After suffering a frustrating seven-game Western Conference Semifinals loss to the Mavericks, the Suns face some key rotation decisions during a 2022 offseason that arrived earlier than expected. One of those decisions involves Cameron Johnson, eligible for his rookie contract extension this summer. Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic examines whether or not it would behoove Phoenix to extend Johnson this year, and whether he should be moved into the team’s starting rotation for the start of the 2022/23 season.
Johnson, the No. 11 pick out of North Carolina in 2020, proved to be a key contributor off the bench for the Suns during the team’s 64-18 season. He averaged a career-high 12.5 PPG on .460/.425/.860 shooting from the floor, while chipping in a career-best 4.1 RPG, 1.5 APG and 0.9 SPG. Johnson also was the first player promoted to a starting role when All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker missed three postseason games due to a hamstring injury.
Rankin predicts that Johnson could earn between $15-20MM annually on an extension, and points to the fact that the Suns reached rookie extension agreements with two of its three most important extension-eligible young players during the 2021 offseason. Jae Crowder started ahead of Johnson at power forward in his 80 games of regular season availability, but as he embarks on the last season of the three-year, $30MM contract he inked with the Suns in 2020, Rankin wonders if a Johnson extension would eventually necessitate the younger player’s move into the starting five over Crowder.
There’s more out of the Pacific Division:
- The Kings, who have not made the playoffs since 2006, are believed to be on the hunt for a “win-now player” using their lottery pick, league sources inform Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Sacramento owns the fourth pick in this year’s draft, and could either draft an NBA-ready player or use the selection in a trade to acquire a veteran who could grow with the team’s current core.
- Thanks to successive seasons as an assistant coach with the Clippers and now the Warriors, former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson has joined the ranks of top assistants vying for head coaching vacancies once again, as Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com writes. Atkinson was in the running late to become the new Lakers head coach, and is a major contender to be the prime shot-caller for the Hornets. “It’s a great experience being considered (for head coaching jobs), but, man, I’m in such a great place — not only from basketball, but from a living in California, the Bay Area, the whole thing,” Atkinson said of his current gig as a Golden State assistant under head coach Steve Kerr. “So it almost takes the pressure off when you’re really in a good situation. I mean, I’m still competitive, and I try to do my best in interviewing and everything, but also in the back of my mind I’m saying, like, man, if I don’t get another shot, I’m in a great, great situation.”
- The Lakers, who may need to replace as many as seven now-free agent players from its 2021/22 roster, got an in-person look at several free agents on Tuesday, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link). McMenamin reports that free agents Alize Johnson, Langston Galloway, Kyle Guy, Louis King and D.J. Wilson were in attendance for a workout.