Johnson traded to Suns to clear cap room

BY foxsports • July 25, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — After days of negotiations, a three-team trade that sends Minnesota Timberwolves swingman Wes Johnson to Phoenix is finally complete.

The team announced Friday that it traded Johnson and a future first-round pick to Phoenix. The Timberwolves will receive three second-round picks -- two from New Orleans, one from Phoenix -- in the deal. The two second-round picks from New Orleans are Brooklyn's 2013 pick and a 2016 pick that originally belonged to the Timberwolves. The Suns' pick is a 2014 pick that originally belonged to the Lakers.

The deal also sent center Robin Lopez and forward Hakim Warrick from Phoenix to New Orleans in exchange for point guard Jerome Dyson and retiring center Brad Miller.

Although the deal at face value might look as if the Timberwolves are giving away assets and receiving little in return, in reality it gave them an additional $4.3 million in salary cap space when accounting for the loss of Johnson's contract. That space was then used to sign Andrei Kirilenko, a free-agent small forward who spent last season in Russia but played 10 seasons with the Jazz before that. The Timberwolves reportedly signed him for two years and $20 million.

Johnson, 25, has played for the Timberwolves since they drafted him fourth overall in 2010. His numbers fell off significantly in his second season in the league, when he averaged just 6.0 points after averaging 9.0 his rookie season. His rebounding also fell off, from 3.0 to 2.7, as did his playing time.

In college, Johnson primarily played small forward, and last season his position was in flux with the Timberwolves. After starting the year at shooting guard, Johnson eventually played more at forward when Michael Beasley lost his starting spot, but even that transition was unable to boost Johnson's numbers.

At Las Vegas Summer League last week, Johnson played well and was the league's sixth-highest scorer, averaging 20.5 points. He played more aggressively than he had all season, and his summer work seemed to be paying off. The Timberwolves trading him now capitalizes on his first standout performance in years, and the team perhaps received more for him than they otherwise would have.

The deal was first reported earlier this week, and the teams had agreed to the terms of the trade by Wednesday. However, according to the Arizona Republic, the trade stalled due to New Orleans' salary cap issues and was eventually tweaked to fit the rules dictated by the NBA collective bargaining agreement.

Prior to this trade, the Timberwolves agreed to terms with two free agents, center Greg Stiemsma and shooting guard Brandon Roy, and they signed point guard Alexey Shved on Wednesday. In addition, the team traded guard Wayne Ellington to Memphis on Tuesday in exchange for forward Dante Cunningham.

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