The Brooklyn Nets hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, and it was obvious that the teams can help each other come trade-deadline time in late February.
Cleveland’s bench is lacking a reliable three-point shooter, and the Nets have a veteran that they do not need as they wind down the season.
Joe Johnson has not had the greatest season for the Nets, averaging just 11.7 points this season, far below his career averages, but he would be a major upgrade for Cleveland.
Cleveland is in a win-now situation, and the Nets need draft picks. If the Nets can get a second-round pick and a player of the current roster like guard Jared Cunningham out of Cleveland, it would be worth it for Brooklyn.
Johnson’s age, 34 years old, would not be an issue, as the Cavaliers have Richard Jefferson, who is also 34, James Jones, 35, and Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao, who are both 33.
Johnson is being asked to do too much for the Nets, as he has had to take on a role orchestrating the offense instead of just getting open in the corner and draining a three.
With Cleveland, he can reclaim that role either as a starter, filling in for JR Smith at shooting guard some nights, or off the bench, where he would have Matthew Dellavedova or Williams getting him the ball.
The Cleveland offense is also very kinetic, based on a lot of quick passes and constant movement that is hard to defend. At one point, LeBron James dribbled around, with Brook Lopez trailing, and everyone else was moving in anticipation of where the ball was going. He passed with six seconds on the shot clock, and four passes later, Tristan Thompson tried a layup, which missed, then he got the put-back.
Cleveland forward Kevin Love said of this game reflecting the ball distribution they want in their offense, “Yeah, I mean, we always use the word ‘continuity’ and ‘purity’ and ‘balance.’ I think we definitely had that tonight. One thing that Kyrie (Irving) did in particular was even when they scored – sometimes a guy get scored on and puts their heads down, we kind of walked the ball up and shot our offense at 15, 16, 17 seconds left on the clock – but he made sure every time that we pushed it, just got in a good pace and I think that kind of, you know, LeBron always talks about how the ball has energy so the ball really was hopping around tonight, really moved and that set guys up for a lot of great shots.”
With the Nets, Johnson has had that role of running around looking for an opening and then, because they’re doubling on him, he has to look for the best option available, most times an inferior shooter like Shane Larkin or Donald Sloan.
In Cleveland’s 91-78 win over the Nets, Johnson had just three points on 1-for-7 from the field, including 1-4 on threes, with a rebound and an assist.
LeBron James led Cleveland with 17 points on 7-for-12 from the field, and made his one three-point attempt.
Kevin Love had a big night, with 17 points and 18 rebounds, and Timofey Mozgov had 11 points and 5 rebounds.
The mention of them leads to another thought, even if it’s a long shot: the Nets could send Brook Lopez to Cleveland for Love and Mozgov. Lopez would be energized getting away from the dysfunction of the Nets. Brooklyn could build a team with Love and Mozgov, something they never have shown any indication in doing with Lopez. When Billy King was the general manager, it was all about Deron Williams, not the 7-foot center that goes back to the Nets days at the Meadowlands.
Or, Lopez, who averages 19 points and nine rebounds per game, could probably bring back at least one first-round pick from Cleveland. The Cavaliers would see the value of such a trade for the possibility of uniting LeBron and Lopez, who could be the Kobe and Shaq of 2016.
On Wednesday night, Lopez had 16 points on 8-for-15 from the field, and 10 rebounds, for his 17th double-double of the season. In just 43 games this season, he has matched his double-double total for all of last season, in which he played 72 games.