When the Sacramento Kings acquired veteran Joe Johnson in a three-team deadline-day deal, it was a virtual certainty that they’d buy him out of his contract. Clearly out of the playoff hunt and in the process of a rebuild, there was no reason to keep him around. And that’s just what they did.
In 32 games played with the Utah Jazz this season, the 17-year veteran averaged 7.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in 21.9 minutes per contest.
The buyouts around the league didn’t end with Johnson, though.
The Memphis Grizzlies set free big man Brandan Wright, who averaged 5.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes per game through 27 contests for the underachieving club.
Oddly enough, both veterans will end up in the same place and for the same contending club.
Now, the 41-13 Rockets will have gained the services of three veteran players mid-season without having to give up a single asset. Earlier, they signed free agent Gerald Green, who has been a breath of fresh air for the club, providing an elite scoring punch off the bench.
In order to make space for Johnson, Houston will waive reserve point guard Bobby Brown.
It remains to be seen if either Johnson or Wright will be given a substantial role on the Rockets. Johnson will seemingly have to compete for minutes with Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ryan Anderson and Green. Therefore, a path to regular playing time might not exist in Mike D’Antoni’s typically-tight rotation.
But, it seems like some of the value that he brings could come in the locker room. Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype reported the nice words that an anonymous former player had to say about Johnson. “Whoever lands Joe for their playoff run is a winner. People don’t realize how great he is in the locker room. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve been around. He’ll have a huge impact on whichever team he joins,” he wrote.
Wright will most likely split time with Nene Hilario as starting center Clint Capela’s backup. But, based on his expertise on the receiving end of pick-and-rolls, he could emerge as a surprising contributor, given the passing skills of Chris Paul and James Harden in those situations.
Since the Warriors didn’t make a single transaction around the trade deadline, it seems as though Houston’s signings strengthened their team and ultimately might have narrowed the gap between them and the team that they’ve set out to de-throne.