Joe Johnson has finally been traded to a contender — in 2001.
The three-team trade sent Johnson, Iman Shumpert and a second rounder to Sacramento; George Hill and Rodney Hood to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose to the Jazz.
Let’s break it down a bit.
Sacramento is vying on buying out Johnson, and Shumpert only has one year left on his contract after this season. The Kings didn’t get any better with this trade, adding to a growing list of confusing moves that this front office has made.
After a summer where they signed Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter under the guise of “playoff hopes,” the Kings found themselves in the weird position where they were one of the worst teams in the league — and they were the only ones who didn’t realize it.
But the moment Hill realized this squad was going nowhere, his play declined noticeably, averaging career lows in every major statistical category, including minutes. With this trade, Sacramento is finally going all in on their rebuild behind their core of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanović.
Expect lots of losses and a high draft pick for Sacramento this season.
For the Jazz, this move is a little more complicated.
Trading Johnson was nothing more than a move of respect. After one of the most entertaining playoff series last season, Johnson has shown that he is still a valuable commodity.
The problem is the moment Gordon Hayward left, so did Utah’s chances of contending in the near future. With Johnson in the twilight of his career, the Jazz wanted to give him an opportunity to play for a contender.
After getting bought out from the Kings, Houston is the perfect landing spot for Johnson. The Rockets average the most isolation plays in the league, so Iso Joe will fit right in.
Shipping out Hood, the team’s second leading scorer, was the Utah’s way of giving rookie Donovan Mitchell not only the keys to the team’s offense, but its future too.
As for the pieces coming in, Rose will most likely be waived, and Crowder will serve as a solid (and cheap) role player in Quin Snyder’s system.
With this, the Jazz will probably lose a few more games and get a higher pick that they can pair with their core of Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and, hopefully, Dante Exum.
Boy oh boy, the Cavaliers front office had itself a field day.
Adding Hill and Hood for only Crowder and Shumpert — two players who were noncontributors anyways — was an inspired move by general mamager Koby Altman.
Hill gives the Cavaliers their answer at point guard that they’ve been looking for since Kyrie Irving left his “father” from Cleveland, and Hood gives them some much-needed youth and athleticism.
But more importantly, both players can play some the Cavaliers some quality defense — a defense that gives up more points than Cal’s rugby opponents.
Trading for Hood is especially interesting for the Cavs. With LeBron James most likely leaving this offseason, Hood serves as an athletic 3&D player who the Cavaliers can develop. He’ll be a solid replacement for Crowder, who has had a noticeable drop in production since coming to Cleveland.
But the biggest story that’ll come out of this trade is the resurgence of Hill, who can defend, shoot threes and play off ball — the prototypical LeBron teammate. Hill is bound to improve now that he has something to play for, and Cleveland will be happy with anything they can get.
With Hill, Hood and the newly acquired Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., the Cavaliers still won’t fare well against the Golden State Warriors, but against the Celtics and the Raptors, the scales are finally starting to tip in Cleveland’s favor.