Cam Johnson enjoys reading about what’s out there outside of her residence.
“The earth is very insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe,” Johnson said, after Phoenix’s final regular season game in April. “There’s so much out there and so much we don’t know. I had an astronomy class in college which I really enjoyed and the subject piqued my curiosity.
As for the Suns this year, Johnson was a big part of their historic season that culminated in a franchise-record 64 regular-season wins.
He set career highs in almost every offensive category.
Averaging 12.5 points on 46% shooting, Johnson shot 42.5% from deep for fourth in the NBA in 3-point shooting. He scored a career-high 38 points, hitting nine 3s with his last at the glass buzzer to stun the Knicks, 115-114, on March 4 at Phoenix.
The North Carolina forward finished third in Sixth Man of the Year voting behind winner Tyler Herro (Heat) and runner-up Kevin Love (Cavaliers).
His production, however, went down a bit in the playoffs.
Johnson averaged just 10.8 points on 46.5 percent shooting (37.3 percent on 3), but he started three playoff games that All-Star Devin Booker missed with a hamstring injury. -legs.
Suns coach Monty Williams has repeatedly said that Johnson is a starter who comes off the bench.
So, will Phoenix move Johnson into the starting lineup this season? Signing him for a major rookie extension would be seen as a step in that direction.
The Suns have placed a high priority on player development under Williams.
So giving Johnson a rookie extension seems likely.
Phoenix gave Mikal Bridges (four years, $90 million) and Landry Shamet (four years, $43 million) rookie extensions last season that started this season.
I don’t see the Suns paying Johnson the same as Bridges, but he’d probably get $15 million a season, maybe even close to $20 million.
Johnson will be a restricted free agent in 2023 if he and the Suns don’t agree on a rookie extension.
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As ESPN’s Bobby Marks asked, “Is Phoenix willing to pay starting money for a player who finished third in the Sixth Man of the Year voting?”
Making Johnson a starter changes that narrative.
Suns general manager James Jones has floated the idea of paying Johnson and Booker, who is eligible for a supermax contract (four years, $211 million) after making the All-NBA First Team this season.
“It’s part of the business,” Jones said last month in an exit interview. “As your team improves, typically your payroll goes up. We focus on improving the team and these guys, they deserve the credit. They deserve the accolades and financial rewards that come along with being good players and being productive players stop us from doing anything. We’re not talking about luxury tax issues or avoiding those things. It’s not something that will prevent us from continuing to build this team and keep this team together.”
Veteran Jae Crowder has started all 80 games he has played, regular season and playoffs, but is entering the final year of his three-year, $30 million deal.
Jonson’s extension would not come into effect until the 2023-24 season. So it seems like an ideal decision to make on both fronts for Phoenix to extend Johnson and start him next season.
Crowder has come off the bench before in his career, but he’s proven himself a leader, and Williams has a lot of confidence in him.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound forward defends and rebounds better than Johnson.
At 6-8, 210, Johnson has improved his strength since his rookie year, but he’s averaging just 2.9 rebounds for his career (his career high of 3.5 this season).
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Crowder averaged 5.3 boards this season. He had 20 games with at least seven rebounds including three in the playoffs (eight in Game 1 against the Mavs, seven in Game 2 and Game 3 against the Mavs).
Johnson has caught at least seven boards in just 12 games, including just one in the playoffs (nine in Game 5 against the Pelicans).
Johnson hasn’t reached double the rebounds in a single game this season.
Crowder did it five times with a season-high 14 in a win at Philadelphia in which he didn’t score but had a big impact on the game on the glass.
The intangible plays of putting up 50/50 balls, being the primary inbounder and defending multiple positions have made Crowder a key player for Phoenix over the past two seasons, but he’s only shot 39.9 from the field (34.8% out of 3) this regular season. .
Crowder was 0 of 14 from 3 in the first three games of the first round against New Orleans.
He ended up going 3 of 26 in that series the Suns won in six games, but found his mark against Dallas by going 11 of 18 from deep in the first three games of the conference semifinals.
A streaky shooter, Crowder came down to earth from deep within this series.
He’s connected on just 3 of 12 threes in the last three games of the series Dallas won in seven.
Crowder scored a total of 17 points in those games on 5-for-19 shooting (26.3%) after averaging 15 points on 21-of-38 shooting (55.2%) through the first four games of the series .
Johnson also has some cold spells with his shot, but he’s a better 3 shooter than Crowder and has a bigger advantage in creating the rebound to score and create for others.
He has improved defensively, but still has a lot of room for improvement in this area. He struggled defensively against All-NBA First Team pick Luka Doncic and the Mavs.
Johnson running in transition benefits Phoenix because he can spot himself for 3 seconds, but getting possession is the most important thing.
There’s certainly room for improvement on the glass, too, for him.
Deandre Ayton’s future in Phoenix is the biggest talking point with him being a restricted free agent.
The signing and trade talks are in the atmosphere heading towards free will regarding the big man.
Given that the Suns can match any offer from another team (four years, $131 million) and pay him more than anyone else (five years, $177 million), they are still in control when it comes to concerns Ayton.
Whatever the Suns end up doing, this won’t be the last situation they face building a team after their season came to an abrupt end in the conference semifinals.
Johnson is part of that plan. How much is the question.
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