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Would James Johnson be the Rockets' preferred Trevor Ariza replacement?

Would James Johnson be the Rockets' preferred Trevor Ariza replacement?
Published On: Wed, Aug 08
Nov 11, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Johnson (7) drives the ball during the fourth quarter as Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) defends at Toyota Center. The Nets defeated the Rockets 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I've been writing about the Houston Rockets' pursuit of a wing replacement for Trevor Ariza for the past week, keying in thus far on guardsA Courtney LeeA andA Kent Bazemore. On Tuesday,A Sam Amick reportedA on Houston's interest in Miami Heat swingman James Johnson, a target Zach Lowe had mentioned on his podcast earlier last week.

The Rockets have been looking to deal forward Ryan Anderson since last summer. That desire has since grown even stronger, with Anderson falling completely out of the rotation by the end of last season. He still has over $40 million remaining on his contract which runs through 2020 and his $20.421 million salary will account for 14.96% of the Rockets' cap next season. With the recently acquired Carmelo Anthony, Anderson's skillset becomes even more obsolete.

Johnson is a plausible target because he is now 31 and is set to be owed $14.65 million in 2018-2019 and $15.35 million in 2019-2020. He has a player option for $16.05 million in 2020-2021 which he almost surely will exercise given the expected cap environment. The Heat have $129.69 million in total taxable salaries, exceeding the $123.73 million NBA luxury tax threshold by $5.95 million for an estimated luxury tax bill of $9.12 million.

As a taxpayer, the Heat can only take back 125% plus $100,000 of Johnson's $14.65 million salary in a trade. Thus, a straight swap of Johnson for Anderson would not work within the rules. To complete a deal, the Heat would need to include one of the smaller salaries on the team or find a third team. The smaller salaries on the Heat eligible to be traded include Justice Winslow ($3.45 million), Edrice Adebayo ($2.96 million), and Rodney McGruder ($1.54 million). There is close to zero chance the Heat would include Winslow in a salary dumping deal for a negative asset in Ryan Anderson.

The good is that Johnson is 6'9 and 250 pounds, able to swing between the small forward and power forward slots, and considered a tremendous defender. Johnson ranked 20th in DRPM among power forwards last season at 1.35. By comparison, Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker of the sixth ranked Rockets had a 1.15. To that end, Houston would likely be getting an upgrade over Ariza defensively in Johnson, particularly given the latter's size advantage at 6'9.

Read the complete news article here...


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