“Obviously, combining a couple players, there’s some things we have to iron out,” Johnson said on the Nets’ off-day, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “But I think the core of what we have, and what we’re trying to do, I think it’s pretty special. We’ve got guys that compete, guys that play hard and you’re gonna start seeing us build this thing together.”
Johnson has been one of the more outspoken individuals in this new group.
He’s also been one of the primary culprits in their offensive struggles, and more specifically their perimeter shooting has not lived up to expectations despite a starting lineup that boasts multiple deep-threat options.
The 6-foot-8 pending restricted free agent is averaging a healthy 16.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.4 steals since coming over in a trade from the Phoenix Suns.
A 39.1%-career three-point shooter, he has hit just 34.2% of those looks in Brooklyn.
“The frustrating thing is just when [shots] don’t go in,” Johnson said via the YES Network’s YouTube channel after the Nets’ loss to the Denver Nuggets on March 19. “It’s life as a basketball player. If it was easy, everybody would be shooting threes and making them. So, you got to weather the storms and continue to shoot.”
To Johnson’s credit, he has connected on 36.4% of his deep looks over the last six games, perhaps offering hope for the Nets as a whole on both ends of the floor.
Cameron Johnson Preaching Patience on Both Ends
He has also been outspoken about a Nets’ defense that ranks 18th, since Johnson first entered the starting lineup, per NBA.com – a starting lineup that is keeping that defensive rating afloat ranking in the 85th percentile, per Cleaning The Glass.
“Defense is defense,” he via the team’s official YouTube channel after the loss to the Atlanta Hawks on February 26. “You got to stop the other team. But once we kind of iron out those instances where you’re reacting a quarter of a second later, I think our defense will be a lot sharper. Once that becomes instinct, once we’re planning on that there’s a couple rotations that I know personally over the last five games that I’ve missed just because I’m kind of caught in the middle ground where my mind is reverting back to old habits. But I think it’s getting better.”
Their offense ranks in the 28th percentile, though, leaving plenty of room for improvement with just 10 games remaining in the regular season entering Thursday’s tilt with the Cleveland Cavaliers who won the last matchup just two days before.
The two teams have split the season series so far with this final matchup breaking the tie.
Impact of Nets’ Success on Cameron Johnson’s Future
Johnson’s restricted free agency is unique in that his talent and age should warrant more interest than most players in that situation. That puts the Nets in an interesting situation heading into a pivotal offseason.
“[Cameron Johnson‘s] tight relationship with [Mikal] Bridges, positional value and status as part of the Durant deal make him hard to let escape,” writes Lewis. “A 6-foot-8 wing who can shoot 40% from deep with solid defense will command top dollar. Sources say his floor is $18 million annually, and could easily top $20 million.”
If Bridges goes, it is not hard to envision a world where the Nets are looking to move Johnson in a separate deal to further replenish their assets with an eye toward the future.