Joe Johnson was untradeable...until he was traded.
There is no such thing as an immovable NBA contract. Not anymore.
NBA writers and fans often use terms like “immovable” or “untradeable” when referring to the worst contracts in the league.
But the time when you could take the immovable tag at face value has passed. If recent history has proven anything, it's that no contract can be considered untradeable.
Take a look at this article, written two years ago and detailing the 15 most untradeable contracts at the time. It's logical, and it makes a ton of sense. You wouldn't have expected any of those guys to be moved—their contracts were too outrageous. And yet, six of those players were traded. And that number may have been even higher if not for the fact that four others were slapped with an amnesty clause.
There's an option for everything. There's not a single contract in the NBA that can't be moved under the right circumstances. Here are some pretty recent examples of immovable contracts being, well, moved.
(Note: this applies specifically to players with more than one year left on their deal. Expiring contracts are easy to move.)
The Desperation Trade—Joe Johnson
This one is reserved specifically for the Brooklyn Nets, who panicked once they realized that the Orlando Magic wouldn't be trading them Dwight Howard and pulled the trigger on a trade for Joe Johnson.
The Nets knew that they needed to make at least one big move in order to avoid losing Deron Williams to his hometown Dallas Mavericks. Once trading for Dwight was no longer an option, they went into full-fledged panic mode and decided to eat the rest of Joe Johnson's six-year, $123.7 million contract in an attempt to appease Williams.
No one thought that the Atlanta Hawks were going to be able to move Johnson's ridiculously expensive contract, but they dodged a big bullet thanks to Brooklyn's little freak out.
And for what it's worth, the trade worked out for the Nets too (at least, so far). Williams admitted that he re-signed with the Nets because of the Johnson trade, and now Nets fans get to enjoy more moments like this. Win-win.
The “We Stink and Need Picks” Trade—Luke Walton
Rewind to the beginning of last season. Luke Walton was doing a great job filling out the end of the Los Angeles Lakers bench.
He was giving great high-fives, cheering with energy and laughing at all of Kobe Bryant's jokes. The problem was that he was making over $5 million per year to do so. Not so great, especially when you consider that the Lakers were looking to be major players in free agency the next summer.
It was hard to picture a scenario in which the Lakers could unload Walton, who had two years left on his deal and was playing just seven minutes per game. Enter the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers were in rebuilding mode last season and were just looking to stockpile as much talent and as many picks as they could. They also were looking to flip point guard Ramon Sessions, who didn't fit with 2011 No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving.
As it just so happens, the Lakers had a big hole at point guard and were willing to give away a first-round pick. See how perfectly this works out? Now Walton gives out high-fives at the end of the Cavs bench.
Trades like this are pretty easy because rebuilding teams (like the Cavs) can afford to take the cap hit from contracts like Walton's, whereas competitive teams that want to be a factor in free agency (the Lakers) cannot. As long as the rebuilding team can get some young talent or picks out of the deal, it makes too much sense not to make the swap.
The Former Glory Trade—Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Baron Davis
Funnily enough, Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis were actually involved in the same trade, a swap between the Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards. That's right. A trade involving two immovable contracts. You don't see that every day.
The Wizards definitely had some extra motivation to deal Arenas after his locker room gun fiasco, but the fact remains that both the Wizards and Magic thought that a change of scenery could bring the best out of Lewis and Arenas.
It's easy to forget now, but both Lewis and Arenas used to be genuine All-Stars. Lewis was the quintessential stretch 4, and Arenas was one of the best scorers in the league.
Both guys were coming off down years, but the Wizards and Magic were willing to take a gamble that changing teams could kick-start them back to the level that they once were at (or at least close to it).
The Baron Davis trade is a mixture of that idea and of the “we need picks” mindset. Of course the Los Angeles Clippers wanted Mo Williams, but more than that, they just wanted to get rid of Baron Davis's swollen contract.
Will we see an "immovable" contract be moved this season?
The Cavs obviously wanted the Clippers' first-rounder, but were they also happy to take a shot at resurrecting Davis's career? Absolutely. The dude was a two-time All-Star and was, at one point, one of the most dynamic point guards in the league. For a floundering team like the Cavaliers, it was a gamble well worth taking.
There are just too many terrible contracts that have been moved to realistically call any player untradeable. Whether it's a team rolling the dice on a former star or a team willing to absorb a cap hit in order to stockpile assets, there's always at least one general manager open to taking on an “immovable” contract. There's an option for everything.
So don't panic if your team has a contract that you would consider immovable (I'm looking at you, Andris Biedrins). In today's NBA, anyone can be traded.