clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Separating the ‘Twins’? Houston Rockets might want to do that

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

When they arrived in Brooklyn from Phoenix, they came as a package: two 26-year-old wings who can play at both ends of the court and were best of friends, referring to themselves as “Twins.” Since then, they have been a revelation, both individually and as a duo. They may not have been underappreciated members of the Suns, but they certainly showed they can be more than what they were in Brooklyn.

After averaging 17.2 points in the desert, Bridges jumped his numbers in Brooklyn, averaging 26.1 (including a four-second stint in the Nets last game) with shooting splits near 50/40/90. Similarly, Johnson went from 13.9 points in mainly a sixth man role to 16.6 and starter with the Nets. In the first two games of the playoffs, Bridges is averaging 25.5 points while Johnson is at 23.1. They are carrying the Nets.

But C.J. is a restricted free agent which means the Nets can offer him more money than any other team and can match an offer from any other team ... and his price tag is going up. He reportedly rejected a four-year, $72 million extension by the Suns last summer. That is likely to be seen as a bargain by the time contracts are signed in July.

One rumored competitor for Johnson’s services are the Houston Rockets who have $59 million in cap space, a ticket in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes and even a chance to bring back James Harden who is also a free agent. Johnson and the Rockets have been linked twice by serious pundits within the past week.

On Tuesday, Kelly Ilko, the veteran Rockets reporter, mentioned Johnson as a serious Houston target, a natural choice to pursue. He quoted a scout as saying this about the fit.

“Cam is that kind of guy that is a great fit with any team. So in particular to his fit with the Rockets, I think he’s a really good fit just because of their lack of shooting on the wings. You got Tari (Eason), K.J. (Martin), certain guys that can shoot, but that’s not really what they do. That’s what Cam does and he can play without the ball. The Rockets have Jalen (Green) and Kevin Porter Jr. who want and need the ball in their hands.”

How much might Johnson be offered by Houston. He wanted four years and $80 million from Phoenix, but now that seems more like the floor than the ceiling. The Nets haven’t said anything about Johnson since Sean Marks addressed the deadlines trades in an impromptu media availability back on deadline day.

“And then Cam,” Marks said after talking about Bridges. “We’ve watched him all through college again, and you see the size and the versatility of what he can do. The shooting percentages, his ability to stretch the floor, the length, and so forth.”

And so forth indeed. Johnson, who’s shown his basketball IQ and the court and his general IQ anytime he’s opened his mouth, is more than just a 3-and-D player. He’s proven he can drive the lane and finish, often being pummeled to the floor in the paint.

So is there an amount where the Nets would not go? Is a four-year, $90 million deal, like the one Bridges has, something realistic? Also, if history is to be studied, the Nets will likely move to get his signature rather than wait till another team makes the market. Last year, they had somewhat of the same issue with Nic Claxton’s contract. The anticipation was that there might be a bidding war for the then 23-year-old, then restricted as well. Instead, the Nets didn’t wait and locked him up for two years.

It’s hard to imagine the Nets not being competitive with Johnson. He’s proven himself worth a lot more than $5 million he made this season and one would think Bridges would want his guy back at Barclays. (Bridges of course has three more years on his deal after this season.)

There’s also no indication that C.J. is anything but happy in Brooklyn. He’s become a fan favorite as well as putting up numbers. But as Ilko noted in his summary, Houston is not going to be the only suitor, that Johnson is “coveted by many front offices.” So when June starts to roll over to July, expect a lot of rumors and him getting a lot of money.