Cam Can — In Ayton absence, Johnson delivers for the Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns, Cameron Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Cameron Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Even in a league full of unicorns, there is no doubt Deandre Ayton is a unique player. As such, it’s going to take a team effort to replace him following news of his short-term absence. That means the starters and reserves will have to take their games up a notch and help cover for the production of the fifth-year big man.

In the first of several games without center Deandre Ayton, Cameron Johnson came through in a big way for the Phoenix Suns. Can it continue?

In the first game without Ayton, many players stepped up differently. Bismack Biyombo – who got the start at center – had four blocks and his backup, Jock Landale, brought 16 points off the bench. Devin Booker did his thing with 30 points, and Chris Paul was fantastic with 15 assists without a single turnover.

Many players stepped up in this first outing without Ayton, but Johnson is the one that deserves a special shout-out, playing a big part in the 124-109 Suns win.

Johnson is finding his place as a stretch four for Phoenix

Johnson started the season a little banged up and had limited minutes in the first few outings. Those limited minutes and nagging knock left Johnson underperforming, including two 1-for-6 nights from three-point range. He did go 3-for-4 from three in the Suns win over the Los Angeles Clippers over a week ago, but he only had 11 points and five rebounds for the game.

Sunday against Houston, Johnson finally found his rhythm from the outside, loving life in the left corner as he went 5-for-11 from three-point land. The Rockets game was the first this season where he attempted more than six threes, and his five makes were a season-high by two. Although his three-point shooting percentage is still below 39% for the season, there is little doubt with his sweet stroke that Johnson could hit closer to 45% as he did against Houston.

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He also delivered one thunderous jam, pulled down a team-high seven rebounds, and added a steal. The rebounding will be especially important with Ayton out, as it will take a real committee approach from the Suns. In the end, it was just one game against one of the weaker teams in the league, but if Johnson’s game against the Rockets is a sign of things to come, it’s positive news for the Suns.