreboard in short order. A long-range deadeye (37.1 percent from deep in his career), he is also one of the league’s elite performers in the clutch.

But Johnson is pushing 34 and saw his scoring average dip to 14.4 points per game last season, his lowest total in 12 seasons. Additionally, Brooklyn is eager to trade him because Johnson possesses one of the worst contracts in the NBA. He is owed a whopping $24.9 million next season, making him the second-highest paid player in the league behind Kobe Bryant. Since the deal is now expiring, this year represents Brooklyn’s best chance of moving him. The Nets would save many millions in luxury tax payments if they are able to do so.

For Cleveland to express interest in Johnson (and by extension, his contract) signals a lot. It shows that GM LeBron’s war of attrition on Dan Gilbert’s checkbook is going nuclear. But Johnson’s massive contract means Cleveland would have to send more salary to Brooklyn in order to make the numbers match.

One option that has been mentioned as a potential trade chip is scrappy big man Anderson Varejao. The Brazilian has two years and $20 million remaining on his deal. But Varejao has played his entire 11-year career in Cleveland and is a noted friend whom LeBron has stuck up for on many occasions. For LeBron to stamp his seal of approval on a Varejao trade would signal once and for all that The King’s only loyalty is to himself.

Johnson’s versatility and offensive firepower would be a welcome addition to the Cavs, however. The team often struggled to create non-LeBron offense last season, a problem that was exacerbated by the injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. But you don’t get the nickname “Iso Joe” for nothing, and Johnson certainly would not be ideal for Cleveland’s shot selection and ball movement.

The potential arrival of Johnson could signal the end of the J.R. Smith era in Cleveland as well. Smith’s skillset has a lot of overlap with that of Johnson. Not to mention that any lineup featuring the two together would be completely untenable, both offensively and defensively.

You certainly cannot accuse the Cavs of inactivity this offseason with their re-signings of Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert. But with LeBron reportedly holding out for a Tristan Thompson deal to get done, Cleveland still has a lot of question marks to address this summer. I just don’t think that the addition of Joe Johnson would answer them.

After all, will Iso Joe be able to deal with LeBron’s flopping?

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