Minnesota Timberwolves join Heat-Grizzlies deal, acquire James Johnson

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 24: James Johnson #16 of the Miami Heat reacts. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 24: James Johnson #16 of the Miami Heat reacts. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been added to the Miami Heat-Memphis Grizzlies deal and acquired James Johnson while sending Gorgui Dieng to Memphis.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have made their third trade in something like 37 hours.

Memphis and Miami were already engaged in a deal that sent Andre Iguodala to the Heat, among other moves. The Heat needed to clear plenty of cap space, and had planned to send forward James Johnson to Memphis. But the Wolves got involved, acquiring a player who is a better fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns while saving some money against the cap as well.

Minnesota should save roughly $900,000 with this move. While Johnson has a player option for next year that is over $16 million that he will surely pick up, it helps the Wolves work towards avoiding the tax and adds a much-needed ingredient of toughness to the roster.

Johnson has been in Miami for four seasons and has seen his playing time steadily decrease, but he’s still a solid wing defender who has seen his 3-point shot steadily improve over recent years.

Johnson is known for his toughness and physicality, which are two elements that have been sorely lacking for the Wolves in recent memory. While an undersized 4 who isn’t exactly a rim defender, he will fit well in a switching concept and if he can continue to knock down threes at a 35.7 percent clip, he’ll be a valuable rotation piece.

It’s still safe to assume that the Wolves will give the starting power forward minutes to new acquisition Juancho Hernangomez, but expect Johnson to get some run alongside Towns at times during the balance of this season.

Of course, Johnson’s contract will be a valuable expiring deal once he exercises his player option, so if the Wolves aren’t a playoff contender next year or simply want to include his $16 million as part of a larger deal, they’ll have that option as well.

This type of deal has Sachin Gupta written all over it, the cap guru and inventor of the ESPN Trade Machine. And beyond saving some cash and creating some breathing room, it also helps the Wolves further shape their roster to one with plenty of positional flexibility.

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It remains to be seen how much Johnson will play, but kudos to the Wolves for not simply sitting still when there were moves to be made.