While the Phoenix Suns sit atop the NBA standings, some of that success will be put to the test after forward Cameron Johnson suffered an injury vs the Portland Trail Blazers.
The 26-year-old wing suffered a torn meniscus, requiring surgery that will sideline him indefinitely. Johnson’s injury happened when he landed on his foot awkwardly then collapsed to the court and later limped around before heading into the locker room.
- Cameron Johnson stats (2022-’23): 13 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 17.35 PER
The injury to Johnson isn’t to be downplayed by the Suns’ front office. He’s a prime piece to their offense and has proven that he belongs to Phoenix’s first five. He’s also a reliable shooter on the floor, making 45% of his field goals and 43% of his three-pointers.
Phoenix doesn’t have a solid replacement for Johnson. While Torrey Craig filled into Johnson’s spot, he is more of a lockdown perimeter defender and doesn’t offer reliable shooting.
The lack of scoring from the frontcourt is a crucial concern for the Suns, and they have to make moves quickly to keep their momentum.
Phoenix Suns must move Jae Crowder, findcontributor
Amid reports of a trade demand, Jae Crowder didn’t report to Suns’ training camp and posted strange tweets leading up to the NBA season. Suddenly, a player on the roster to serve as that fill-in when injuries stuck created uncertainty for his status on the team.
Not that the coaching staff anticipated something like this, but I’m assuming that was their plan this season. So far, they’ve only played one game without Johnson in the lineup and were able to handle their business well.
However, the Suns may reach a point where they’ll need a scoring punch coming from the frontcourt. The front office should start scouting for potential trade partners to get the disgruntled forward out of Phoenix. It’s also a waste of the player’s and organization’s time if they keep stalling trading him.
One option is to trade him to the Utah Jazz for Rudy Gay, who hasn’t played much during the season. The Suns’ front office could also ask the Jazz to include a future second-round pick in the trade package. Gay could be an exceptional help for the team to space the floor and be a reliable threat.
Another alternative is to sign a veteran floor spacer in the open market. Carmelo Anthony is still a free agent. And based on Anthony’s performance from last season, he’s still capable of impacting a team. His friendship with All-Star guard Chris Paul could encourage the management to make this possible. With Melo, he can space the floor and create his shots when needed. Phoenix could then trade Crowder for future picks.
The last option I thought of was Crowder getting dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers for Nicolas Batum. Batum is a versatile floor spacer that’s capable of playing any position. Last season, there were instances where Tyronn Lue had the Frenchman at the center position. However, I’m not entirely confident with this, as the Clippers consider him an integral part of their squad.
Johnson’s recent injury has unraveled a few problems for the Suns. But it has also opened new options to address their depth issues. Until then, they’ll have to rely heavily on the duo of Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker to lead Phoenix.