PHOENIX — Cam Johnson is a smart guy. He’s also got the benefit of having two Phoenix Suns teammates that just went through what he’s about to this summer and fall.
Johnson, the No. 11 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, is soon eligible for a contract extension off his rookie deal. Mikal Bridges got a four-year, $90 million agreement done shortly before the deadline in mid-October. Deandre Ayton did not, and he’s now a restricted free agent.
Johnson is aware this is not a right-now thing for him to stress over.
“No, I mean, there’s a lot of stuff that got to happen before that,” he said Wednesday prior to JaVale McGee’s sixth annual Water For Life Charity Softball Game at Chase Field. “Even if you talk about the stuff with DA, that’s obviously more at the forefront with things. I trust that whatever is meant to happen will happen.”
Johnson confirmed he has talked to Bridges about the experience, a wise choice to get another perspective.
“Mikal, from what he’s told me, is pretty detached from the process, letting it figure out itself,” he said. “Just knowing what he wants, knowing what he wants out of his career.”
Johnson went on to allude to how Bridges signing that extension is a situation where Bridges could have gone to restricted free agency to seek out even more money. And not to say that Johnson won’t do that, but Johnson loves Phoenix and his team just like Bridges.
“He got a great deal,” Johnson said of Bridges. “And if he would have wanted to receive the greatest that he known he could have got but I do think he enjoys being here and got a deal that is good for him, and in a lot of ways right now, good for the team. And we’re building something here, something that I love being a part of and I keep that in mind.”
Johnson, like his twin, is the type of player that every NBA team covets. He can guard multiple positions at 6-foot-8, was the fourth-best 3-point shooter in the NBA last season at 42.6%, plays his tail off and is a high IQ player that got better every season.
There’s a chance the fallout from the Ayton situation impacts Johnson’s future in Phoenix.
If Ayton is back with the Suns, that would have them down for expensive long-term contracts with Ayton, Bridges, Devin Booker and Chris Paul for next season that would almost certainly be Phoenix’s first year in the luxury tax.
And while Paul’s deal becomes partially guaranteed in 2023-24, the same year Johnson’s potential extension would start to kick in, Booker is eligible for a supermax extension that would begin with him earning $47.1 million in 2024-25.
The type of hypothetical luxury tax bill the Suns could have in a few years with Ayton, Booker, Bridges and Johnson is one we’ve seen only a few teams pay in the past.
Those are also four extremely valuable (and young) players, and with the direction the NBA keeps trending in with the importance of wings, it’s hard to overstate how much it would mean for the Suns to have both Bridges and Johnson long term.