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UNC Incoming Transfer Forward Cameron Johnson: Scouting Report

Inside Carolina's Rob Harrington evaluates the likely impact of incoming transfer Cameron Johnson, who will bring immediate firepower to the perimeter next season.

Assets

When Cameron Johnson committed to UNC following a personally successful season at Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels landed the heir apparent to NBA-bound forward Justin Jackson.

To be clear, Johnson's primary role in Chapel Hill — whether he's there for one season or two — will be to knock down three-point bombs. As a Panther last season, he buried 42 percent from long-range, an even higher number than those enjoyed by Jackson (37 percent) and Joel Berry (38 percent).

His fit with the Tar Heels is obvious. Johnson is particularly adept at nailing the kinds of threes that typically become available in Carolina's offense, and his size compares favorably to that of Jackson and thus he doesn't require as much space as most guards because he can shoot over the top of defenders.

He shoots with beautiful, nearly flawless extension. Johnson's mechanics and follow-through produce a shot that looks like it's going in almost every time. He does sometimes have a tendency to fade or extend his right foot farther than his left, but it's difficult to quibble with anything such a proven shooter does. Certainly, that was the case when he scored a season high 24 points — including 6-for-9 on threes — at Carolina in January.

Meanwhile, he's also a relatively mistake-free player. Johnson enjoyed a very low turnover percentage last season, and he also took advantage of his opportunities at the free throw line (81 percent). All that success enabled him to rank No. 106 nationally in offensive rating, higher than any Carolina starter and this despite playing for a struggling team.

Deficits

Johnson tends to go as his jump shot goes. And that isn't such a negative, considering his accuracy, but he attempted nearly double the number of threes as he did twos last season at Pitt. (Jackson, by contrast, shot slightly more twos than threes.)

He doesn't create for himself consistently or hit the offensive glass to draw fouls, making his excellent free throw percentage somewhat less impactful.

Moreover, despite his outstanding efficiency, Johnson actually had a usage percentage lower than almost all of the Panthers' regulars. That fact speaks to his heavy reliance on threes and is significant to note when predicting his likely contributions at Carolina.

There's also a non-Johnson, yet related-to-Johnson, factor to consider. Will his arrival and presumed playing time hinder the development of UNC's other perimeter players? That issue at times in the past has made the coaching staff reluctant to take a graduate transfer, but obviously in this case the risk appears worth it. Most players in the modern era understand recruiting decisions — even if they may be impacted by them — but it's still worth noting.

Outlook

Johnson is unique among "recruits" in that he's a proven college shooter. And not only is he proven in college or even against high-major opponents, he's proven within the ACC. That makes him an extremely valuable weapon as Carolina's offense likely will shift from inside-out to the perimeter to some extent.

And it's fair to wonder if the wings will get the same open threes they did with the Meeks/Hicks/Bradley post-up presence, but even in 2013 Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston certainly were able to get their fair share of looks.

As for the Jackson comparison, it's probably most accurate to say that Johnson represents a piece of that pie. He'll bring perhaps even better three-point shooting, but without the floaters and drives off curl screens. He's also less proven as a defender.

That said, Johnson appears to have the intangibles and personality to make him a solid fit within the program. That's always especially important for transfers and should mitigate the risk discussed above in terms of rotations and chemistry.

His arrival into the program kicks up expectations for next season at least a half-notch, and now the Heels are poised to at least potentially enjoy their best post-championship season since 1994.


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