Relax Brooklyn Nets fans. It's not all that bad. At least not as bad as the previous years.
The Nets traded Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, DeShawn Stevenson, Johan Petro, Jordan Williams and the Houston Rockets' 2013 first-round pick, which is lottery-protected, to acquire Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks.
Essentially, they traded just about every player under contract to acquire Johnson, a 31-year-old shooting guard set to earn $90 million over the next four years.
I know—my first thought after seeing the deal was "Ew." But then I realized that it's not that bad of a deal for a franchise that desperately needed to shake up its roster.
Ripping on overpaid players is always fun for sports fans. While Johnson is an All-Star, he is not a superstar who can lead a team to a championship and so deserving of a maximum contract.
He is an All-Star though. Everyone seems to forget that during their string of panicking that the Nets just sealed another decade of mediocrity.
Last year, Johnson averaged 18.8 points, 3.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game, all numbers trending in the wrong direction. His drop in scoring production, however, resulted from Josh Smith accruing a larger role in Atlanta's offense. Johnson still shot 45.4 percent from the floor.
Johnson did not experience a Lamar Odom-like downfall, or anything close to that. He just aged a little and played a smaller role in the Hawks' offense—so let's take a deep breath.
The Nets, who averaged 93.1 points per game last year, needed a scorer in the worst way. Johnson can create his own shot, a skill the Nets badly needed.
He's not Dwight Howard, but at least the Nets have another capable scorer to keep Deron Williams company in Brooklyn. If Williams decides to stay, Johnson can alleviate the swarming defensive pressure from teams who never worried about anyone else on the squad.
Also, look at who the Nets gave up to acquire Johnson. The list of players the Nets shipped out goes on for a while, but none of them are NBA starters.
Morrow is a streaky shooter who can win a game for you once every month and disappear for a large chunk of the remaining games. Stevenson provides some defensive integrity off the bench, but he shot 28.5 percent last year. Petro looks like an emerging young talent and a guy with no business playing in the NBA.
Jordan Williams is an intriguing big man who could prove his worth with some playing time, but he is still far from a finished product. Despite providing solid production as a backup point guard, Farmar was expendable since Deron Williams could bring Jason Kidd with him to Brooklyn.
More importantly, the Nets kept MarShon Brooks, a 23-year-old shooting guard who averaged 12.6 points per game during his rookie campaign. Brooks can learn from Johnson and not feel forced to carry the load offensively.
Nets fans would have been happy if the team signed Johnson in 2010 instead of overpaying the group of reserves they just shipped to Atlanta.
Opponents of the trade worry that Johnson's arrival eliminates any chance of acquiring Howard. Although landing Howard is still possible, albeit a long shot, the Nets could not afford to play his game any longer. Would anyone be shocked if Howard decides next week he wants to stay in Orlando?
The Nets also would have been required to trade Brooks, Brook Lopez and every draft pick they own for the foreseeable future. A combination of Williams and Howard surely would have delighted Nets fans, but the team could not risk losing Williams during their bid for Howard.
Tired of entering the playoffs as the No. 4 or 5 seed in the Eastern Conference every year, the Hawks decided to give away Johnson for some financial flexibility. The Nets have been sitting on money for years, searching for someone, anyone, to spend it on.
Johnson propelling the Nets to a playoff spot would be a huge upgrade for a team fighting for its first postseason appearance since 2007.
What the Hawks considered mediocrity could be a major step forward for the Nets. If Williams stays, the Nets boast a solid core featuring Williams, Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Lopez and Brooks. After years in the cellar, the Nets can finally top .500 and win a playoff series.
Hey, it's something.