The Trail Blazers memorable postseason run might be over, but the the 2019 NBA Draft is right around the corner. Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey currently has the No. 25 pick in the draft at his disposal and he will look to supplement the Blazers’ roster with a talented prospect in the latter stages of the first round. Today we look at North Carolina forward Cam Johnson.
- Height: 6’8”
- Weight: 205
- Wingspan: 6’10”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: SF
- Age: 23
- Projected draft range: 16-26
- PPG: 16.9 | Per 40: 22.6
- APG: 2.4 | Per 40: 3.2
- RPG: 5.8 | Per 40: 7.7
- STL: 1.2 | Per 40: 1.6
- FG%: 50.6
- 3P%: 45.7
- FT%: 81.8
Cameron Johnson’s premier skill is the most attractive skill to NBA scouts in the current era of basketball: three-point shooting. The redshirt senior has a relatively high and quick release, hinting that his torrid collegiate shooting will translate against stiffer competition. Since his hip surgery last summer, he’s been able to square his feet to the hoop better as well, helping routinize catch-and-shoot looks. To free these opportunities, Johnson displayed superb court awareness when slaloming through screens.
Johnson’s height benefits his offensive rebounding, a part of his offense developed in two years under Coach Roy Williams. It also helps him take advantage of mismatches by driving to the hoop instead of settling for contested jumpers, another skill he advanced at UNC. On the other side of the ball, a lengthy wingspan can aids his pursuit of close-outs and blockage of passing lanes.
Like many catch-and-shoot specialists, Johnson is somewhat one-dimensional in his offensive game. He lacks speed and explosion off the dribble and therefore struggles to separate from defenders. With a hand still in his face by the time he reaches the hoop, Johnson doesn’t exhibit craftiness in his finishing and instead forces bad looks. He also rarely drives with his left hand, allowing NBA-level defenders to easily predict the direction of his drive when running him off the arc.
Defensively, Johnson is an average on-ball defender mostly due to his humdrum athleticism. However, his height and length provide promise upon professional development that he can become a serviceable 3-and-D forward.
Johnson’s second season at UNC allowed him to play a more diversified style of basketball. Instead of primarily loitering on the perimeter for catch-and-shoot looks like he did at Pittsburgh, Johnson became a part of UNC’s flow. In 2018-2019, he averaged 16.9 points on 50.6% shooting from the field. He attempted 5.8 shots from two-point and three-point range, his first season not shooting more threes than twos. That variety of looks bumped his field goal percentage up as well as his three-point percentage, which finished at 45.7%, best in the ACC. In UNC’s Sweet 16 run in the NCAA Tournament, he posted 16.3 points, five rebounds, 3.7 assists and three triples per game.
Johnson has the size and offensive prowess to quickly develop into a three-and-D option. His well-groomed shot would make an immediate impact as every team desires a tall catch-and-shoot player. Five years of college basketball also points to maturity and an understanding of where to be on the court. He therefore has a high floor but limited ceiling. Upside aside, with improved shot creation off the dribble and on-ball defense, Johnson can earn a rotation spot on most NBA teams. One drawback to remember: Johnson has a history of leg injuries throughout his extended college career.
At roughly 6’8” and 205 pounds, Johnson measures similar to current forwards of Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless and Jake Layman. While those three utilize athleticism and defensive stoutness to earn minutes, Johnson has the potential to bring a much-needed skill to the wings: consistent three-point shooting. His remarkable collegiate shooting makes him the ideal player to run around numerous off-ball screens and receive passes from Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum that turn into immediate three-point attempts. However, his lack of explosion off the dribble and predictable finishing allows NBA defenders to overcommit on the three-point line and easily force him away from his comfort zone.
Neil Olshey notoriously doesn’t believe that the Blazers can find an instant-impact player via the draft. He instead likes to select young guys with high ceilings for later development (see Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons). Johnson played five years of college ball and is 23 years old, not exactly Olshey’s forte.
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