Regardless of where Johnson lands, the fact he's departing the Nets could be a boon for Boston, which is set to receive Brooklyn's unprotected first-round pick in this year's draft.
The Nets (15-42) currently own the fourth-worst record in the NBA, and though the 34-year-old Johnson -- a seven-time All-Star -- isn't the offensive force he once was, he's still an impactful player with a penchant for the big shot (earlier this month, his banked buzzer-beater helped the Nets top the Nuggets). Brooklyn loses a starter averaging 11.8 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.9 rebounds over 33.9 minutes per game in 57 appearances this season.
Johnson owns a Nets-best offensive rating of 102.4. That's offset by a defensive rating of 106.8, but Johnson's differential of minus-4.4 is actually the second-best mark on the team among regulars (behind only Donald Sloan at minus-4.0).
The Celtics can hope Johnson's absence only makes it more difficult for Brooklyn to win games, especially with the Phoenix Suns -- losers of 12 straight -- plummeting toward the basement of the lottery standings (where the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers have set up shop).
Maybe the more intriguing angle here: With an open roster spot and a need for some wing depth, could the Celtics be a possible landing spot for Johnson? Of the playoff teams reported to be interested, only the Celtics and Hawks have the ability to spend beyond a minimum salary (Boston has the $2.8 million room exception at its disposal). That gives Boston a possible edge over tax-paying teams like Houston, Oklahoma City and Miami, and teams with only the minimum available like Toronto and Cleveland.
It might come down to whether Johnson, with $174 million in career earnings, might be more enticed by a surefire title contender than trying to help elevate a more fledgling contender. It would surely make an endearing storyline for Boston to bring home a player it drafted 10th overall in 2001. Incidentally, Atlanta, another of his former squads, also has money available to entice him.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said if Boston did elect to target a 15th player to fill out its roster this season, the Celtics would seek shooting and versatility, something the 6-foot-7 Johnson clearly adds. Boston could easily integrate Johnson into a versatile second unit. Evan Turner is the backup wing behind starter Jae Crowder, but Turner plays a bit of a hybrid role as a ball-handler with the second unit. Especially with floor-stretching big man Kelly Olynyk out for the next three weeks because of a shoulder injury, Johnson could easily find minutes as a big in small-ball lineups that would pair him up front with the likes of Jonas Jerebko.