Now that the Utah Jazz believe their young, up-and-coming team is ready to compete in the Western Conference, GM Dennis Lindsey is adding some veteran experience to help steady them in tough moments.
Lindsey made his latest move on Friday night, agreeing to terms with Joe Johnson on a two-year deal worth $22 million, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal cannot be signed until July 7.
Johnson gives the Jazz a proven scorer and level-headed veteran as they try to climb the ladder with a promising young nucleus including Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood.
The seven-time All-Star turned 35 this week, but he showed during the stretch run in Miami last season that he can still make big shots when he’s needed. Johnson shot 41.7 percent from 3-point range after coming to the Heat from Brooklyn and has the ability to play power forward in small ball lineups that gives coach Quin Snyder some more versatility to mix and match.
The Jazz went into the offseason looking to spend with a need for veteran depth, another point guard and additional shooting. They added point guard George Hill in a three-way trade with the Pacers and Hawks to give them a tested veteran on the ball and were aggressive in courting veterans once the free agent market opened on Thursday night.
One by one, many of Utah’s targets were plucked by others teams, but the Jazz quickly pivoted to Johnson, who will give them another dimension off the bench.
His scoring numbers have gradually decreased over the last few years, and he averaged 12.2 points and shot 38 percent from 3-point range while playing with Brooklyn and Miami last season.
But the Jazz could see him playing a similar role to the one Paul Pierce — a former teammate of Johnson’s in Brooklyn — assumed with the Wizards two years ago. Pierce’s best days are behind him, but he was able to play a complementary role in support of John Wall, Bradley Beal and the rest of a young team that was learning to win. Then, in crunch time, Pierce would assume more responsibility, take some of the highest pressure shots and help catapult the Wizards to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Johnson has a lot of the same qualities as Pierce. He is calm under pressure, willing to take the biggest shots in a game and has the ability to use his body to create space to get the shot off.
The Jazz went 40-42 last season and have not made the playoffs since 2012.
The deal was first reported by NBA.com.
AP Sports Writer Kareem Copeland in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
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