Joe Johnson is going from the Big3 back to the big time.
Johnson, 38, who was the MVP of the Big3, the professional 3-on-3 summer league, is joining the Pistons on a partially guaranteed contract, a league source confirmed to The Detroit News on Thursday.
It’s a whirlwind turnaround for the 6-foot-7 small forward, who had a 17-year career in the NBA and last played for the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets in 2017-18. Johnson was the team captain for the league-champion Triplets and set a league single-season record for points and assists in the Big3.
With the addition, the Pistons likely will end up with a two-way competition for the 15th roster spot, between center Christian Wood and Johnson. Michael Beasley, who had been with the team for workouts a few weeks ago, did not sign an official contract so he did not need to be waived, a source told The News.
According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Johnson’s contract has an initial guarantee of $220,000 and becomes fully guaranteed for $2.56 million — with a salary-cap impact of $1.6 million — if Johnson is on the roster after Jan. 7. Johnson's partial guarantee gives the Pistons flexibility in case they choose Wood — who has a guarantee of $822,000 on Oct. 23, the first day of the regular season — instead.
Johnson and Wood each could fill a dire need for the Pistons in the regular season. Besides Andre Drummond, the Pistons have no other true centers on the roster and would likely lean on Blake Griffin, Thon Maker or Markieff Morris. At 6-foot-10, Wood could fill that void with his perimeter versatility.
If Johnson can bring the same type of production he had with the Big3, he could lend depth to a position where the Pistons don’t have many options.
The Pistons would be Johnson's eighth NBA team. In 17 seasons, he averaged 16 points, four rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. He’s a seven-time All-Star, including each season with the Atlanta Hawks from 2006-2012.
Johnson’s impressive run in the Big3 impressed the Pistons, who would like to improve their roster at small forward. They traded for Tony Snell — who likely will start — just before the draft in June and don’t have significant depth at the position.
Adding Johnson also provides more veteran presence in the locker room, along with Derrick Rose and Morris, who were signed as free agents.
Chris Hayes of Yahoo Sports was first to report the agreement with Johnson.