Cameron Johnson

Suns Notes: Paul, Ayton, Booker, Johnson

The Suns‘ season ended in embarrassing fashion on Sunday night in Game 7 at home vs. Dallas, falling behind by 30 points by halftime and trailing by as many as 46 in the second half before losing by a score of 123-90. After yet another Game 7 loss for Chris Paul, the 37-year-old point guard made it clear he has every intention of returning to Phoenix next season and trying to right the ship.

“You play long enough and you don’t win, every time you lose, they’re going to say it was your best chance,” Paul said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “But I think for me, us, it’s we’ll be right back next year. I’ll tell you that much. I’m not retiring tomorrow, thank God. Hopefully, I’m healthy coming back. But I’m (going to) keep playing.”

Paul had a poor showing on Sunday, recording just 10 points and four assists and failing to score his first field goal until the Suns were down by 40 points. He played through a left quad injury that limited his mobility, sources tell ESPN’s McMenamin and Marc J. Spears (Twitter link).

In his post-game comments to reporters, Suns head coach Monty Williams took responsibility for the Suns’ sluggish performance and for the loss, but Paul said the blame should fall on his own shoulders.

“I think we just came out and just didn’t have enough,” Paul said, according to McMenamin. “I think Mont said that’s on him, but I think that’s on me, as the point guard, the leader of the team. To come out and make sure you’re getting the right shots and all that.”

Paul has a $28.4MM guaranteed salary for next season, followed by a partially guaranteed $30.8MM salary in ’23/24 and a non-guaranteed $30MM salary in ’24/25.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Suns center Deandre Ayton was pulled early in the third quarter on Sunday and didn’t return to the game after exchanging words with Williams on the sidelines, according to McMenamin, who notes that the former No. 1 overall pick logged just 17 minutes, the third-fewest minutes he has played in a game since entering the league.
  • Asked after the game about the reason for Ayton’s limited playing time, Williams curtly responded, “It’s internal.” It’s an ominous ending to the season for Ayton, who will be a restricted free agent this summer and will likely be seeking a maximum-salary contract or something close to it.
  • Ayton’s upcoming free agency will be the primary focus for the Suns this summer, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) details in his offseason preview. With Ayton up for a new deal and Devin Booker and Cameron Johnson both eligible for extensions, Phoenix’s roster could start to get very expensive, Marks observes.
  • In his own preview of the Suns’ offseason, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype also examines potential new contracts for Ayton, Booker, and Johnson.
  • The Suns could have used injured forward Dario Saric in their series vs. Dallas, suggests John Hollinger of The Athletic, writing that the team was ultimately undone by its lack of perimeter lineups to counteract the Mavericks’ “space ball” approach. Dallas often employed lineups with five capable three-point shooters, reducing the defensive impact of Suns centers Ayton and JaVale McGee.

Pacific Notes: Thompson, Wiseman, CP3, Johnson, Covington

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he and the team’s training staff feel good about Klay Thompson‘s health status, and that fatigue isn’t a factor in Thompson’s shooting slump, per Kendra Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link). Thompson has shot 11-for-38 from the field in the first two games against Memphis, including 5-of-22 from deep and 0-of-2 from the line, but he did hit a crucial go-ahead three-pointer late in Game 1.

Kerr also said that no matter how far the Warriors advance in the playoffs, they won’t consider playing James Wiseman, who was ruled out for the season at the end of March (Twitter link via Marc J. Spears of Andscape). Wiseman had a couple of knee surgeries over the past 13 months and experienced some setbacks in his rehab.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • John Hollinger of The Athletic details how Suns star Chris Paul has been dominating the playoffs. Paul, who turned 37 today, is averaging ridiculous numbers through eight games: 22.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 9.9 assists (against 1.6 turnovers) and 1.6 steals on .580/.333/.970 shooting. He’s shooting 67.4% on twos. That is not a typo. Paul’s been arguably the best player in the postseason to this point, says Hollinger. (Side note: Paul has seven turnovers in the first half of Game 3 against the Mavericks, which is in progress. That figure represents a career-high for a half, Dwain Price of tweets. The Suns currently trail 51-44.)
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams has been working with Cameron Johnson on his post play recently, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic relays. “Just teaching him how to use his strength a little bit,” Williams said. “He’s got some tools down there. Just talking to him about balance and footwork and stuff like that.” Johnson is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. He was a finalist for the Sixth Man of the Year award, which went to Tyler Herro.
  • Robert Covington‘s newly-inked two-year, $24MM extension with the Clippers is fully guaranteed, with no option in the second year, reports Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times (via Twitter).

NBA Announces 2021/22 Award Finalists

The NBA has announced the 2021/22 season award finalists for the league’s six major awards: Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2022 NBA Award Picks]

The awards were voted on by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. The three top vote-getters for each award are the finalists. They are as follows:

Most Valuable Player:

Rookie of the Year:

Sixth Man of the Year:

Coach of the Year:

  • Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies)
  • Erik Spoelstra (Heat)
  • Monty Williams (Suns)

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player:

Winners will be announced during TNT’s coverage of the NBA playoffs, according to the league.

Suns Notes: Booker, Paul, Johnson, Williams

When asked at a recent Suns press conference if he should be considered in the 2022 MVP debate, Phoenix All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker had a pretty concise response, per Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

“Yes,” Booker said simply. And for good reason.

After All-Star Suns point guard Chris Paul recently sat out Phoenix’s first 15 games following the All-Star break due to a thumb injury, Booker emerged as the team’s leader and the Suns barely missed a beat. Booker has an argument to be a fringe MVP contender, as potentially the best player on the best team in the NBA.

The 6’5″ wing averaged 30.3 PPG across his 11 contests played during Paul’s absence, and the Suns went 8-3 in those games. For the year, the three-time All-Star is averaging 26.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG and 5.0 APG, on .462/.375/.870 shooting. The 25-year-old is the leading scorer for the team that has already clinched the best record in the NBA (60-14 and counting) and will retain its home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

There’s more out of Phoenix:

  • Chris Paul expressed his excitement upon returning to the Suns following his 15 games spent on the sideline as he rehabilitated from his right thumb fracture, per Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “I’ve been playing pickup like 3-on-3, 2-on-2, (but) 5-on-5 is totally different, especially when your first game back in Denver,” Paul said. The 12-time All-Star scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor and logged a game-most 13 dimes in a 140-130 Suns win over the Nuggets on Thursday. “I still have a little ways to go, but it was good to get out there and play,” Paul said. “We missed him,” Booker added.
  • Cameron Johnson‘s right quad contusion will sideline him for a 12th consecutive game today, but he’s nearing a return to the floor for Phoenix, writes Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Phoenix head coach Monty Williams revealed that Johnson had no limitations in the club’s most recent practice. “He did everything today. He looked pretty good as far as getting up and down the floor,” Williams said. “He’s not in a situation or a in a position to say he’s playing in the next couple of days. Still got to wait and see how his body responds to days like today.” 
  • The Suns believe head coach Williams deserves 2022 Coach of the Year honors, per Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “It shouldn’t even be close,” Chris Paul opined. “No disrespect to all those other coaches and what they’re doing, but what are you watching if this man doesn’t get Coach of the Year?” Phoenix has weathered its fair share of extended injuries absences to key players like Paul and Deandre Ayton, and has remained head-and-shoulders the best team in the league by record. Williams, of course, guided the Suns to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993 during his second season with the team last year. “He should’ve had it last year,” small forward Mikal Bridges said. “We won’t go there, but we’re the best team by far right now, record-wise. Yeah, it should be a no-brainer.”

Suns Notes: Ayton, CP3, Johnson

Deandre Ayton is having another strong season for the Suns, and Evan Sidery of wonders if the center will finally get his bag from Phoenix.

Ayton will be a restricted free agent this summer in a weak class, and Sidery thinks it’s inevitable that one of the rebuilding teams with cap space will offer Ayton a four-year, maximum-salary contract. Sidery points to the Thunder, Spurs and Pistons as possibilities.

The question is, will the Suns match that offer? They can offer Ayton more years (five) and more money than other teams, but were reluctant to give him the max prior to the season.

Through 45 games (29.6 minutes) this season, Ayton is averaging 16.8 points, 10 rebounds and 1.4 assists on .642/.385/.718 shooting. The 38.5% from deep is deceptive, as he’s only attempted 13 threes all season, but he’s still a highly efficient scorer with great footwork.

Ayton has also continued his impressive defense from last season’s run to the Finals, Sidery writes. Ayton, Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are the only centers in the league allowing less than 45% of the shots they defend to end in points (min. 15 shots per game).

Here are a few more notes from Phoenix:

  • Chris Paul won a team shooting contest Friday morning for the Suns, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “He kicked our ass. He beat us today. It was cool to see him out there. I was actually surprised. I didn’t think he was going to be out here shooting, but that’s a good sign,” Cameron Payne said. Paul is currently sidelined with a fractured thumb that he suffered last month and is scheduled to be reevaluated in early-to-mid April.
  • Suns coach Monty Williams tempered expectations of a potential early return for Paul, per Rankin. “It’s awesome, but I wouldn’t get too excited about it,” Williams said before Friday’s game. “It’s just part of a normal progression for that type of injury. We’re happy about it, but we have to temper it until he’s able to get to 1-on-1, 3-on-3, 5-on-5.”
  • Forward Cameron Johnson scored a career-high 38 points last Friday against the Knicks, including a three at the buzzer to win the game, but he’s missed four straight games since then. As Rankin writes in a separate article for the Arizona Republic, Johnson suffered a right quad contusion in the game after getting kneed by Mitchell Robinson as the Knicks center was contesting a shot. Williams said Johnson likely won’t practice Saturday, so his status for Sunday’s game against the Lakers sounds doubtful. Johnson is averaging career-highs of 12.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 26.3 minutes this season. He sports a stellar shooting line of .475/.448/.873. As a third-year former first-round pick, Johnson is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.

Pacific Notes: Wiseman, Suns, Payne, Lakers

Despite rumors that he might be ready to return at the start of March, Warriors center James Wiseman remains sidelined for now. He’s with Golden State on the four-game road trip that begins tonight so that he can practice and scrimmage with the team, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, who tweets that head coach Steve Kerr continues to take a “day-to-day” approach with Wiseman’s rehab. There’s still no target date for his season debut.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer contends that Chris Paul‘s absence due to a hand injury could be a “blessing in disguise” for the Suns as long as it doesn’t extend into the postseason. As O’Connor explains, a number of other Suns will get a chance to handle the ball with Paul sidelined, which could allow the team to experiment a little and add a new layer to its offense.
  • Suns point guard Cameron Payne did some 3-on-3, 4-on-4, and a little 5-on-5 work on Monday, head coach Monty Williams told reporters today (video link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic). The team is hoping Payne can return from his right wrist injury soon, with Williams noting that the plan would be for the veteran guard to displace Cameron Johnson in the starting lineup (Twitter link via Rankin).
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link) questions why the Lakers didn’t complete a salary-dump trade involving DeAndre Jordan prior to last month’s deadline if they were just going to eventually waive him anyway. As Hollinger points out, the Lakers could’ve sent out cash with Jordan, essentially paying him another team to take him. Doing so would’ve reduced L.A.’s tax bill by about $5MM, so the team still would’ve come out ahead financially.

Suns Exercise Cameron Johnson’s 2022/23 Option

The Suns have picked up their fourth-year team option on Cameron Johnson‘s rookie scale contract, sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link).

The move locks in Johnson’s $5,887,899 salary for the 2022/23 season. The 25-year-old forward will now be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2022 offseason. If he doesn’t sign a new deal at that point, he’d be eligible for restricted free agency in 2023.

Johnson, the 11th overall pick in the 2019 draft, was a regular member of the rotation for the Suns team that made the Western Conference Finals in 2020/21. He averaged 9.6 PPG and 3.3 RPG in 60 regular season games (24.0 MPG), then put up 8.2 PPG and 3.1 RPG with a .446 3PT% in 21 playoff contests (21.1 MPG).

The Suns also have an option decision to make on second-year center Jalen Smith, as we noted earlier today. Phoenix hasn’t yet picked up Smith’s option, according to Fischer, though that doesn’t mean the team won’t do so before today’s deadline.

[UPDATE: Suns Declining Option On Jalen Smith]

Pacific Notes: Gasol, Drummond, Thompson, Wiseman, Johnson

The Lakers’ signing of Andre Drummond after the trade deadline soured the franchise’s relationship with Marc Gasol, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic (Twitter link). Gasol lost his starting job and that created a rift that could not be resolved, Oram adds. Gasol was traded to the Grizzlies on Friday, though he’ll be waived and will remain in Spain with his family.

Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register runs with the same theme, noting that Gasol called his season with the Lakers “chaotic.” The Lakers signaled this week that Gasol wouldn’t return when they signed DeAndre Jordan.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers are sending their own 2024 pick with no protections in the Gasol deal with the Grizzlies, Bobby Marks of ESPN confirms (via Twitter). The Grizzlies are also receiving $250K in the deal, Marks adds.
  • There will be plenty of pressure on Klay Thompson and James Wiseman to produce for the Warriors during the upcoming season, Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. It’s unlikely that the Warriors’ floor-spacing will improve until Thompson’s return, and they need Wiseman to develop into a frontcourt force in order to become a contender again.
  • Suns wing Cameron Johnson has changed representation, hiring agents Ty Sullivan, Steve Heumann, Melvin Booker and Simone Capers of CAA Basketball, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Johnson, who is entering his third season in the league, averaged 8.2 PPG in 21 game during Phoenix’s postseason run to the Finals. Johnson, a 2019 lottery pick, is extension-eligible next offseason. Melvin Booker is Devin Booker‘s father.

Suns Notes: Paul, Johnson, Booker, NBA Finals

The NBA’s over-38 rule will give the Suns an advantage over the Knicks if they get into a bidding war for Chris Paul, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Berman cites a report from ESPN’s Bobby Marks that says Phoenix will be able to offer the 36-year-old a four-year contract if he opts out this summer, while other teams are limited to three years because of the age provision.

Marks expects the Suns to make a three-year, $100MM offer to the veteran point guard, who has them headed to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993. If the Knicks try to match it, Phoenix would be able to add a fourth season.

Paul is a former CAA client of Knicks president Leon Rose, who has been wanting to acquire him since taking over the team in March of 2020. Paul preferred to be closer to his son in Los Angeles, according to Berman, so the Thunder sent him to Phoenix in a sign-and-trade.

There’s more on the Suns:

  • Paul’s right hand is feeling better after a few days of rest, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. After Phoenix closed out the Clippers in the Western Conference finals, Paul revealed that he had been playing with partially torn ligaments in the hand. The Suns haven’t played since Wednesday while waiting to see if they will face the Bucks or the Hawks next. “Each day that we’ve had off has been really good, and we all get a chance to rest up a little bit before we get it going again,” Paul said.
  • Cameron Johnson wasn’t available for Game 6 against L.A. because of a non-COVID illness, but he should be ready for the start of the NBA Finals, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “He’s fine. He was ready to go and we found out that same day,” coach Monty Williams said. “It wasn’t anything earth shattering about the whole deal. He was just sick.”
  • Paul and Devin Booker are the betting favorites to be named Finals MVP, according to Alex Kennedy of (Twitter link).

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Paschall, Clippers, Lakers Closers

Suns forward Cameron Johnson has opted to not disclose the origins of the nasal fracture he incurred during an April 16 team practice, writes Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

“It’s over now,” Johnson allowed in speaking about the injury. “Can’t go back in time and change it or anything. It just happened and [you’ve] just got to keep on going.” The Suns recently clinched their first playoff berth since 2010, and Johnson has been a key component of their rotation, averaging 23.9 MPG across 56 contests.

“It’s totally on me,” Suns coach Monty Williams said of the root cause of the injury. “I control the practices. Put him in harm’s way. It happens in practice. It happens when you get together. It’s totally on me.”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors have provided a new timeline on the availability of power forward Eric Paschall, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Golden State hopes to have Paschall back on the floor near the end of its current four-game road trip, which concludes against the Pelicans on May 4. Paschall has been sidelined with a hip flexor strain since the beginning of the month.
  • Though ailing Clippers starters Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley were able to take part in L.A.’s shootaround before a 109-101 loss to the Suns on Wednesday, the team does not exactly know when either player will return, per Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register. Leonard is dealing with a sore foot and Beverley is recovering from a hand fracture. Head coach Tyronn Lue allowed that Beverley at least had made “great progress,” but could not provide a definitive window for either player’s return to the court.
  • As the playoffs near, Jovan Buha of The Athletic assesses the best bet for a fully healthy Lakers closing lineup. Within his mailbag, Buha also appraises which players could be the best fit for potential substitutions in that lineup depending on the opponent. The biggest sticking point, despite the Lakers’ complete overhaul at the center position this season, is that Anthony Davis should play at center down the home stretch in any variation.