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Rumor: Brooklyn Nets discussed Joe Johnson deal with Memphis Grizzlies

Could the Nets dumping Joe Johnson actually help the Celtics?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the Brooklyn Nets were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this spring there has been speculation that they would look to move some of their expensive veterans. Despite having the league's most expensive roster and paying a hefty luxury tax bill, the Nets fell well short of expectations, putting them in a position where they have to consider hitting the reset button.

Joe Johnson would be at the forefront of any discussions about blowing up the roster. The 33-year old still has something to offer contending teams in need of a wing scorer and outside shooting. While his production doesn't come close to matching up with his price tag, his expiring contract could be appealing to teams looking to set themselves up for the free agent bonanza in 2016.

While no deal appears imminent, it's no surprise that teams are at least willing to kick the tires on a Johnson deal. ESPN's Marc Stein reported that the Memphis Grizzlies are the latest team to show interest in discussing a trade for the former All-Star.

"The teams could not find a workable deal and have tabled discussions, but sources told that the Nets were encouraged enough in general to believe that they will ultimately find a trade tacker for Johnson's mammoth contract, which only has one season left to run but at a massive $24.9 million in 2015-16," writes Stein.

Sending Johnson to Memphis may not be feasible, given that the Grizzlies won't have cap space after re-signing star center Marc Gasol, as they are expected to do. Finding salaries to match Johnson's massive contract could become an impossible task if Brooklyn isn't willing to take on future salary.

Brooklyn's interest in shopping Johnson seems primarily based on a desire to reduce their luxury tax bill, which would mean finding a suitor with cap space that could take on his contract without having to send back equal salary. Even if Memphis were offering Jeff Green, the $9.2 million player option that he recently picked up isn't nearly enough to match and Memphis doesn't have enough assets that they would be willing to trade to make up the difference. So in other words, don't expect these rumors to amount to anything.

However, the discussions between Brooklyn and Memphis tells us two things.

  1. A contending team is at least willing to consider dealing for Johnson.
  2. Brooklyn is still shopping Johnson in an effort to dump salary.

If the Nets are looking to blow things up, I know of one team that could benefit from it. The Boston Celtics own Brooklyn's first-round draft pick next year, so they have everything to gain from the Nets going into a rebuilding mode.

If the Nets do find a taker for Johnson, it's hard to imagine the deal making the team better in the short term. If he ends up being dealt it would be with the intention of slashing their payroll to reduce their tax bill. Brooklyn currently has about $79.6 million committed to next year's roster, putting them right up against an expected tax threshold of about $81.6 million. That's without factoring in contracts for the rookies that they drafted this month or their interest in re-signing free agents Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. Using their Bird Rights to bring either or both of them back would cause Brooklyn's payroll to soar into luxury tax territory, unless they find a way to trade Johnson without taking back a significant amount of salary.

So if the Nets really want to get under the tax line, or at least significantly reduce their bill, they have to let Lopez and Young leave in free agency or trade Johnson. Either way, the Nets would seem to be left with less talent than last year's 38 win team.

Which means that the draft pick they owe to Boston is looking juicer than ever.

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