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UNC Basketball: Heels in the NBA Finals

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A new member of the Carolina Family is about to become an NBA world champion.

Los Angeles Clippers v Phoenix Suns - Game Five Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A couple of weeks ago, Brandon wrote about how well Cam Johnson performed in the NBA Playoffs against the Lakers. Johnson is proving the doubters wrong as he cements his role in this Suns team that looks like it may finally deliver an NBA championship to both a title-starved city, and a Julius Hodge nut-punching, future Hall of Famer.

Since that article ran in Tar Heel Blog, Cam’s performance has gone up another level. The former UNC-wing has been absolutely unconscious from the field, and while he hasn’t had the same role or usage that he did as a 17-ppg scorer as a senior at Carolina, he has been providing the Suns with exactly what they need: timely shooting from a complimentary scorer.

Since getting drafted by the Suns, Cam hasn’t been called upon to carry the load like he did in Chapel Hill, but as a tall wing/small-ball power forward, he’s found his niche contributing to a team that has a legit chance at lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

After the Suns dispatched the Lakers, Cam wasn’t used as much in the series sweep of Denver, but he honestly wasn’t needed that much. The Suns beat the Nuggets by an average of 15.8 ppg, so there’s no real cause to quibble with Monty Williams’ minutes distribution. But in the Western Conference Finals against the Clippers, he came back to the fore, averaging 23.6 mpg. Cam still didn’t force up shots in an offense that has three gravitational... suns... to rotate around in Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton.

Instead, Johnson was extremely efficient with his limited shots, shooting 70.6 FG% (62.7 3P%) off of just 6 shots per night! When the defense collapses on Paul’s penetration or a post-feed to Ayton, it’s handy having a shooter that puts two out of every three-point attempts through the hoop. Check out this article, too, that talks about how good Johnson was in the Clippers series at doing all the little things it took for the Suns to win.

On the Milwaukee-side, the Bucks have the pleasure of having an experienced NCAA champion on the bench, ready to launch 3’s and floaters if needed. Justin Jackson, acquired by Milwaukee after being waived by OKC, has not been used much by the Bucks, either at the end of the regular season, or in the Playoffs. During Milwaukee’s postseason run, Jackson has appeared in only five games for a total of 15 minutes. He has scored just six points during that span, all of them in a blowout Game 4 loss to Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

But you know what he’ll get if Milwaukee pulls off the upset and beats Phoenix in the Finals? That’s right, an NBA championship ring. This would make Jackson an NCAA and NBA champion, all at the tender age of 26, nothing to scoff at. And all UNC fans know what he’s got in his bag:

For the NBA neutral like myself, I will be comforted that no dookies are left to coattail their way to a ring while Duke’s Twitter account attributes it all to Coach K’s genius and player development. I’m buoyed that another Tar Heel will have an NBA ring. Stress-free Finals viewing awaits!

Who do you think stands the best chance at getting a ring? Let us know in the comments below!