New York Knicks to Offer Joe Johnson Max Contract, ESPN's Chris Broussard Claims

Shady BotrosAnalyst IJune 28, 2010

ATLANTA - JANUARY 15:  Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks against the Phoenix Suns at Philips Arena on January 15, 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

The 2010 NBA free agent class is the biggest in sports history. A big player in this free agent class will be the New York Knicks, who have spent more than two years clearing  cap space under President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh.

For the Knicks it’s either 2010 free agency or bust. The Knicks have shed so much salary that they risked their long-term future in doing so. The Knicks needed to trade bad contracts like Jared Jeffries and were successful in doing so, but they traded valuable draft picks in the process.

The Knicks have been preaching to their fans that change is coming; they brought in Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni and promised marquee free agents, LeBron James perhaps. The time for change is now and the Knicks are going to be aggressive.

As the clock strikes past midnight, the Knicks brass will be in Los Angeles meeting with marquee free agent Joe Johnson, and according to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the Knicks will offer him a max contract.

While the Knicks aren’t giving up on the possibility of signing LeBron James, they do have a plan B. Joe Johnson is certainly not LeBron, but if the Knicks can pair him with another All-Star, perhaps a big man like Amare Stoudemire, they could contend in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks will also meet with Stoudemire while in Los Angeles.

The Hawks would like to resign Johnson but that sounds unlikely. Instead they’ll likely hope to work a sign-and-trade with the Knicks. In a sign-and-trade, the Knicks could send Wilson Chandler, and the Knicks would offer Johnson a deal worth six years and $125 million.

Is Joe Johnson worth that kind of contract? Probably not, considering the 28-year-old hasn’t led a team past the second round of the playoffs. But if the Knicks can’t sway LeBron or Bosh, they’ll have to spend the money on someone, considering the fans at the world’s most famous arena have tolerated a decade of bad basketball.

Washington Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld said that trying to accumulate cap space is a scary thing. However, accumulating cap space and having no one to spend it on is even scarier.

The Knicks could face that possibility, and who knows where they would go from there considering they will have very little chance at a lottery pick until 2013. Going back to the Tracy McGrady deal, the Knicks gave up their 2012 first round pick and the right to swap picks with Houston in 2011.

It appears that New York is Johnson’s top choice, and he will certainly talk to LeBron James about pairing up in New York. The Knicks believe a tandem of James and Johnson would be enough to get them over the top.

If the Knicks miss out on LeBron James, a Joe Johnson-Amare Stoudemire duo isn’t as bad as it seems. Johnson and Stoudemire both thrived under Knicks Head Coach Mike D’Antoni when they played for the Suns. Stoudemire upped his scoring average seven points in his first season with D’Antoni, and Johnson averaged double digits for the first time in his career with the offensive-minded coach.

While the King remains the top prize, the Knicks have made it clear they are going to explore all options.

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