Nets Urged to Make ‘No Brainer’ Decision on Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson, Brooklyn Nets

Getty Cameron Johnson #2 of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Brooklyn Nets shouldn’t need much time to make a decision on restricted free agent Cameron Johnson.

“While Mikal Bridges shined brightest among the players the Phoenix Suns sent to Brooklyn in the Kevin Durant deal, Cameron Johnson wasn’t too far behind,” writes Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report. “There should be substantial interest in Johnson…but the Nets have the right to match any offer sheet he inks, so they control his level of flight risk. If they want to remain competitive, bringing him back is a no-brainer.”

Buckley lists Johnson’s flight risk as “medium-low” since they can control if he leaves.

But, to his point about the potential interest in the 27-year-old, that does not mean one of even the few cap-rich teams this coming offseason won’t make things at least a little interesting by offering top dollar right out of the gates.

“You’ve got to figure out what the number is going to be for Cam Johnson,” said ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks in a video breakdown on April 22. “Restricted free agent. You have the right to match an offer sheet. Five or six teams that have significant cap space [this offseason]. Does a team like Houston come in and give them four for $90 [million], which is a big number? They can do that and go out and still have a max slot to go out and get James Harden for example. You go and get Cam Johnson, James Harden that’s a nice offseason for the Rockets here.”

Marks says Johnson is the Nets’ second highest priority behind getting Ben Simmons back healthy and on the floor.

It could get to be an expensive priority very quickly.

“The Phoenix Suns discussed a contract extension spanning four years between $66 and $72 million with forward Cameron Johnson at different points before the start of the season,” writes Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “It’s worth noting the Suns previously extended Mikal Bridges on a four-year, $90 million deal, and there are executives around the league who don’t believe the Suns want to go anywhere near that range to keep Cam Johnson.”

Given that the Nets got Johnson for giving up Durant, they could be operating under a different mindset than the Suns who had taken the chance on him with the No. 11 overall pick in 2019 and helped develop him.

Cameron Johnson Taking Pragmatic Approach to Free Agency

“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.”

It makes sense for him to leave his options as open as possible.

Johnson is set to buck a relative trend of restricted free agency not being the most beneficial scenario for players or teams. Prospective teams are often reluctant to tie up their cap space for up to 48 hours while the incumbent team makes its decision leaving players in limbo.

For what it’s worth, Nets general manager Sean Marks made his desire to keep Johnson with the team perfectly clear.

The 6-foot-8, sweet-shooting Johnson is still young enough to fit a pre-existing rebuild at 27 years old and experienced enough to be relied upon in the postseason.

He averaged 16.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.4 steals – all of which would have been career-best marks – in 25 regular-season appearances with the Nets on a .468/.372/.851 slash line. And he was even better in the postseason posting an 18.5/5.8/2.8 line on .509/.429/.857 efficiency in the Nets’ 4-1 first-round playoff series loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Nets Might Need to Keep Cameron Johnson

If there is one concern – other than perhaps his age for some teams – is that he has missed at least 16 games each season since he entered the league including 38 games following surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

However, Johnson is also close with the closest thing the Nets have to a star at the moment in Bridges.

“Yeah, I’d say so,” Johnson said via the Nets’ YouTube channel on April 23. “That’s my twin. I haven’t played an NBA game without him literally because he’s been in all of them. Bar maybe one preseason game I think I played a preseason game or two without him. But, yeah, 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. He does little things. He plays hard, defends, and can help cover up a lot of stuff. So the continued opportunity to play with him would be very cool to me.”

The ball truly is in the Nets’ court.