Philly Front Office - Blue Route

A look into North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson

Senior guard/forward Cameron Johnson finished his career at North Carolina by showing off his electric shooting from the perimeter. Cam will shortly make it known that he will further his basketball journey and declare for the NBA Draft.

In early April, it was announced that Cameron Johnson was named Honorable Mention to the AP All-America Team. Cam finished his senior season averaging 16.9 points (7th in the ACC), 5.8 rebounds (21st in the ACC), 2.4 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He shot 51% from the field and was the best 3 point shooter in the ACC at 45.7% on 5.8 attempts per game. When you add that to his All-ACC First Team nomination, it has been an extremely successful season for Cameron Johnson.

With major minutes, Cam Johnson was 10th best in the ACC in PER at 24.9. This was better than fellow first team ACC studs De’Andre Hunter (24.3), Ty Jerome (22.8), R.J. Barrett (23.3), and Kyle Guy (20.5).  For hilarious purposes, Zion Williamson had a ridiculous PER of 40.8. Come on, Zion! In terms of Box Plus/Minus, Cam was 4th best in the ACC (13.0). While Zion Williamson led the ACC (20), Johnson had a higher BPM than Ty Jerome (12.0) and De’Andre Hunter (10.9).

He’s Heating Up! He’s On Fire!

I couldn’t do an NBA Draft write-up without an NBA Jam reference. Ok, moving forward (awkward silence)… Cam Johnson’s 96 three point field goals were good for 3rd best while his 3-Point Field Goal Percentage was first in the ACC (45.7%). Cam’s 608 points and 4.2 Offensive Win Shares were both 3rd best in the ACC. His ridiculous 131.0 Offensive Rating was 2nd best in the ACC. Cam finished with a true shooting percentage of 64.6% and shot 81.8% from the free throw line on 3.1 attempts per game.

Although North Carolina’s season ended with a loss to Auburn in the NCAA Tournament, Cameron Johnson did more than enough in the eyes of scouts to show he is an elite shooter and offensive juggernaut. Here is PFO’s Ultimate Highlight Reel of Cameron Johnson featuring his best plays on offense and defense during his senior campaign.

Where can we expect Cameron Johnson to go in the 2019 NBA Draft?

It is widely acknowledged that Cameron Johnson has a very good chance to be a first round pick. Here is how draft analysts project Cam Johnson in the 2019 NBA Draft.

NBA Draft Express – 19

ESPN – 21

NBADraft.Net – 34

Tankathon – 27

Cameron Johnson’s Strengths

Despite having a standout season, North Carolina’s best players were in the shadow of Duke’s Zion Williamson. Even further, UNC guard Coby White was the most hyped prospect throughout March Madness amongst Sixers fans. Cam Johnson is a prospect that deserves your attention until draft night on June 20th.

Shooting and size are what differentiates Cameron Johnson from other offensive prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft. Cameron Johnson gets to the line and gets buckets. He’s a solid rebounder and has a great feel for the game. Most importantly, at 6’9″, 210 pounds, and an NBA-ready body, he has a quick release that projects well as a floor spacer in today’s NBA where shooting is a premium. Cam’s combination of size and quick release should allow him to elevate and shoot over NBA defenders on the perimeter.

What’s impressive about Cam Johnson is his ability to get good looks. Whether from midrange or from three, he always seems able to put up an efficient shot off the dribble or with the ball in his hands. There is no doubt that Cameron Johnson should be right near the top of everyone’s list for “best sleeper pick” in the 2019 NBA Draft. To help put this in perspective, Cam’s magnificent shooting pushed elite prospect Nassir Little to come off the bench this season.

Cameron Johnson’s Weaknesses

Defense. Cameron Johnson does not come close to entering the NBA as an elite defensive prospect. Cam finished his senior season with a 97.6 Defensive Rating. While this was 4 points better compared to last year, there is lots of room to grow here. Cam’s 6’9″ frame allows him to guard multiple positions on the court, and he does a decent job interrupting the passing lanes and generating steals. His Defensive Rating has improved every year in the NCAA, but let’s get real here: we’re not drafting Cam Johnson for his defensive talents.

Not the “potential” pick

Cam will be over 23 years of age on draft night, which is a plus or minus depending on the team that drafts him. His inability to garner the “potential” label will always limit his draft stock despite his gaudy offensive numbers this year. For example, teammate Nassir Little is considered to be drafted higher than Cam in most mock drafts.

While Johnson has made up for his lack of defense with his length in the NCAA, this will not work in the NBA. There is no doubt Cam is a project when it comes to defense. Is there an NBA team that is willing to allow a 23 year old prospect the time to grow on defense? That is the question I keep coming back to when I look at Cameron Johnson.

If you’re looking for a player that you can put the ball in his hands and get you a bucket, this isn’t it. Cam struggles with creating his own, as evident by his lack of ball handling. He wasn’t able to do this at North Carolina, and it shouldn’t be expected in the NBA. He’s not a playmaker on offense.

As much as I love Cameron Johnson as a player, the future of the NBA is being a 2-way player and being able to defend multiple positions. He does a decent job with moving the ball on the perimeter on offense. However, this combination of age, lack of playmaking, lack of a handle, and being a project on defense will definitely hurt his draft stock.

In Conclusion

Our first “steal of the draft” prospect report was Matisse Thybulle, where we went all in on defense and defensive versatility. We did a bit of a 180 this week with Cameron Johnson.

Cam Johnson is a guy that deserves a good, long look from the Sixers. This is not a flashy prospect that can jump through the roof. What I see in Cam is his instincts, frame, shooting from the perimeter, and his ability to keep the ball moving within an offense. He’s destined to be a matchup problem on the next level as soon as the NBA game slows down for him, especially on defense.

Listen, I know the Sixers are looking for defense off the bench. This is also why I am so high on Zhaire Smith when he gets major minutes in the backcourt next season. But you don’t have to look too far back in terms of getting production when it comes to incorporating a rookie on offense.

Learning Under Tobias Harris

Sixers rookie Landry Shamet thrived in Brett Brown’s offense by modeling his game after JJ Redick and playing off ball and running off screens. I’m not comparing their games, but it is easy to see how beneficial it would be for Cameron Johnson to learn the ropes from Tobias Harris for the next few years (assuming Tobias re-signs). The majority of Cam’s offense last year came without the ball in his hands (usage % 21.8), and it easy to see why he would get serious looks by the Philadelphia 76ers.

With appropriate expectations and a role within the offense, we’ve already seen a late first round prospect thrive with the Sixers in Landry Shamet. Right now, the Sixers have the 24th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Cameron Johnson’s offensive talents would be a solid addition to the roster moving forward.


"Some would have us go out and buy apples. But we want to build the whole orchard, and you don't get to the moon by climbing a tree."
-Sam Hinkie

Jonah Bolden commented on my first game recap for SFO.

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