The regular season is well underway for the Phoenix Suns and across the NBA. Cam Johnson already has had some good games as a starter, has already torn his meniscus, leaving him out for 1-2 months, and is coming back up in the discourse this week.
Even as the whirlwind is spinning, we’re taking a look back at what kept the Suns from extending Johnson in the summer ahead of the final year of his rookie deal. HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto reported in part about that very topic on Monday.
The Phoenix Suns discussed a contract extension spanning four years between $66 and $72 million with forward Cameron Johnson at different points before the start of the season, league sources told HoopsHype.
In years past, shooters such as Davis Bertans (5y/80m), Joe Harris (4y/75m), and Duncan Robinson (5y/90m) have all earned average annual salaries around that range. However, with the salary cap expected to rise significantly, and given Johnson’s prominent role on a championship contender, some around the league believe he can surpass those figures with a good season.
They go on to connect the Mikal Bridges 4y/90m contract that’s expected to be well above the range Phoenix is willing to negotiate at.
Yossi Gozlan, salary cap expert for HoopsHype, made the connection to Collin Sexton, who signed for 4y/71m after a long waiting period in restricted free agency. Sexton was coming off a torn meniscus as well, but elected to remove the tear, as opposed to the trim that Johnson opted for.
Furthermore, Kevin Durant recently aired some grievances with his current situation in Brooklyn, and Gozlan touched on how Phoenix’s flexibility that waiting on an extension may open the door back up for Durant (players in their final year are naturally a lot easier to trade than those who haven’t even reached the span of their newly extended contract):
“If [Brooklyn] ever hits the reset button, I still think Kevin Durant to Phoenix would make a ton of sense, and Cam Johnson would obviously be part of the package...”
Those four magic words of “Kevin Durant to Phoenix” will never fail to excite me. But “Cam Johnson stays in Phoenix” wouldn’t be bad to hear either.
Overall, the situation is crystal clear at this point. Suns may have been lowballing Johnson in the summer depending on how you view the market value around the league for tall shooters who can do even more, and depending on how you view Johnson himself.
I have maintained throughout this process that I believe Johnson will get close to if not more than Bridges got, and it may be due to another team forcing James Jones’s hand in restricted free agency.