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Cam Johnson breaks down lessons learned, improvement from 2020-21 season

The Suns’ backup forward had a year to remember in his second season

2021 NBA Finals - Practice and Media Availability Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Phoenix Suns backup forward Cameron Johnson has thrown down a number of eye-popping dunks throughout his basketball career. But the top-ranked slam on his list?

He says it had to be his one-handed tomahawk over former Sun PJ Tucker in Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. It was part of a 10-point quarter for Johnson, though he was disappointed at the Suns’ end result, a 120-100 loss to Milwaukee in Game 3 that was one of four straight defeats in the series for Phoenix.

“It was on the biggest stage that I’ve ever played on, personally,” Johnson said to the PHNX Suns podcast. “And the most unfortunate part of that was we started to get a little bit of momentum back and we just narrowly missed closing the gap to keep it a close game.”

The Suns also narrowly missed out on an NBA title, falling to Milwaukee in six games despite leading the series 2-0. It was a journey Johnson said “had a lot of positive experiences” but still “hurts a lot not being able to come up with the ring on the finger.”

Regardless, Johnson and the Suns had a lot to celebrate for their 2020-21 season. After missing the playoffs for 10 consecutive years, Phoenix broke through and had a dominant postseason run, racing past the 2020 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in six games, sweeping the Denver Nuggets and ending the Los Angeles Clippers’ run in six during the Western Conference Finals.

Johnson, who was in his second NBA season, was arguably the Suns’ best wing during the final two rounds of the playoffs. He exceeded double figures in scoring in seven of Phoenix’s final 11 postseason games and had impactful defensive moments, earning him at least 20 minutes played in eight of the Suns’ last 11 playoff contests.

Asked about his growth, Johnson said it stemmed from “a greater understanding of the game” and “expanding skill sets to certain areas.”

“That happens naturally,” Johnson said. “It happened in high school, it happened in college, and it was a point where Earlier in my career at those levels, I was a guy that shot 3(-pointers), did what the coaches asked, tried to not be a liability and then pitch in on top of that. But as I grew at those levels and became the guy that did a lot more for the team, like you said. Accessory to a necessity.”

Johnson will certainly be a necessity for the Suns this season, perhaps at multiple positions. Phoenix lost former backup forward Torrey Craig in free agency and backup forward Dario Saric will be out for most of the year with a torn ACL, so it is possible that Johnson could receive even more minutes.

Regardless of his role, Johnson said “competition for myself (and) competition around the league will continue to drive him.”

“You add on top of that the success of a team, being able to be a part of something that’s bigger than myself but be part of a Phoenix Suns team that over the course of two years, kind of flipped our record around and went from a team that people didn’t take too seriously to a team that people take very seriously. So all of those things combined, and it’s just very fun.”

For more from Johnson’s interview, check out this full YouTube video from the PHNX Suns Podcast.