Four years ago, the Nets signed Miami Heat free-agent guard Tyler Johnson to a four-year deal worth $50 million. The Heat matched the offer and kept him, but late Tuesday night, the Nets scooped up Johnson in what likely is a bargain-basement deal to join them in Orlando when this NBA season resumes.
The news first was reported by ESPN and confirmed to Newsday by an NBA source, who said the deal quite likely is close to a minimum-salary deal. The Nets announced they had cut backup guard Theo Pinson to create roster space for Johnson.
The actual signing is scheduled to take place Wednesday when the Nets will make a formal announcement. After signing the Nets’ offer sheet in 2016 as a restricted free agent, Johnson’s offer was matched by the Heat, and he went on to average 13.7 points and 11.7 points the next two seasons while shooting .372 and .367 from three-point range. In 2019, Johnson was traded to the Suns. Last season, Johnson shot a poor .289 from three-point range and averaged only 5.7 points in a minimal role.
Johnson is a shooting guard and undoubtedly will be behind Nets starter Caris LeVert at that position. This signing means he is in competition with Garrett Temple for the backup role. But the fact that Johnson’s numbers were so low with the Suns suggests he has a lot to prove. At the same time, it was impossible for general manager Sean Marks to resist the opportunity to bring in a player he felt was worth $50 million over the previous four years.
Fans can view it as a “depth” signing, or they can view it as Marks expressing his faith in Johnson to rebound and become a significant NBA contributor once again. What better laboratory for the Nets to find out than in the Orlando “bubble” to end this pandemic-interrupted season?