Season stats: 72 GP (54 starts), 25.7 MPG, 9.6 PPG, 56.8 FG%, 78.7 FT%, 6.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.2 BPG

Career stats: 289 GP, 17.8 MPG, 5.9 PPG, 58.6 FG%, 71 FT%, 4.7 RPG, 0.6 APG, 1.1 BPG

Amir Johnson came into the 2010-2011 season with a lot more certainty than he had ever had in his NBA career. After being the last player ever drafted directly out of high school, Johnson was a little-used bench warmer in Detroit for four seasons before Toronto came calling in the summer of 2009. Amir then burst onto the scene for the Raptors in 2009-2010, earning the fans’ loyalty and becoming a bit of a revelation in T.O.

After finally showing some of the potential that saw him drafted as an 18-year-old, Amir Johnson was rewarded by Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors with a highly criticized long-term contract. Between the pressures of that contract and his impressive first season in Toronto, it’s safe to say that expectations for Amir in 2010-11 may have been unreasonably high.

He got off to a bit of a slow start this season, but when he got in his groove, Amir continued to show Raptors fans and management his intriguing potential for the future. Over the course of one summer, Amir evolved from a guy who could only score around the basket to a big man with a money jumper and a sweet free throw stroke, to go along with his already efficient offensive post game.

Amir’s work with NBA scoring legend Alex English obviously paid off, as his free throw shooting improved from 63.8 per cent in 2009-10 to 78.7 per cent in 2010-11. The Raptors now had a legitimate scoring option in the post.

Not to mention, while Raptors players were dropping like flies and the season was getting away from them, Amir continued to soldier on through nagging injuries, suiting up in 72 games when most NBA players would have taken some extra days off.

Obviously, Amir Johnson has his faults, and we all know what his biggest weakness is. Once he’s on the floor, Amir is an incredibly useful player for the Raptors, but the issue is keeping him on the floor. Amir struggles to avoid fouls, and often picks up a couple of whistles against himself within a few minutes. Some of this really is just plain old bad luck, but Amir has to take most of the blame for what are usually careless, lazy fouls from a guy who works his butt off in every other area of the game.

Amir finished 10th in the NBA this season with 6.8 fouls per 48 minutes. While most areas of his game improved, you could argue that his penchant for fouling actually worsened this season. With his athleticism for a big man, he should not be among the most foul-prone players in the NBA. He shouldn’t even be close.

Outside of his sometimes comical affinity for picking up fouls, Amir’s other area of weakness was in his defensive consistency. Don’t get me wrong, every player on this Raptors roster had their defensive issues this year, and Amir was probably one of the better defenders the Raptors had, but again, with his athleticism and length, he could be doing a lot better job on the defensive end of the floor. There’s no reason why he can’t average a couple of blocks per game.

Like many young NBA players, especially young big men, Amir Johnson has the potential and natural ability to become an above-average player for a long period of time. But there are weaknesses in his game currently holding him back from doing that.

If he can learn and work to avoid silly fouls while also putting more focus into his defensive abilities, then I believe Amir Johnson can become quite the player, either as a starter on a good team or as a tremendous boost off of the bench. The Raptors have a 24-year-old athletic big man with big upside that has already racked up six years of experience in the NBA. A lot of teams would want a guy like that.

Now the onus is on Amir Johnson, himself. The next season, whenever that is, will be a dramatically significant one in his development. Will he finally become the complete player and budding star that his followers have always believed he could become, or will he be limited to his current status for his entire career because of his current limitations?

By the end of next season, Amir will likely either be a valuable asset at a very fair price, or officially an over-paid bust. Maybe it’s the homer in me speaking, but I’m leaning more toward the former.

Scott Carefoot’s take on Amir Johnson: Most regular readers of this blog are likely aware that Amir Johnson is my favorite Raptor. His athleticism, hustle and penchant for spectacular dunks and blocks drew my attention long before he joined this team. While his five-year, $30 million contract was widely viewed as a joke at the moment of its signing and continues to be viewed as such by many, I feel like he vindicated Colangelo’s decision last season with a noticeable improvement to his offensive skillset along with his continued dedication to rebounding, shot-blocking and overall defensive effort. Ed Davis’ emergence as one of the more promising young power forwards in the NBA provides the Raptors with an interesting dilemma going forward — if Davis and Johnson continue to improve, it’s not a matter of if one of them will need to be traded to bolster team needs at other positions, it’s a matter of when.

Staying with the Johnsons, our next player evaluation will be on James Johnson, so look for that post some time in the coming week.

Comments (8)

  1. Amir is a keeper!

    Both Ed & he should form a devasting 1-2 PF punch for years to come in the TDot.

    Amir greatly improved his jump shot especially from the free throw elbow either side and bettered his ft % due to diligent off season work outs with Alex English (why isn’t he the head coach over Jay? I can see Alex making Ed more efficient on offense as well) to go along with his all out hustle game.

    I can see Amir as a team leader in the near future although his future looks to be behind Ed Davis at PF.

    Question?

    In this so called rebuild year why were BC & Jay letting Amir play visibly hurt near the end of the season thus now Amir needs off season ankle surgery- why not shelve Amir and give the young guys (Ajinca, Alabi, Davis, Dorsey) playing time? Why risk further injury to Amir in a lost season ie losing with a purpose?

  2. I don’t think we should trade either Davis or Johnson. Davis imo is the future PF for the Raptors. Amir can be his backup now that gives you some solid production from the PF spot for years to come. We really need a Center and for Bargnani to be shipped out.

  3. If Amir can continue to improve on his ability to avoid fouls, he’ll be too good to bury as a bench player in this league. If he starts and doesn’t foul out, Amir will consistently give you 13 points, 9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game — which is pretty good value at what he’s getting paid. It would be a waste to only play him 15 minutes per game if the Raptors continue to have gaping holes at other positions.

  4. im not gunna lie if we draft ristan thomson i can c him being a much better amir jonson

  5. Amir would get more than 15 minutes a game as a back up PF as he would most likely rotate in a 3 big man rotation with Ed & the starting center.

    Amir would get at least 25-30 minutes a game per 48 as a reserve depending on matchups, fouls, injuries and the like.

    Ed is a double double average waiting to happen.

    I want the Rap’s to sign UFA Sam Dalembert this off season.

    C: Dalembert AJohnson
    PF: Davis AJohnson

  6. I totally agree with “BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!!” about the stupidity of letting Amir play injured down the stretch of the season. Hard to see how that didn’t exacerbate the injury and there was no reason for it. I’m surprised more of a fuss hasn’t been made about it, but then again who was going to call out Triano or BC on this?

    I like Amir and his contract, but he still hasn’t proven that you can rely on him to play heavy minutes any given night with his fouling problem. It would be nice if he or Davis could bulk up to the point where they could play some minutes at the 5 depending on the matchup, but if that doesn’t happen, then I agree one of them will probably be moved. Tough call as I like both of them, but it will be a bit easier to evaluate next season, assuming they’re both still around.

  7. If Amir can’t get his foul trouble under control then they will both stay for the long haul … but if he proves that he can stay on the floor then it’s adifferent story … it would be very interesting to see how these two would complement a defensive center … let’s see how the next few months unfold

  8. Yahoo reporting Triano out as Raptors coach!

    Yahoo!

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