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How Brooklyn's Fire Sale Could Pay Off Big For Atlanta

Shedding Joe Johnson's contract might be more than a salary dump. A provision in the trade that was an afterthought is now in the limelight.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Hawks fans have a lot to rejoice about these days. Lots of wins, exciting basketball, and Coach Bud is the Emperor of the All-stars (yeah, I made that up but it fits). We're in Hawk Heaven right now, but what if I told you it could be better?

I love being the bearer of good news.

Rumor is circling around the league that Brooklyn is looking to rebuild from the ground up. Talks have already started (with Oklahoma City) and ended (with Charlotte). The news is, though, that if possible before the trade deadline the Nets will be dumping at least one of its big-money stars: Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, or Joe Johnson.

It's the latter of that group that brings us to the Hawks. Many Hawks fans remember the bloated contract that former GM Rick Sund gave to Iso-Joe in the Summer of LeBron. Two years later, new GM Danny Ferry dealt Johnson to Brooklyn.

Most probably remember that as a salary dump, and realistically, it was. Most of the players we got from the trade were either waived immediately (Jordan Farmar, Jordan Williams, anyone named Jordan) or only stayed with the team through the rest of the year (Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, DeShawn Stevenson). Even the 2013 draft pick we got from the trade (Shane Larkin) ended up being traded, and after the Lou salary dump to Toronto, the only thing we have left from the Joe trade is Mike Muscala and 2nd-rounders in 2015 (via Toronto) and 2017 (via Brooklyn). If it stopped there, we would have taken it: Getting Joe's contract off the books gave us a lot of financial flexibility we wouldn't have otherwise had.

But remember I said I love being the bearer of good news?

One small additional provision in the trade allowed the Hawks the rights to swap picks in 2014 and 2015. Brooklyn ended up getting the 6th spot in the playoffs in 2014, two spots ahead of Atlanta. There was no need from the Hawks viewpoint to use that provision that year. Now with the Nets faltering (they are currently in the eight seed) and looking to move one of their big contracts, this could be a team looking to get worse and gain the flexibility that the Joe trade gave the Hawks (the fact that they were the ones to trade for Johnson is not lost on this particular writer). If they succeed in dealing out one or more of their former all-stars, expect their wins to stagnate, while their draft stock rises quickly. There are currently 10 teams who have less wins than the Nets, so if they keep falling and the lottery balls come down in an orderly fashion, the Hawks could be looking at a potential top 10 pick. Add that to your already high-flying Hawks and you've got the recipe to continue Atlanta's efforts to stay on top of the East.

That salary dump just keeps looking better and better.