The Brooklyn Nets better be prepared to do what it takes to keep this group together.
No decision is more key than what happens with restricted free agent Cameron Johnson. A restricted free agent this offseason, Johnson is expected to generate enough interest from other teams that things could get interesting.
“I think Detroit targets Jerami [Grant] and at least throws an offer sheet at Cam Johnson and goes after the two biggest 3-and-D wings available,” speculated The Athletic Pistons beat writer James Edwards on the ‘HoopsHype Podcast’ on June 9. “I think Brooklyn would probably match whatever realistic offer they get.”
The second half of Edwards’ statement jibes with previous reports that the Nets were indeed prepared to match any “reasonable” offers Johnson might receive in free agency.
It also fits with comments made by Nets general manager Sean Marks.
“He’s a big priority for us, Marks told reporters via the Nets’ YouTube channel during his end-of-season presser on April 23. “There’s no question there.”
Johnson averaged 16.6 points in 25 appearances for the Nets after coming over from the Phoenix Suns in a trade package for Kevin Durant. That would have been a career-high for the 27-year-old forward and came on 61% true shooting as he sunk 37.2% of his threes, adding 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.4 steals all of which would have set new career benchmarks.
He was even better in the postseason, albeit in a sweep, averaging 18.5 points, 5.8 boards, and 2.8 assists while shooting 42.9% from deep. But the reality is that production comes at the best time for Johnson and could put the Nets in a bit of a bind.
Cameron Johnson ‘Will Command Top Dollar’
“Regarding Cam Johnson…around four years, $90 million was his projection,” Michael Scotto of HoopsHype said in response.
That also fits with reporting from Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
“A 6-foot-8 wing who can shoot 40 percent from deep with solid defense will command top dollar,” Lewis reported on March 11. “Sources say his floor is $18 million annually, and could easily top $20 million.”
Detroit has just under $30 million in cap space, per Spotrac, while Brooklyn is roughly $15.6 million below the luxury tax line. The Pistons aren’t any close to contending for a title than the Nets are so their only true appeal would be more money since they already have Cade Cunningham in place as the face of the franchise.
Johnson could step up and be the trusted, experienced veteran of that group.
Previous reports from Scotto and Kelly Iko of The Athletic also have the Houston Rockets – who have the most money to spend this summer – as a team who could look to sign Johnson to an offer sheet while the Indiana Pacers have also been floated as a potential suitor.
Breaking Up The Band
Of course, chasing the bag could mean leaving his friend and “twin”, Mikal Bridges who is already under contract through the 2026 season on a four-year, $90 million deal.
“That’s my twin. I haven’t played an NBA game without him,” Johnson said during his exit interview via the Nets’ YouTube channel on April 23. “I mean the guy that I came into the league alongside of, and somebody that I’ve grown close to. I value those people in my life. And he is a good teammate to have…The continued opportunity to play with him would be very cool to me.”
That benchmark is one the Suns were said to be unwilling to approach for Johnson. But, under the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, a starting salary of $18 million per season would be 13.4% of the $134 million salary cap for the 2023-24 season.