The Nets may face difficult decisions as they navigate Cam Johnson's restricted free agency in the coming month. With Brooklyn pushed up against the luxury tax, the 6-foot-8 sharpshooter is expected to garner interest from multiple teams on a four-year offer sheet worth as much as $22.5 million annually.
While Johnson said he has plenty to think about ahead of his first free agency, he expressed interest in making Brooklyn his long-term home during his exit interview. In a recent development, the trade deadline acquisition was seen training in California alongside Nets teammates Spencer Dinwiddie and Nic Claxton.
The Brooklyn trio was working out with Mike Guevara, an LA-based performance coach who has also trained Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Rajon Rondo and more. The choice in training, along with Johnson's comments about the Nets organization, should be noted as the former lottery pick enters negotiations this offseason.
Cam Johnson's impact on Nets
Johnson was among the most productive players on Brooklyn's new-look roster down the stretch of the season, averaging 16.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 steals on 47.5 percent shooting. More importantly, he was the team's top playoff performer during a first-round sweep against the 76ers, averaging 18.5 points on 50.9 percent shooting from the field and 42.9 percent from three (7.0 attempts per game). That included a 22-point first half on 9-of-13 shooting in Game 2 at Philadelphia.
Mikal Bridges, the Nets' top player and Johnson's “Twin” dating back to his first year in Phoenix, recently made it known how he wants the front office to handle upcoming negotiations:
Mikal Bridges with a message to the Nets ahead of Cam Johnson’s free agency. pic.twitter.com/h9AmWLvrqv
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) May 25, 2023
General manager Sean Marks did not mince words when speaking about Johnson ahead of the offseason:
“Cam knows how we feel. We hope that Cam will be back. He’s a big priority for us. There’s no question,” he said.
Re-signing Johnson would push Brooklyn into the luxury tax for the fourth straight season. Teams with a payroll exceeding the tax line three times in four years are subject to the repeater tax, meaning they are taxed $2.50 per every dollar of salary over the tax line. That figure increases to $2.75, $3.50, and $4.25 for every additional $5 million.
If the Nets hope to avoid this and reset their tax bill, they would have to dump another player to a team with a trade exception or cap space without taking back salary.
Johnson turned down a four-year extension from Phoenix worth between $66 and $72 million early this season, according to HoopsHype. That bet on himself is expected to pay off with league executives now projecting a deal worth as high as four years, $90 million. The Houston Rockets are among the teams expected to pursue the forward, according to the Athletic. The Nets have the right to match any offer.