Hawks unload Joe Johnson’s hefty contract to Brooklyn

Published on July 2 at 7:46 p.m. Eastern.
Updated on July 2 at 11:15 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

New Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry isn’t wasting time gutting the team’s roster.

According to multiple reports early Monday night, Atlanta and Brooklyn have agreed on a trade to send Joe Johnson to the Nets in exchange for DeShawn Stevenson and the expiring contracts of Johan Petro, Jordan Williams, Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow. The Hawks will get Stevenson via sign-and-trade and a lottery-protected 2013 first-round pick that was originally owned by the Rockets.

There are conflicting reports as to whether or not the trade is contingent on Deron Williams re-signing with the Nets.

NBA trades won’t be finalized until July 11.

If the Johnson-to-Brooklyn trade goes through, the Hawks will also dish Marvin Williams to Utah for Devin Harris.

Marvin Williams was Atlanta’s No. 2 selection in the 2005 NBA Draft after coming off the bench as a true freshman and helping North Carolina to the national title with a win over Illinois in the finals. Former GM Billy Knight chose Marvin Williams ahead of Deron Williams from the Illini and Chris Paul from out of Wake Forest.

Both point guards became perennial All-Stars, while Knight gave veteran PG Speedy Claxton a lucrative four-year deal and he barely touched the court in Atlanta due to injuries. (I must admit, however, that at the time I thought Williams was the correct choice and King eventually made great first-round decisions with the selections of Josh Smith and Al Horford.)

The trade for Johnson led to a five-year dispute among the ownership group that wasn’t settled until 2010. Johnson was always solid, playing in five All-Star games in seven years. But he was never spectacular and failed to shine in three trips to the Easter Conference semifinals.

The Hawks are not better on paper after getting rid of Johnson. That said, the future is brighter when you consider that Johnson will be making $25 million four years from now when he’s 35 years old.

Also, Atlanta has now cleared $30 million in cap room for next summer when Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are unrestricted free agents.

Will the Hawks be in play for either superstar? That’s unlikely even though Howard is from the ATL. But who knows? Ferry has seemingly brought the franchise more credibility in just over a week.

On a much milder note, the Hawks made a qualifying offer for reserve forward Ivan Johnson and can now match any offer sheet he signs with another team.

As for the Nets, they appear to be out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes after keeping Gerald Wallace (4 years for $40 million) and taking on Johnson’s immense contract (4 years and $90 million left). When they finish the deal to keep Brook Lopez and presumably the one to keep Deron Williams, there won’t be enough cash to get Howard, although Brooklyn is believed to be his preferred destination.

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