76ers

2019 NBA draft profile: UNC's Cameron Johnson is big-time shooter, can help Sixers

2019 NBA draft profile: UNC's Cameron Johnson is big-time shooter, can help Sixers

Position: Guard

Height: 6-9

Weight: 210

School: North Carolina

Cameron Johnson’s draft stock was bolstered significantly by an outstanding senior season at North Carolina. Johnson averaged 16.9 points and 5.8 rebounds and shot 45.7 percent from three-point range in 36 games for the Tar Heels. He was a driving force for one of the best teams in the country and finished the season as a First Team All-ACC selection.

It’s not hyperbole to suggest Johnson is the best shooter in this draft. That 45.7 three-point success rate came on nearly six attempts per game. He is a big-time shooter who uses his 6-9 frame to his advantage on the perimeter.

Johnson played five seasons of college basketball — three at Pittsburgh and two at North Carolina. He was granted a medical redshirt at Pitt as a freshman before playing two seasons for the Panthers. He graduated in three years from Pitt then used his final two years of eligibility at North Carolina. 

He enters the draft at 23 years old. While some NBA executives may view his advanced age as a drawback, it’s also fair to label him as an experienced, mature prospect ready to step in and contribute immediately at the NBA level.

Strengths

In a word, shooting. It’s what Johnson does best and it's a skill that is valued tremendously in the NBA. Johnson not only led the ACC in three-point shooting, he was also the top long-range marksman in all of the Power 5 conferences.

Johnson profiles as a terrific complementary piece on the offensive end of the floor. He’ll be able to play off penetrators and knock down open jumpers. His size and quick release will only enhance his shooting ability in the professional game.

His basketball IQ and work ethic also stand out. He has a great understanding of the game after playing five seasons of high-level college basketball. Johnson was a late bloomer in high school and in college — Pitt was the only major program that recruited him. He worked his way from unheralded prospect to one of the best players in the country over the span of five years.

Weaknesses

Athleticism and all-around defensive ability top this list. The majority of his scoring in college was on the perimeter. He is not an explosive finisher at the rim and doesn’t embrace contact when driving to the basket. He averaged just two free throw attempts per game during his college career.

It will be a tall order for Johnson to guard the top wing players in the NBA because of his lack of elite foot speed. He’ll need to become more physical on the defensive end.

To his credit, he tested well at the combine. But his athleticism — particularly on the defensive end — will be worth monitoring as he enters the NBA.

Fit

Johnson would be a tremendous fit for the Sixers. They need shooters and that’s what he does best. Johnson would space the floor for Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and benefit greatly from Simmons’ court vision and overall passing ability. He would get a ton of open looks on the perimeter playing with Embiid and Simmons.

Johnson is mature enough to accept his role. He was a star last season at North Carolina but would be a member of the Sixers' supporting cast. At 23, he would also be ready to contribute immediately for a team with visions of winning a championship.

If he is still on the board when the Sixers are making the 24th pick, don’t be surprised to hear Johnson’s name called.

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'Big brother' Tobias Harris leading, rookie Matisse Thybulle following

'Big brother' Tobias Harris leading, rookie Matisse Thybulle following

So much of the focus ahead of the Sixers’ game against the Raptors Sunday was on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

And for good reason.

Embiid put up a goose egg the last time the teams faced off and has historically struggled with Marc Gasol. Simmons was coming off a career-high 34 points and made his second NBA three Saturday night.

While both players had roles in a 110-104 win Sunday night (see observations), it was Tobias Harris leading and rookie Matisse Thybulle following that kept the Sixers unblemished at the Wells Fargo Center.

Harris poured in a game-high 26 points, taking on the scoring load with Toronto head coach Nick Nurse’s game plan focused on stopping the Sixers’ young All-Stars.

“Yeah, 100 percent,” Harris said when asked if this is the most comfortable he’s felt here. “I think I’m in a really good rhythm of just going out and embracing and feeding off my teammates, and getting into a flow.”

Since a slump that saw him miss 23 straight threes, Harris has been pretty darn consistent. Over his last 12 games, Harris is shooting 41.3 percent from three and 50.6 percent overall.

If there’d been a knock on Harris outside of that tough stretch, it’s that he hasn’t looked as aggressive as a Sixer as he did during his stint with the Clippers. That hasn’t been the case recently. He’s averaged 16.3 field goal attempts per game over the last 12 games and has taken at least 22 shots in three of the last four.

Even during Harris’ up and down play, he’s remained a leader — a role he’s taken seriously since he signed the biggest deal in franchise history this summer.

And his teammates have responded.

“Aside from being an amazing example, he’s just been like a big brother,” Thybulle said. “We sit next to each other on every flight and he’s constantly giving me advice. I seek him for all my questions — whether it’s financially, on the court, off the court, I go to him. He’s done it at a very high level for a while now, and I really look up to him in that sense. He’s been able to be a huge role model for me.”

Whatever Harris has been telling Thybulle, it’s been working. When GM Elton Brand traded up in the draft to get Thybulle, nights like this are presumably what Brand had in mind.

Thybulle was his usual self on defense — annoying veteran Kyle Lowry, coming up with steals and contesting shots. On the other end, he continues to shoot the basketball at a high level. He hit a rookie career-high five threes and reached the 20-point mark for the first time. He’s now at 44 percent from beyond the arc, the highest percentage among rookies with at least 50 attempts.

In a contest that felt like it had a lot more juice than a regular-season game in December, Thybulle didn’t shy away from the moment — despite a couple late-game turnovers. The Sixers as a team had a brutal last few minutes as the Raptors went to a full-court press in desperation.

The thing Harris wants Thybulle to remember is that he was one of the main contributors in helping the Sixers build a huge lead. 

“Matisse is great,” Harris said. “I was telling him in there, ‘Don’t let the last minute and 30 seconds kill your vibe of the game, because you helped us secure that win tonight.’ He came in and his energy was amazing. He was able to knock down big shots, big threes that really pushed our lead each and every time they tried to make a run. He was amazing out there, man. He’s an amazing player, amazing person, amazing rookie. Every night I’m on him, each and every game, to continue to progress, continue to stay ready and locked in. He’s really catching his stride now.”

There is a refreshing vibe about Thybulle. He knows he has a job to do and he takes it seriously, but he also allows himself to enjoy it. He’s also not taking any of it for granted.

“That’s something I find myself thinking about a lot,” Thybulle said. “Even just six months ago, if you had told me I’d be in the position that I am today, it would have been really hard for me to believe you. I think I’m incredibly blessed. I’m so grateful. To have the guys that we have on this team and to have the opportunity that I have has been nothing short of a blessing.”

That’s a level of humility his “big brother” would approve of.



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Sixers Talk podcast: We call him 'Mathief' Thybulle!

Sixers Talk podcast: We call him 'Mathief' Thybulle!

On the Sixers Talk podcast presented by Wilmington University, Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss coach Brett Brown challenging Ben Simmons, the team's struggles to close out Saturday's game and Matisse Thybulle's new nickname.

• How are we feeling about the nickname "Mathief" Thybulle?

• Will Ben Simmons take Brett Brown's message to heart?

• Are you happier that the Sixers won or more upset with the sloppy finish?

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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