By R.L. Bynum
Just when Cameron Johnson was settling into a groove with Phoenix after missing nearly three months with a knee injury, the Suns will reportedly trade him to the Brooklyn Nets as part of a blockbuster trade that will send star forward Kevin Durant to Phoenix. Justin Jackson and Danny Green also are were dealt.
The NBA trade deadline was at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Boston sent Jackson to Oklahoma City for Mike Muscala, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Jackson was with the Thunder during the 2020-21 season.
Memphis sent Green to Houston in a three-team trade that has former Duke guard Luke Kennard going from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Grizzlies and Eric Gordon from the Rockets to the Clippers.
Johnson, whom Phoenix picked 11th overall in the 2019 NBA draft, will be dealt, according to what sources are telling ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, along with Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 for Durant and former N.C. State forward T.J. Warren.
Johnson figures to start at small forward for Brooklyn ahead of former Virginia player Joe Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith, whom Brooklyn acquired Monday from Dallas. With the trade, he’d continue to play alongside longtime teammate Bridges, but now in the Nets’ frontcourt.
Crowder, another longtime Suns teammate, has been sitting out the season until Phoenix could find a suitable trade partner. Johnson replaced Crowder in the starting lineup this season. The Nets reportedly will trade Crowder to Milwaukee.
Both teams are fifth in their respective conferences, with Brooklyn 32–22 and Phoenix 30–26.
The trade would end an exciting time in Phoenix for Johnson after 3½ seasons, including 34 playoff games. He came off the bench for a Suns team that won the Western Conference in the 2020–21 season before losing 4–2 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA finals.
Johnson’s family embraced Phoenix, which is why Puff Johnson finished his high school career playing for Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix.
Cam Johnson played 200 regular-season games (starting 52) and 34 playoff games for Phoenix, averaging 10.7 points a game in the regular season and 9.2 in the playoffs. He was averaging 13.9 points and 2.6 3-pointers in 17 games this season after averaging 12.5 points and 2.5 3-pointers in 66 regular-season games last season.
His career-high is 38 points, scored against New York on March 4, 2022, when he notched a career-high nine 3-pointers.
Johnson’s first season as an NBA starter began with such promise before he missed 37 games. He tore the meniscus in his right knee 5:14 into the Suns’ 108–106 home loss to Portland on Nov. 4. That came three days after he scored season-highs of 29 points and seven 3-pointers and collecting a career-high three steals in Phoenix’s 116–107 home win over Minnesota.
Phoenix had lost 11 of 13 games before Johnson returned Jan. 19, and the Suns had gone 9–2 since he returned. During that stretch, Johnson had scored at least 20 points three times and at least three 3-pointers four times.
Johnson would leave just as Suns ownership finally stabilized with new owner Mat Ishbia taking control this week.
Johnson would join former UNC center Day’Ron Sharpe, who is in his second season with the Nets. Johnson played two seasons at Carolina from 2017 to 2019, averaging 15 points in 62 games.
The deal would cap a crazy few days for Brooklyn, which dealt former Duke guard Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday for Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick, and second-round picks in 2027 and 2029.
It continues the upheaval in Brooklyn after James Harden wanted out last season and Nets dealt him to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Durant, who sprained an MCL on Jan. 8, requested a trade last summer and said his preferred spots were Phoenix and Miami but rescinded the trade request in August after meeting with the Nets’ owner and management.
Photo via @Suns