Nets Rising Star Floated as Offseason Trade Target for Upstart West Rival

Cameron Johnson, Brooklyn Nets

Getty Cameron Johnson #2 of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Brooklyn Nets could have an interested suitor this offseason for forward Cameron Johnson in the Houston Rockets.

“Both in style and in price, the Rockets may be the perfect team to acquire the former North Carolina sharpshooter this offseason,” explains Michael Shapiro of Chron. “Johnson is notably a restricted free agent this summer, and he could see a salary nearing $20 million in 2023-24 and beyond. The Nets have the right to match any offer for Johnson, but given their current standing outside the Eastern Conference’s top tier, there could be an opportunity at play. Brooklyn could choose to move Johnson in a sign-and-trade, where they could both preserve future salary space and recoup at least a modicum of draft capital in return.”

Johnson reportedly turned down an offer ranging from $66 to $72 million over four years from the Phoenix Suns this past offseason, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype who adds that they did not value the 6-foot-8 forward to the same extent as Mikal Bridges whom they gave a four-year, $90 million deal.

Bridges also came over in the deal that sent Kevin Durant to the Suns and has flashed stardom.

“Johnson’s market value is nowhere near Bridges,” Shapiro writes, “and he likely doesn’t sport a similar All-Star upside as his fellow former Suns’ rotation player.

“Let’s start with the skill-set. Johnson was somewhat of a surprise lottery selection at No. 11 in the 2019 NBA draft, but he quickly snagged a rotation spot with a 39 percent mark from three as a rookie. Johnson has shot at least 40.5 percent from beyond the arc in each of the last two seasons, and encouragingly, he’s showing some legitimate verve as an off-the-bounce driver. Johnson has defensive limitations—stuck sometimes between speedier wings and overpowering bigs—but he’s a plug-and-play offensive option with a seriously-smooth stroke.”

Cameron Johnson Adjusting to New Surroundings

Johnson has notably been open about the difficulties he’s encountered during his transition from the Suns to the Nets noting that many of the defensive principles he is learning in Brooklyn are “completely opposite” of what he was taught over his first four years in the league.

His shooting had been below his standards, though he was still scoring.

The 27-year-old forward is averaging 18.2 points – which would be a career-high over a full season – on 59% true shooting despite connecting on just 33% of his threes as a Net. Since knocking down 7-of-11 triples against the New York Knicks in a 142-118 loss, Johnson has hit just three of his last 16 looks from downtown.

Of course, given his track record and the Nets’ imperfect but promising roster, Johnson’s reputation as a floor-spacer should prevail.

“Adding Johnson to Houston’s current lineup would help alleviate the team’s current spacing issues,” argues Shapiro. “Add Johnson to a 2023-24 Rockets team with perhaps James Harden running the show, and you could see a player sniffing 20 points per game.”

While Harden’s desire to return to Houston is a relatively recent revelation, the Rockets have also been rumored to have an interest in both Bridges and Johnson

He has not had the eye-popping performances that Bridges has. But Johnson’s steadiness and other intangibles have caught his head coach’s attention.

Jacque Vaughn Praises Cameron Johnson’s Toughness

Johnson took a shot to the face during the win over the Charlotte Hornets on March 5 but remained in the game to complete his 11-point, 10-rebound effort. It was the 27-year-old’s first double-double of the season.

“[He’s] tough,” said Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn via the team’s official YouTube channel after the win. “A little blood. Get it wiped up…and get back in there. Love it. Love it.”

Vaughn has lauded the approach and potential of this group going so far as to suggest All-Star and All-Defensive selections could be in the future for some of them. As things continue to come together on the court, how the Nets plan to approach Johnson’s restricted free agency which could generate more interest than most on top of their financial situation.

His head coach certainly likes what he’s seen so far.

“He’s shown a little bit of everything,” Vaughn said, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “His ability to handle the basketball, play pick-and-roll. His ability to shoot the ball off the bounce in transition. So some things that I’m growing to understand and learn about him. “I feel comfortable putting the ball in his hands.”

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