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Report: Cam Johnson one of Detroit’s top free agent targets

Johnson played for Monty Williams in Phoenix, but his current team is indicating it will match any offer

Charlotte Hornets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons are exploring multiple avenues to improve after a disastrous 17-win season. One way is via the NBA Draft, which is now less then a week away. But there is also free agency beginning on July 1, and a new report suggests a former Phoenix Suns forward is high on Detroit’s wishlist.

Marc Stein reports on Substack that Cam Johnson, a 27-year-old wing who can play both forward positions and shot 40% from 3 last season on high volume, is a player the Pistons are focusing some significant attention.

League sources say Cam Johnson is prominent (and rising) on Detroit’s list of free agent targets. Brooklyn’s restricted free agent swingman naturally has a huge new fan in Motown after the Pistons’ hiring of Monty Williams as coach — Johnson’s former coach in Phoenix.

Even before the hiring of Williams, it made sense for Johnson to be near the top of Detroit’s targets in free agency. For all the talk of two-big lineups, the Pistons have a glaring hole on the wing, and could use a player that has the size and versatility to play both forward spots.

With the addition of Williams, where Johnson was playing his career-best season before shifting over to the Brooklyn Nets in the Kevin Durant trade, it makes even more sense for there to be mutual interest between the two sides.

With all that said, adding Johnson is no sure thing. Far from it. He is a restricted free agent, which means the Nets will be able to match any offer he receives. Stein reports that the Nets are confident they will retain Johnson this offseason:

The Nets, though, are quietly expressing confidence that they have all but convinced Johnson to re-sign ... or that they will match any external offer they need to match to keep him. Stay tuned to see if that leads to a salary-dumping move or two from Brooklyn to create additional payroll flexibility. Dorian Finney-Smith, acquired from Dallas in February in the Kyrie Irving trade, remains a prime trade candidate.

The Nets already have Mikal Bridges making $68 million over the next three seasons, Dorian Finney-Smith, making $42 million in the same span, and Ben Simmons commanding $77 million over the next two years. That is a lot of money tied up in the forward position. But as Stein writes, DFS is good enough to be moveable to rebalance the roster at another position, and several teams (including Detroit) would probably be eager to scoop him up. Also, while the Nets’ would have a lot of money tied up in forwards, they are not in a position to easily allow a high-quality player like Johnson walk away for nothing in return. They could match the offer and figure things out later.

Anther complication for Detroit is whether they have the stomach to sign Johnson to an offer sheet if they feel like the Nets are likely to match. Brooklyn can tie up Detroit for 24 hours before matching the offer sheet, and time is precious in NBA free agency. The Pistons could find themselves without Johnson and with all their other top targets on other teams.

Other potential free agent targets for Detroit could include Jerami Grant, Harrison Barnes, Grant Williams, Yuta Watanabe and PJ Washington.