Cam Johnson unable to reach extension agreement with Suns, per report

Oct 17, 2022, 3:06 PM | Updated: 3:06 pm

Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson, right, drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks forward ...

Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson, right, drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith (10) during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Phoenix Suns and Cam Johnson were unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension prior to Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Johnson, in the last year of his first contract, will now be a restricted free agent next summer.

This is the same deadline the Suns were able to extend wing Mikal Bridges before last season but were unable to sign Deandre Ayton prior to. Bridges inked a four-year, $90 million deal while Ayton went to restricted free agency, where he signed a four-year, $133 million offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers that the Suns quickly matched this summer.

The 26-year-old Johnson is coming off his best year yet. He was a Sixth Man of the Year finalist, averaging career highs across the board with 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.9 steals per game while shooting 46.0% from the field, 42.5% at 3-point range and 86.0% on free throws.

Johnson entered the 2022-23 season having earned the right to compete for the starting power forward position held by Jae Crowder the last two seasons, a spot Johnson now owns after Crowder and the Suns agreed that Crowder would be away from the team. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the two sides have been working out a trade for Crowder.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Crowder was told he might lose his starting spot to Johnson and The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported Crowder, in the last year of his deal, was also seeking a contract extension.

Johnson’s numbers as a starter last season back up the commitment to move him into the starting lineup.

In 16 starting games, Johnson averaged 16.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game while shooting 49.2% from the field and 42.0% at 3-point range. More importantly, Johnson took 7.4 triples a game over that decent-sized sample size and has established himself as one of the best shooters in basketball.

Johnson was the No. 11 selection in the 2019 NBA Draft, a highly criticized pick at the time given the view that Johnson was projected more consistently in the late first round than the late lottery. A lot of that had to do with what some draft experts saw as a lack of high-end potential in a five-year college player who spent three years at Pittsburgh and another two with North Carolina.

Ever since the pick, though, Johnson has been proving those doubters wrong.

While his offensive output as a sharpshooter has met the billing, Johnson’s improvement in all other areas has been even more important. His athleticism was seen as one of his biggest weaknesses but he has developed into one of the Suns’ better athletes. At 6-foot-8, Johnson has shown the desired combination of quickness and strength in NBA wings, gifts he has used to become a much better defender than expected. All of that growth has come consistently, as Johnson has proved he gets better each year.

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