The Phoenix Suns selected two players with a combined eight-years college experience. So how will Ty Jerome and Cam Johnson fit in a lineup with Devin Booker?
The of-season has been chaotic since the start of free agency on June 30th, and the Phoenix Suns have been one of the most active participants with the signing of Ricky Rubio and subsequent trading of Josh Jackson to the Memphis Grizzlies.
These moves have put part of their rotation in significant flux, however, both rookie selections Cameron Johnson and Ty Jerome figure to be important parts of the re-birth of the franchise from Phoenix.
Today, I specifically wanted to breakdown what to expect for how Jerome and Johnson fit offensively on the Suns – specifically next to Devin Booker.
I’ll start with Cam Johnson as he was the higher pick and is likely a cleaner fit role wise.
Johnson spent most of his time at the University of North Carolina playing small forward, acting mainly as a spot up and off-ball threat. He hit 45.7% of his 3s on 5.8 attempts per game and has been touted as one of the best shooters in the draft.
According to hoop-math.com, 92.7% of Johnson’s made 3s were assisted last season and on top of that, 59.2% of his made 2-point jumpers and 43.9% of his made 2s at the rim were assisted as well.
Johnson will make his professional money though hitting spot-up 3s and attacking off of cuts.
With Devin Booker and others as the primary ball handlers, I would expect to see Johnson be used mostly as a floor spacer, spotting up in the corners and around the arc in general. This should give Booker plenty of room to work (depending on the other three players on the floor) and forcing the defense to make tough choices on how and who to guard.
Johnson also displayed a nose for relocating off the ball, which can be critical to finding the spot of daylight needed to get a shot off.
In addition, he was also used coming off screens to shoot as well, although he was less effective.
Cam did show good body control and the ability to stabilize when knocked off-balance which is encouraging for his off-screen shooting upside. Johnson also runs hard in transition and creates buckets that way.
Although he wasn’t asked to create much off the dribble at UNC and likely won’t be asked to do that in the NBA, if he does, it will be in the flow of the offense and in limited windows. This could manifest itself in receiving the ball off a screen and having a few Shawn Marion-esque reads within the offense.
Johnson measured at 6’8.5 at the combine with a 6’10 wingspan. Because of this, it would seem he could slide down into the four in small ball lineups.
However, this possibility is worrisome because of Johnson’s injury history and his slimmer weight. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Suns did try him though at power forward in limited minutes, especially if the other team also goes small.
Johnson’s ceiling within the offense will be based on how well he shoots the ball and how proficient of an off-screen shooter he can become.
Ty Jerome’s role within the offense will likely be more complex and dependent upon those around him on the court.
At Virginia, Jerome played multiple roles based on the personnel around him and while at times he was the lead ball-handler, just as often he was the secondary handler and split duties with Kyle Guy or Kihei Clark.
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Jerome was tasked with some on-ball creation duties but also benefited from off-ball screens.
(Virginia’s base offensive system is called “movers and blockers” and involves their bigs constantly screening for shooters like Jerome and Guy).
Jerome’s ability to shoot off of screens was on full display at Virginia where he hit 39.9% of his 3s on 5.4 attempts per game with 68.4% of his 3 being assisted on.
Jerome shot well out of DHOs and on-ball screens as well.
However, he was only assisted on 6.2% of his made shots at the rim and on 9.8% of his made 2 point jumpers. He used his footwork and ball fakes in order to get open shots and knocked them down at a solid clip.
Ty also used this ability to create space to set up his teammates posting an assist rate of 32.6% and even stayed active when he didn’t have the ball, cutting and relocating especially after making a pass.
Jerome’s ability to move off the ball creating open shots for himself should lead him to pair nicely with Devin Booker.
Having such a mover on the court will allow Book to constantly have an outlet shooter open somewhere, someone who can create space for himself off the catch and vice versa when Jerome has the ball.
The backcourt pairing of Jerome and Booker could be particularly special as they can both play off each other off-ball similar to the way Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson share the floor for Golden State.
However the Suns choose to deploy Jerome, the offensive possibilities when pairing him with Booker are vast, given is ability to adjust to the speed and athleticism of the NBA and if he can create and get his shot off consistently.
It is pretty clear that both Cam Johnson and Ty Jerome can play alongside Devin Booker and integrate into the Phoenix Suns’ offense relatively easily. The key for both will be how quickly they can acclimate to the speed of the NBA and become as effective shooters as they were at the college level.