Cameron Johnson

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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Sixers don't win NBA draft lottery but these 5 players could help at pick 24

Sixers don't win NBA draft lottery but these 5 players could help at pick 24

No, the Sixers didn’t win the draft lottery Tuesday night, but they still have work to do ahead of June 20.

At his end-of-season press conference, GM Elton Brand actually got pretty specific in describing the kind of player he’d like to add at pick No. 24 and beyond.

“Where we are in our trajectory, we need players that can play, players that can add to our team now,” Brand said. “We’re looking for maybe older players. For sure, defensive-minded players and we always place a premium on shooting. But defensive-oriented players that can contribute now, we may look at, I don’t want to tip my hand too much, but that may be something we’re looking at.”

Here are five players that fit that description to an extent and could be there in the first round. 

Matisse Thybulle, G, Washington

Out of all the players that could be available, Thybulle may be the most attractive. He’s 22, he’s athletic and long, he’s defensive-oriented and he’s flashed the ability to shoot. In his four years at Washington, he put up crazy steal (2.4) and block (1.3) block numbers and shot 36 percent from three.

The Huskies’ zone does muddle the evaluation some. Will Thybulle be able to guard 1-on-1? He has the athleticism and quick feet to do so. His three-point shooting also dipped to 31 percent last season. Teams interested will hope that shooting season was an outlier.

Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina

The biggest knock on Johnson is that he’s 23 years old. No worries for Brand. Johnson has intriguing skills as a 3-and-D combo forward. The Pitt transfer shot 46 percent from three last season. He’s also strong shooting off the dribble and in the mid-range because of his 6-foot-9 frame and ability to shoot over the defense.

Other than age, Johnson does have an injury history. He’ll have to put on muscle to be able to hang with bigger and stronger NBA fours. He’s not the most athletic, but he has potential to be a versatile defender because of his length. 

Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue

You want a shooter? If you followed the NCAA Tournament, you know Edwards is one. He had a pair of 42-point performances, including one against Virginia. He shot 36 percent from three, which doesn’t seem that impressive, but he took 10.6(!) treys a game. He can shoot off the dribble, excels moving off the ball, has a lightning quick release and understands spacing.

He’s 6-foot-1. If he was 6-4, he’d likely be a lottery pick. He struggled with turnovers and isn’t a great playmaker, but that might not matter for the Sixers. He can be a microwave scorer off the bench and would be an excellent complement to Ben Simmons on a second unit.

Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

Gafford is a little on the younger side at 20, but he’s a crazy athlete and as active as any player in college basketball. He’s a rim-to-rim big. He’s a decent shot blocker and excels rolling to the basket and finishing off lobs with authority.

His offensive game is incredibly raw. He doesn’t have much in the way of post moves and while he’s worked on his jumper, he still has a long ways to go. For the Sixers, the athleticism and activity is something they sorely lacked out of their backup fives — outside of Jonah Bolden, who is more of a combo big. Gafford is 233 pounds, but has strength and room to add a little more weight to his frame.

KZ Okpala, F, Stanford

Okpala doesn’t really fit Brand’s criteria, but man, he has tools. He’s 6-foot-9 and has a 7-2 wingspan, but displays guard-like skills at times. He’s a great athlete who took a big a step in his sophomore season. He showed an improved handle and his three-point shooting went up by 14 percent.

Tools are great, but he is raw and skinny. Do the Sixers think he could immediately fill a role as a versatile defender capable of hitting the occasional trey? He is crazy intriguing to me, but Brand is likely looking for a more developed player.

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