The Phoenix Suns and Cameron Johnson were unable to reach a contract extension agreement prior to yesterday’s deadline, with the 26 year-old forward now headed to restricted free agency at the conclusion of the season.
It’s a calculated risk for both parties, particularly after the Suns went through the same process with Deandre Ayton last season. For Johnson, there has to be some uncertainty as he takes on a full-time starting role for the first time in his career.
The current state of the Phoenix Suns franchise must have contributed to the team’s inability to meet the contract demands of forward Cameron Johnson.
The franchise had a tumultuous offseason with the investigation and subsequent suspension of owner Robert Sarver, with the 60-year-old now endeavouring to sell the Suns and Phoenix Mercury.
The uncertainty of team ownership must have played a role in the offer given to Johnson; Phoenix are into the NBA’s luxury tax for the first time in over a decade, and Johnson is likely to earn a yearly increase of around $15 million from next season.
FLEX From Jersey, who is usually keyed in with Suns activity, believes the franchise was offering a four-year, $72 million deal, while Johnson wanted closer to $85 million.
If that’s anywhere near the case, then Phoenix fans should feel frustrated at the team’s unwillingness to meet Johnson’s demands. The facts are that last season’s production, where he was the fourth best three-point shooter in the league (by percentage), already makes him worth that level of contract. That’s not factoring in the steady climb Johnson has made throughout his career to date, one that most expect to continue this season.
Atlanta Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter agreed to a four-year, $95 million extension on Monday, and you’d have to question how far away Johnson is from that valuation. Hunter may be younger and have higher upside, but he’s also dealt with a string of injury issues that Johnson simply hasn’t.
It’s hard to see how Phoenix benefit from this, unless they’re happy to just let Johnson walk in free agency — which in itself would be a major loss. If he simply reproduces his production from last season, then he’s almost a guarantee of receiving a four-year, $80 million deal from somewhere. If he shows himself to be a quality starter on a good team, which he’ll have the opportunity to do, then Phoenix may find themselves forking out closer to $100 million in free agency.