By: David Kay
Talk about embarrassing. The Magic treated the Hawks like Billy Madison treated the kindergarteners he played dodge ball against; absolutely white washing them all over the floor. Orlando swept Atlanta out of the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, whipping the birds by an average of almost 23 points per game. The Hawks seemed unmotivated, like they didn’t care, and mailed it worse than Jay Leno when he was moved to a prime-time television slot.
It seemed as if this group didn’t get along and had zero interest in playing for one another. They obviously did not respect their head coach Mike Woodson as they constantly were daydreaming during timeouts and as result, Woodson will certainly be out of a job within the next week or so. So what’s next?
The Hawks face the likely possibility of losing star shooting guard Joe Johnson this off-season since Johnson is an unrestricted free agent. He will not be as coveted as LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, but will certainly be a nice consolation prize for whichever team lands him. Here are my predictions as to which team has the best chance of signing Johnson this summer.
New York Knicks (30% chance)
As I have stated in previous articles, I think the Knicks are going to strike out in their attempts to land LeBron or Dwyane Wade. That leaves Joe Johnson as the next best free agent wing player. I think Johnson would happily bolt the ATL for a chance to start anew in the big lights of New York City. Johnson would be the much needed alpha dog on a re-building team and still cash in on a max offer while likely being teamed up with one of the top free agent post players. He would have a chance to play in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense which would play into his habit of playing a lot of one-on-one basketball.
Chicago Bulls (20% chance)
The Bulls have holes at shooting guard and power forward which just so happen to be the two positions loaded with marquee free agents this summer. Odds are they will set their first priority on trying to convince Wade to come home. If that does not pan out, the Bulls will turn their attention to Johnson or try to fill their hole at power forward by landing Bosh or Carlos Boozer. In fleeing to Chicago, Johnson would be joining an already established team and form a dynamic backcourt duo alongside Derrick Rose so the re-building phase would not be an issue.
Miami Heat (15% chance)
Priority number one for the Heat is re-signing Dwyane Wade. They will likely put all their efforts first and foremost into this mission. If Miami unable to re-sign D-Wade however, Johnson could very easily move south. The Heat will need a lead scorer and would have enough cap space to sign a player like Johnson, lure another marquee free agent with max deal money, and still surround them with some quality pieces. South Beach is obviously an attractive place for any free agent which gives the Heat an advantage as well.
New Jersey Nets (12% chance)
This will depend on which pick the Nets end up with in the NBA Draft. If they win the draft lottery and select John Wall, they would likely make a run at Johnson assuming the King and Wade choose not to come to New Jersey. However, if the Nets end up picking second and select Evan Turner, he would add to an already young nucleus on the wing with Courtney Lee and Terrence Williams, making their need for a power forward more pressing. Regardless, the Nets have enough cap space to add two max value free agents so they could take a stab at bringing in Johnson and a post player. In my opinion, New Jersey is a more desirable destination in terms of joining a young, up-and-coming team than New York, but the Big Apple obviously has a much larger appeal due to it being the “Mecca of Basketball.”
Atlanta Hawks (10% chance)
I think being swept out of the playoffs was the final nail in the coffin for Johnson’s career in Atlanta. But the Hawks are in the best position in terms of financial gain for Johnson since they can offer him more money than any other team. So if money does talk for Johnson, he will be listening and at least entertain the idea of being back in the ATL.
Los Angeles Clippers (10% chance)
The Clips could be a sleeper in the Johnson sweepstakes. They do not need a two guard since they already have Eric Gordon, but could still pursue Johnson and play him at the small forward position alongside Baron Davis, Gordon, Blake Griffin, and Chris Kaman. On paper, that is a playoff contending starting five. Plus Johnson would move to the enticing west coast and live in L.A which obviously carries a lot of weight. But will the Clipper curse deter Johnson from making the move across country?
Washington Wizards (2% chance)
You have to admit, it would be entertaining to see Johnson play in the same backcourt as Gilbert Arenas and watch them steal the ball from each other to see who can take more shots. Fact of the matter is the Wiz have the money to spend and if the above teams are putting all their efforts in signing LeBron, Wade, or Bosh; Washington could swoop in and woo Johnson away before any other team even has a legit chance to sign him.
The Field (1% chance)
This group includes the Kings, Timberwolves, and Thunder. I cannot see Johnson wanting to play in Sacramento or Minnesota, and no way Oklahoma City rolls the dice in hoping Johnson fits in to their blossoming team that has tremendous chemistry.