4:55pm: The Johnson trade talks are preliminary and not likely to be productive, Robert Windrem of NetsDaily.com tweets.
3:33pm: The Cavaliers are interested in using Brendan Haywood‘s bloated non-guaranteed salary as ballast in a trade that would bring in Joe Johnson, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. Cleveland would have to send additional salaries to Brooklyn to make the salary matching work, but Windhorst suggests that Anderson Varejao is a possibility to go to the Nets.
The Nets have been actively shopping Johnson in recent days and they’ve had talks with the Grizzlies about the veteran. The Pistons and Hornets, also spoke with Brooklyn about him this past season, despite his severely bloated contract. Johnson, who averaged 14.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 3.7 APG in 34.9 minutes per contest last season, is the second-highest paid player in the league at $24.8MM for 2015/16. He’s not a great value, but he is still a strong scorer and would give Cleveland some additional outside shooting. While moving his salary would lift a great luxury tax burden off of Mikhail Prokhorov’s shoulders, it would have the inverse affect on the Cavs’ finances.
Haywood has a $10.5MM non-guaranteed deal that has huge financial implications for a team if waived prior to August 1st. Trading for and waiving Haywood could save the Nets tens of millions in tax payments. Still, there would need to be more, such as Varejao, coming from Cleveland to Brooklyn in order to make a swap work.
The Cavs are poised to go over the tax threshold by quite a bit if they re-sign most of their free agents, as GM David Griffin has indicated he wants to do, but for now, they’re below the tax line, which is projected to come in at around $82MM when the league sets the figure at the end of the July Moratorium. So, they can take in as much as $15,522,500 via trade using the Haywood contract, which calls for a non-guaranteed salary of $5MM less than that amount, as long as that trade doesn’t take them into tax territory. If they do a trade involving Haywood at a point when it would either cause them to cross the tax line or when they already have crossed the tax line, they could only take in $13,253,125 using Haywood’s salary. The Nets are already well into tax territory, so they can’t bring in more than 125% plus $100K than they send out.
If the Cavs send both Haywood and Varejao to the Nets, it won’t matter whether Cleveland is above or below the tax line, since the salary-matching rules would be the same: The Cavs would be limited to taking in 125% plus $100K. Johnson’s deal would fit within those parameters.
Varejao, when healthy, is a capable rebounder and scorer, but health issues have dogged him in recent years. Over the last five seasons, Varejao has missed 50+ contests in four of those campaigns. In his “healthiest” of those five seasons, Varejao played in 65 regular season games. For his career, the big man has averaged 7.9 PPG and 7.8 RPG in 25. 8 minutes per night.
The possibility of moving Varejao could be behind the Cavs’ interest in free-agent forward David West over the last several days, Windhorst writes. West has indicated he wants to play for a Finals contender, and the Cavs have been attempting to recruit him, sources told Windhorst.