Cam Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets is a restricted free agent...

Cam Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets is a restricted free agent this offseason. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Nets’ biggest free-agency priority won’t be adding outsiders. It’ll be deciding how much to pay to retain someone they already have.

Cam Johnson will have his own version of “The Price is Right” when the NBA’s free agency period begins Friday at 6 p.m. How much will the Nets pay him and how high will they have go to stave off potential suitors?

A league source said the Nets have tendered a qualifying offer to Johnson, making him a restricted free agent. That means the Nets have the first option to match any team’s offer sheet. If they don’t, he’s free to sign where he chooses.

It means Johnson has a decision to make, and he’s balancing his options. Since arriving via trade from the Phoenix Suns in February, Johnson said he's enjoyed his time in Brooklyn.

“One thing I’ve learned this year from this summer on to now is the business will be the business and everybody acts accordingly in that aspect,” Johnson said during exit interviews. “In my case, I will do whatever I determine and my family and representatives determine is best for my future. Whether that’s being here or somewhere else I can’t fully say.

“All I can say is that I’ve really come to appreciate the people here and that means a tremendous amount to me.”

General manager Sean Marks reiterated after the draft he wants Johnson back. Mikal Bridges has lobbied for his friend and teammate to stay. But Johnson will be coveted for his size (6-8), ability to play multiple positions and shooting 41.6% on three-pointers over the past two seasons.

According to Keith Smith, a salary cap expert for Spotrac, Johnson could command between $21 and $25 million annually over the next four years. The Athletic reported this week that the Pistons, who hired former Suns coach Monty Williams, could offer Johnson a $100 million contract.

“That's more than fair for what Johnson brings as someone who can reasonably play [positions] 2-4 for most teams," Smith told Newsday. “ Twenty-five million even in first-year salary would be 18% or so of next season's cap. That's not bad for a quality starter.“

Smith compared Johnson’s value with Raptors forward OG Anunoby, who signed a four-year, $72 million contract in 2021. At an average of $18 million per year, that would’ve been the floor for a potential Johnson deal at the time.

However, since the salary cap has risen the past two years, it means that $20-21 million per year is now the starting value for Johnson. The Nets can exceed the salary cup to keep their own players.

It also means the Nets could have four players making at least $20 million next season, including Bridges, Ben Simmons and Spencer Dinwiddie. That would put the Nets back above the luxury tax and limit their ability to sign free agents.

If that’s the price for keeping Johnson, it might be a gamble worth taking.  Are the Nets willing to pay more than expected to bring him back?

For Marks, he’ll have to decide how much his praise for Johnson is worth if other teams raise the price.

“I think it’s one of those things that maybe we should expect the unexpected,” Marks said. “Things happen all the time in this. We’ll be prepared for that. Cam knows how we feel about him. We hope he’s a Net and so we’ll just have to sort of play it all out.”

More Brooklyn Nets

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME