July Madness: NBA Free Agent Joe Johnson

Zach McDonieContributor IJune 16, 2010

ATLANTA - MAY 10:  Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks against the Orlando Magic during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 10, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images


All the talk and speculation surrounding Lebron James and Dwyane Wade have left one of the best scoring guards in the entire league lurking in the free agent shadows.

Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson helped secure an Atlanta return to the playoffs with his 21 points and 5 assists per game.

The former first round pick just completed his eighth year at the NBA level with a playoff series loss to the Orlando Magic.

While the Hawks did manage success on the court this season, the off court issues within the organization are well documented. Atlanta’s front office has made it clear that they are focused on one thing this off season, saving money. Thus, the resurrection of the Atlanta Hawks looks to be a temporary one.

Johnson has publicly displayed his disapproval for the front office’s decision to let go of Mike Woodson and replace him with a competent, cheaper option in Larry Drew.

To stay in Atlanta, Johnson would no doubt ask for a maximum deal, which is something that the franchise is not prepared to offer.

Joe Johnson has been on his way out of Atlanta since the final buzzer sounded in their loss to the Magic. The only question is where will the prolific scoring guard land?

My thoughts: In my eyes, Johnson has quite a few options. The most likely list of suitors this summer will include Chicago, Miami, and New York.

If Johnson is smart, he isn’t going to hold out for a maximum deal. Johnson is a player who was paid very well in Atlanta ($14.9 Million in 2010). This is right around where he should be paid next season. I realize that players all strive for that golden max contract, yet taking a deal worth around $16 Million per season with a championship contender would suffice just fine.

In regards to the best fit for Johnson, I am going to have to go with Chicago. Similar to Stoudemire, Johnson could be the one piece that the Bulls need to make a push to the conference finals. Johnson would be a perfect fit for Chicago’s drive and dish style of offense and would almost certainly repeat if not surpass his 2010 numbers.

As we have seen, having a great point guard is key in playoff success and the Bulls have the services of one of the up and coming stars of the game. Derrick Rose made a living this year of getting into the lane and scoring off the dribble. The only thing missing for the Bulls was a perimeter scoring threat to kick to when the defense collapsed.

The crafty Johnson could thrive in an offense which gets him the ball in space (such is the case in Chicago). If he decides to head to the windy city, we could be seeing the young and improving Bulls making a run to the finals in the near future.

My prediction: While I do think Chicago is a likely possibility, I think that New York is a better one. Tracy McGrady will not be a Knick for much longer, leaving a vacant two guard spot for the taking.

New York will make a strong push for Lebron and Wade, yet when the dust settles I think it is Johnson who will find a home in the big apple. Johnson has said how much he loves the city and the draw of being the face of a New York franchise is too much to ignore.

The Knicks are also likely to offer him the most financially appealing offer simply because they can afford to outbid Miami and Chicago.

Another thing drawing him northeast could be his relationship with Mike D’Antoni. Not only do the two get along, but D’Antoni’s style of play could be a match made in heaven for Johnson.

As a guard who runs the floor and fills lanes well, the fast paced run and gun style of offense in New York is an enticing draw.

Johnson already has the resurrection of one franchise on his resume, who’s to say that he can’t add another?