Phoenix Suns: 3 Position Battles to Watch in 2021-22 Season

Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Phoenix Suns, Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges (Photo by Kim Klement - Pool/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges. (Photo by Kim Klement – Pool/Getty Images) /

Phoenix Suns Battle for Starting Small Forward: Cameron Johnson vs Mikal Bridges

Last year during the postseason, Cameron Johnson let everyone know about his readiness to heavily contribute toward a winning team effort, even despite his young age.

Johnson averaged a solid 8.2 points and 3.1 rebounds while playing only 21.1 minutes per game. More importantly though, he shot an exceptional 50.0 percent from the field and 44.6 percent from deep. He also contributed with timely stops as a defender to frequently spark some much needed fast break points with either Booker or Bridges resting.

His best game occurred during Phoenix’s efforts to close out the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Finals, where he dropped 14 points after going 3-3 from outside, while also coming away with three steals. But his best moment of course came during the NBA Finals when he almost put PJ Tucker through the hardwood with a posterizing Game 3 dunk.

Providing such efficient, clutch, and exciting production even as a second-year player, Johnson certainly deserves to start for an NBA team. When you look along the wing, Booker remains untouchable, but Bridges has a looser hold on his starting spot—opening up this positional battle.

Unfortunately for Johnson, Bridges’s starting case is very similar to his own. As another young player, even drafted just one year before Johnson, Bridges possess an extraordinarily high upside, having played also well despite his age. Fielding 32.1 minutes per game, Bridges averaged 11.1 points and 4.3 rebounds during the postseason. He shot 48.8 percent from the field, and 36.8 percent on triples.

With their numbers looking nearly identical minus Johnson’s far more impressive 3-point percentage, the extra year under Bridges’s belt likely stands responsible for his position ahead Johnson in the rotation. But at what point does that aspect lose its luster? The difference between a two-year player and three-year player feels big, but essentially no difference exists between an eight and nine-year player.

With it being Bridges’s fourth and Johnson’s third years as pros next season, Monty Williams might begin to start putting them on the same level. If that occurs and Johnson keeps up his superior 3-point shooting while managing to match Bridges’s defensive prowess, he might push himself into the starting small forward spot.