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Suns rookie Cam Johnson definitely notices NBA having more space

Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson, center, goes to the basket past Sacramento Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, right, during the second of an NBA preseason basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

PHOENIX — There are many NBA Draft cliches that vary in terms of their legitimacy.

“His skills translate.”

“He’s got an NBA body.”

“He’s a true winner.”

“First guy in, last guy out.”

It’s a slippery slope, and one of them we often hear in terms of a benefit for players on offense specifically is the extra room the NBA game offers. There, quite simply, is more space.

That’s a benefit for rookies like Zion Williamson, for instance, who does a good chunk of his offensive work by slashing. There are more driving lanes open for him now in the league than there ever was at Duke.

But it’s also something that’s a particular bonus for a rookie like the Phoenix Suns’ Cam Johnson.

Johnson is the best shooter in the 2019 draft class, and with the added real estate, it creates more choices for defenses to make while also opening up those aforementioned angles to the rim for others if Johnson’s defender chooses to respect his jumper off the ball.

Again, though, this is something we hear way more in June around draft time than any other time of the season, so is it really a thing?

When Johnson was asked about if there is more space, he went further.

“Way more,” he quickly responded after practice on Saturday. “Way more. Yeah.”

On a play like this in the preseason finale against Denver — sure this is a blown coverage by the Nuggets — but look at how much space there is between Frank Kaminsky, Johnson and Ty Jerome.

Now, watch that clip again in a minute, this time with the added perspective of the shooting on the floor.

“We got shooters on the court,” Johnson said. “Sometimes we go five-deep with guys that can shoot the ball and it’s hard to guard.”

There’s a motion ran for Johnson on the bottom of the screen, with Kaminsky quickly coming off his screen for Jevon Carter to open space.

Kaminsky, a career 34.9% three-point shooter, comes into that pocket of space so the defense panics and over-rotates.

Then it’s Johnson, a 40.5% three-point shooter at North Carolina, and Jerome, a 39.2% three-point shooter at Virginia, there for the swing pass.

Once there’s one missed rotation — this one coming from Monte Morris who should have went to Johnson instead of Kaminsky — that defense is screwed.

Even if Michael Porter Jr. in the corner goes to Johnson instead of Jerome, Johnson will make the extra pass to Jerome and, again, they’re screwed.

Johnson can make that pass, even when he probably can get his shot off anyway.

And the Suns aren’t necessarily filled with sharpshooters, but those three plus Aron Baynes (34.4% last year), Devin Booker (career 35.4% shooter), Mikal Bridges (33.5% last season), Tyler Johnson (36.4% career shooter), Kelly Oubre Jr. (32.1% career shooter), Ricky Rubio (32.2% career shooter) and Dario Saric (35.8% career shooter) adds up to 10 guys you have to at least respect a little bit on defensive rotations to beyond the three-point line.

Johnson noticing the dimensions of the floor from the jump speaks to part of why the Suns like the rookie so much.

“There’s more room,” he said. “Spacing is a little bit better. Court is a little bit bigger. I’ve gotten some looks that I really, really appreciate.

“I could get used to getting some of those looks and I look to capitalize on them more so than I did in preseason.”

Perhaps Johnson’s most underrated trait in the pre-draft stages was his knack for running out in transition, sometimes as a ball-handler.

That’s another instance of having more leeway to operate in.

“Sometimes it opens up, sometimes it opens up for somebody else, sometimes it opens up for me as somebody else who’s running,” Johnson said.

“Guys can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court in this league and every team understands that, and naturally, it just draws people to different spots on the floor.”

TWITTER GAME STRONG

It was nice to see Booker back on his strong Twitter game Friday, joking around with a SportsCenter tweet that phrased a graphic like Booker had not ever reached 70 points scoring in a game.

After a summer that was the biggest yet in terms of Booker receiving criticism in that world, from double-team nonsense to Team USA nonsense, Booker is still going to have his fun online.

“I was just messing around,” he said.

“People want to see personality, reactions. I think the people that follow us like to see that.”

Hear, hear!

LIGHT PRACTICE

Saturday was a light day of practice for the Suns as they continue to fill this elongated time in-between the end of the preseason and the start of the season on Wednesday.

They had a tough, physical practice on Wednesday followed by an even more demanding one on Thursday that came with a day off on Friday.

Head coach Monty Williams said on Wednesday it was grouped as a light, medium and high three-day chain they went through from Tuesday to Thursday, looking at Saturday to Monday as the same before a more relaxed and gameplan-oriented run-through on Tuesday.

When asked on Saturday if Williams felt the team is ready for Wednesday…

“It’s Saturday,” he said. “I’m ready for Sunday.”

The ole’ one day at a time.

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