Increasingly loud hints that the New Jersey Nets intend to select Syracuse small forward Wesley Johnson with the third overall pick were initially dismissed as a potential smokescreen New Jersey orchestrated to convince Minnesota -- which likes Johnson at No. 4 -- to surrender an asset to the Nets for the right to trade up to No. 3.
Not so any longer.
A new theory circulating pegs Johnson as one of the first dominos in the free-agent frenzy that will officially commence July 1.
Multiple teams have passed along their belief to ESPN.com that the Nets have serious interest in Johnson at No. 3 largely because they believe it will help them land Utah’s Carlos Boozer in free agency.
New Jersey’s main position of emphasis once the free-agent market opens July 1 is power forward, with the Nets possessing an estimated $27 million in salary-cap space and with Brook Lopez and Devin Harris entrenched at center and point guard.
The connection between Johnson and Boozer? They're both represented by the same agent: Rob Pelinka.
The selection of Johnson would be a strong tip-off, sources say, that New Jersey will be chasing Boozer hardest when free agency commences, ahead of potential targets such as Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire.
ESPN.com's Chad Ford indeed has New Jersey selecting Johnson with the third overall pick in his latest mock draft.
One source close to the situation, however, insisted Wednesday that Boozer has strong interest in the Nets independent of where Johnson lands in the draft.