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Most Improved Shooter? Cam Johnson makes his case

Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson is realizing his potential and has become one of the best shooters in the game.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns
Cam Johnson is one of only three Suns players to participate in all of the team’s games this season, and has made at least one three-pointer in 35 of 38 games played.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Johnson is not in a groove, nor in a hot streak. He is becoming one of the best shooters in the game. And it’s about time the league took notice.

The third-year forward led the way for the Phoenix Suns in their home victory over the Clippers, 106-89. Johnson scored a career high 24 points on 9-14 from the field, including 4-7 from downtown, while also contributing defensively with two blocks and seven rebounds in 35 minutes.

Johnson’s career night also marked himself a spot in Suns’ history, as he recorded his 21st consecutive game with 2+ threes made, a franchise record for a franchise that boasts a dozen all-time Hall of Fame players and some great high-volume three point shooters like Steve Nash, Devin Booker, Dan Majerle, Leandro Barbosa and Channing Frye to name a few. The current team with Booker (2nd all-time), Mikal Bridges (11th), Cam J (16th) and Jae Crowder (28th) are already among the Suns top 30 volume shooters ever.

Afterwards, Johnson spoke highly of the freedom that he is given by head coach Monty Williams to be aggressive and shoot his shot.

“I’ve had coaches before that maybe weren’t as fond of [threes], and then I’ve had coaches that were,” Johnson said. “Trust me, it’s much better to have the latter.”

Williams praised Johnson for his aggression, but emphasized the importance of a balanced shot selection.

“I just want him to shoot and make plays,” Williams said. “...I just like when Cam is aggressive and attacking, not just shooting threes but getting to the paint and making plays.”

The last time Johnson failed to register a single three was on Nov. 8th in Sacramento, a night where he scored merely 2 points in 21 minutes. Since then, Johnson has broken double-digits in 24 of 29 games played, and is currently on an 18-game streak of 10+ points, another career high.

But the real marker of Johnson’s shooting ability has been his efficiency. At 44.4%, the former Tar Heel is fourth in the league among eligible shooters, all while attempting and making more threes than those above him.

League Leaders in 3PT%

Player Name 3PM 3PA 3PT%
Player Name 3PM 3PA 3PT%
Joe Harris (BKN) 41 88 46.59%
P.J. Tucker (MIA) 43 93 46.24%
Eric Gordon (HOU) 78 171 45.61%
Cameron Johnson (PHX) 96 216 44.44%
Keldon Johnson (SAS) 56 127 44.09%
https://www.nba.com/stats/leaders/?StatCategory=FG3_PCT&PerMode=Totals

Upon entering the 2019 NBA Draft, Johnson’s three-point threat was seen as his main skill set. But questions over his ability to develop his game on both ends of the court dropped the former Tar Heel below the lottery in most pre-draft mocks.

So to say that Sun’s general manager James Jones shocked the league when he drafted Johnson 11th overall, would be putting it lightly. But for a team that had ranked 28th in 3PM and dead-last in 3PT% the season before, there was certainly merit to the decision.

Johnson did not disappoint in his rookie year, scoring 8.8 points a game and converting nearly two three-pointers a game on 39%. But after dropping to 34.9% from beyond the arc last season, it did not look like Johnson was on the right trajectory.

However, the story flipped for Johnson during the Suns’ run to the NBA Finals last postseason, as he converted 33 of 74 attempts in 21 games, good for 44.6% and tying him for 7th highest 3P% in playoffs (on min. 20 attempts).

And now, less than two months from his 26th birthday, Johnson is showing that his story has only just begun.