“Prediction: Johnson signs with the Indiana Pacers,” writes Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report.
Johnson, 27, is a restricted free agent and there has been mutual interest expressed in continuing a relationship that got just 30 games to figure out a lot of different things. The Nets have the right of first refusal but, with some projecting that he could garner a deal worth $90 million, things could get interesting.
“Restricted free agency isn’t always the funnest journey for NBA players, but it sounds like Cameron Johnson could enjoy the heck out of it,” notes Buckley.
“Interest in Johnson figures to be sky-high. Few teams, if any, have enough two-way wings right now. The Rockets are expected to have interest in him…but they are one of only several suitors.”
There are a few cap-rich teams that could make things interesting for them and Indiana could be one of them with a couple of cost-cutting moves. The Pacers project to be $2.7 million over the cap next season, per Spotrac. But they can get that number upwards of $20 million by renouncing the cap holds of George Hill and Lance Stephenson.
That’s a lot of money for a non-title-contender like the Pacers or this version of the Nets.
“Johnson could justify that cost, though,” Buckley insists. “He has emerged as one of the Association’s better three-and-D wings while perhaps growing the rest of his game in such a way that he might be shedding that label. He is creating more offense for himself and his teammates while setting career-highs in points (15.5) and field-goal percentage (47) with a career-low in turnover percentage (6.6), per Basketball Reference.”
Johnson was second on the team averaging 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists on .509/.429/.857 shooting splits in the postseason.
There are other factors at play, however.
Sean Marks, Cameron Johnson Discuss Future Together
“I haven’t fully developed that plan yet,” Johnson said during his end-of-season press conference on April 23 via the Nets’ YouTube channel. “I haven’t fully developed that plan yet. One thing I’ve learned this year from the summer on to now is that the business will be the business, and everybody acts accordingly in that aspect. So, in my case, I will do whatever I determine and my family and representatives determine is best for my future. Whether that’s being here, somewhere else I can’t fully say.”
Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn seemed to intimate that Bridges would be a building block. Additionally, Nets general manager Sean Marks met with the media for his exit interview and made no bones about his desire to bring Johnson back into the fold while being sure to respect the process.
Johnson previously rejected an offer worth up to a reported $72 million over four years from the Phoenix Suns before he was traded. He said he will weigh several factors when making his decisions including that he would like to continue playing alongside Mikal Bridges.
Will the Pacers call Marks’ and Johnson’s bluffs?
Nets Linked to Another East Rival’s Star
The Nets are also being mentioned as a team looking to do some poaching of their own, albeit in the form of a trade with a rival general manager linking them to Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam who could be on the trade block as his team begins a new era without former head coach Nick Nurse at the helm.
“They’ll be looking for a scorer, a true No. 1 option,” one Eastern Conference GM told Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney. “We’ll have to see who becomes available but they will get in the mix…Pascal Siakam, they would have to have interest there.”
Of course, if the Nets are looking into adding someone like the 29-year-old Siakam, they would likely want to retain Johnson as well.
That’s when the money could truly be the final straw.