Cam Johnson is enjoying a new role on offense

Cam Johnson saved the day for Brooklyn Nets two nights ago when he led a second half wave that finally prevailed Houston Rockets at the Barclays Center. Johnson finished with 31 points, his second 30 this month, going 11 of 18 overall, including 5 of 8 from three. He also recorded seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block in 35 minutes.

While much attention is (rightly) focused on Mikal Bridges and Spencer Dinwiddie, the two most notable returners in the Nets' deadline trades, CamJ is having the best stretch of his career, averaging a quiet but efficient 16.7 points along with 4.7 rebounds , 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and a block in his 20 games with Brooklyn. Only his 3-point shooting percentage, 45.5 in Phoenix, has dipped to 36.5, but it's slowly creeping back up. Johnson has hit 39.1% from the deep in the month of March. In two of the last three games, both wins, Johnson made five 3-pointers, against Miami and against Houston.

But Jacque Vaughn has given Johnson more scoring opportunities beyond his deep shooting, as Ryan Dunleavy writes Friday for the Post.

“We've allowed him to shoot the basketball more than he did before,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said of his time in Phoenix. “He handles the basketball in the pick-and-roll. The first play of the half was for him. He's making the right decision with that. So we're really putting more in his hands — and he's responded.”

He is also a rookie. Last season he finished third in the Sixth Man of the Year voting but he will not be eligible this season. He was a starter in 16 of his 17 games in Phoenix, filling in for injured stars and has been in the starting lineup for all 20 games he has played in Brooklyn.

He understands the changed role.

“In the NBA, you come in and do your job,” Johnson told the Post. “You work on being a well-rounded basketball player, but sometimes your job description on the court can be a little different than what you had in high school and college. There are things that I consistently work on and try to get better at every day. It's good to be in positions where I can have the ball in my hands, make decisions and read and improve my game.”

Improving one's game is also a financial necessity. Johnson, just turned 27, is a restricted free agent this summer. He turned down $72 million over four from Phoenix last summer and the market is expected to be somewhere between that and $80 million this summer. The Nets can match any offer from around the league, but the Brooklyn front office likes to lock up their free agents early, as they did with Nic Claxton, rather than wait for others.

In addition to his talent and production, Johnson is also so close to Mikal Bridges that they call each other twins.

“Me and Cam come here like we're twins,” Bridges said. “It's great to see him shine and make the call. Even the play he got the dunk, we knew it was going to happen. I knew I was going to pitch it and he was going to take off. We're happy to be here, embracing every moment and just trying win.”

Johnson also told Dunleavy that the freedom Vaughn has given him and Bridges has been a big positive in their development.

“That's part of the beauty of the situation,” Johnson said. “These last 20 games have given myself Mikal, Spence and Do just a lot of room to grow. We come up with a lot on the fly, but I think we get better because of it.

The Nets will need it the rest of the way. The first 20 games of the new-look Nets have truly been an experiment. As Vaughn has noted, having four starters coming in at the deadline has been unique. But for Johnson, it has been more than that. It's an opportunity to show how good he can be … and how much he deserves in free agency.

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