The weeks leading up to free agency predictably became a breeding ground for all kinds of rumors, most of which were no more than baseless speculation. Finally though, we have one Mavs-related rumor that passes the smell test, courtesy of Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will pursue a sign-and-trade to lure Atlanta Hawks free agent Joe Johnson, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. The Mavericks are unlikely to engage the Cleveland Cavaliers into a sign-and-trade for LeBron James, but Johnson has emerged as a realistic target for the Mavericks. Johnson, is more likely to embrace a sign-and-trade to the contending Mavs than sign a free-agent contract with New York or Chicago, sources said. “New York is far from his first option,” one source with knowledge of Johnson’s thinking said.
Joe Johnson has been the most realistic free agent target for the Mavs all along; landing LeBron would be the longest of long shots, and neither Dwyane Wade nor Chris Bosh seem willing to even give Dallas a proper look. Johnson isn’t the answer, but he is an answer, which counts for something. It’s essential that Dallas cashes in on Erick Dampier’s value at some point this summer, and assuming they strike out on the bigger names as is expected, Johnson is a suitable replacement.
He’s not going to solve all of the Mavs’ problems; Joe is still, in his heart of hearts, a jumpshooter, and one who has grown accustomed to having the ball in his hands frequently, at that. Still, he can create his own shot and play some decent defense, which puts him a peg above Jason Terry on the shooting guard depth chart. Also, assuming the Mavs could hold on to their other rotation contributors, JJ would make Dallas incredibly deep. Supposing the Mavs start Kidd, Johnson, Marion, Nowitzki, and Haywood, not only would they have an excellent blend of offense/defense, but they would also have the luxury of bringing Jason Terry, Caron Butler, and Rodrigue Beaubois off the bench. That may not give Dallas the kind of size to counter the Lakers, but it could give them an eight-man rotation unparalleled in the Western Conference.
Then again, Butler could conceivably be part of the deal as well. That would still be something of a boon for the Mavs. Even though Caron is a solid player, Johnson’s talents and skill set seem a bit more in tune with the rest of the Mavs’ offense, and from a positional standpoint, he’s more of a natural fit.
Admittedly, this trade’s completion regardless of who is involved is a big assumption. The Hawks would have to be convinced that Johnson was on his way out, and agree to a trade centered around Erick Dampier’s contract and draft picks. Then, Joe would need to pick the Mavs over all of his other free agent suitors (name a team with cap space, and they’re probably at least a little interested), which is hardly a given. The sign-and-trade isn’t an impossibility, but also keep in mind that Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban would be dealing with one of the most disorganized and uncoordinated franchises in basketball. Too often, the Hawks’ ownership and management make even the most routine signings and re-signings seem immensely difficult, and I wouldn’t disregard that precedent with such a substantial trade. Securing a sign-and-trade is always a difficult proposition, but securing one with that front office? Good luck.