As the Phoenix Suns head into Orlando shorthanded, one of their young forwards will have the chance to play impactful minutes.
The Phoenix Suns aren’t exactly hobbling into Orlando, but with the loss of Kelly Oubre for the remainder of the season, they are certainly shorthanded. Oubre played across both forward positions, so there will be increased opportunities for Mikal Bridges, Dario Saric, and Frank Kaminsky to fill the holes there. However, there is another player who will have the opportunity to step up in Oubre’s absence: rookie Cam Johnson.
It is crazy to think it has been almost exactly a year since the 23-year-old was drafted 11th overall by the Phoenix Suns to the general ire of most NBA fans. The belief was simply that he was too old and too much of a specialist to be drafted that high. What folks didn’t focus too much on was the fact that the Suns were getting a 6-9 player with an absolutely gorgeous shot who had the size, frame, and versatility to swing between both forward positions. A star? No, not that. A serviceable player? Most certainly.
Johnson had a solid rookie year, although he was hit (as many Suns were this season) hard by injuries. He missed 16 games due to a variety of nagging ailments and probably didn’t get the playing time he could have on other teams due to the talent Phoenix has in their frontcourt. Even so, Johnson still put up some serviceable counting stats for a rookie.
The Suns will fill Oubre’s absence by committee, but Cam Johnson could prove the best fit of them all.
A stat line of eight points, three rebounds, and an assist per 20 minutes of action a contest isn’t going to bowl anyone over. However Cam did shoot a solid 39% from three on four attempts a game, and when his numbers are evaluated per 36 it is seen that his three points attempt double while retaining the same accuracy. The gravity his shooting presents opens up the floor immensely for Phoenix, and while he isn’t a standout defender, he is capable enough to hold his own.
Johnson isn’t the first player in mind to fill in for Oubre. Bridges can expect his minutes to increase and Saric will have the chance to redeem himself after an uneven season to this point with more minutes at the four. However, an argument could be made that Johnson could take the edge over Saric starting at the four. Johnson alongside Bridges gives Phoenix a lengthy, switchable frontline alongside Deandre Ayton on the defensive end, and offensively both forwards are solid three-point shooters. The potential defensive impact is a very nice benefit but the offensive impact is not only helpful for both Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio but it would also work wonders for Ayton, who played his best basketball as the sole big in a small-ball lineup this season.
The Phoenix Suns will need all hands on deck to collectively account for Oubre’s impact on both ends of the floor. Fortunately, the pieces are there, and if deployed properly, Cam Johnson could prove to be the best fit of them all.