The Ultimate Raptors Rankings are the Raptorblog editors’ attempt to rank the top 30 Toronto Raptors of all time. These rankings are obviously somewhat arbitrary and endlessly debatable, but they’re based on each player’s contribution, performance and longevity as a Raptor, and on how beloved they are by Raptors fans. We’ll count down a new Raptor every Wednesday on this blog.

Amir Johnson’s Raptors résumé:

  • Last NBA player to be drafted out of high school (Pistons selected him with 56th pick in 2005 draft)
  • Led Raptors with a 17.7 Player Efficiency Rating in 2010-2011 season

The 2009 Toronto Raptors off-season was filled with the usual Bryan Colangelo roster overhaul, highlighted by the big-money acquisition of Hedo Turkoglu, among a flurry of other moves. Two years later, due to the failings of others, but mostly due to his own dedication, Amir Johnson has proven to be the best pick-up of that whirlwind summer in Toronto.

When the Raptors traded Carlos Delfino’s rights and Roko Ukic to the Bucks for Johnson and Sonny Weems, Toronto hoops junkies couldn’t help but salivate over the possibilities Amir presented them with. Other than Croatian-Canadians who still swear Roko Ukic could have been the second coming of Steve Nash, the acquisition of Amir Johnson was met with reasonable excitement. And so far, Amir has not disappointed.

The optimism surrounding Amir had nothing to do with his NBA statistics or professional resume to that point. It was all about his potential, a word that has become synonymous with the latest Raptors rebuild.

Amir has shown that immense potential in flashes and stretches of brilliance over his two-year run with the Raptors, and while some point to the fact that he’s played six NBA seasons without truly making a name for himself or learning how to avoid foul trouble, others still see an exciting 24-year-old who remains more than capable of breaking out.

As a 22-year-old, he shouldered the load admirably when Chris Bosh went down with injuries in the midst of a playoff race. As a 23-year-old, he battled through his own nagging pains and injuries all season, yet still managed to suit up for 72 games, usually as the hardest working Raptor on the court.

This past season was the first time in Johnson’s young career that he averaged more than 18 minutes per game (25.7), and he delivered by putting up career numbers pretty much across the board. If his game, maturity and role within the organization continue to progress over time, then there is reason to believe Amir’s modest numbers of nine points, six rebounds and a block could eventually become, say, 12-15 points, 8-10 rebounds and a couple of blocks.

Of course, nothing is that simple. With an emerging stud in Ed Davis, the elephant in the room named Andrea and an assumed future cornerstone in Jonas Valanciunas, Amir will be hard-pressed to find extended minutes in Toronto’s front-court going forward. He’ll obviously have to work through his foul issues and improve his overall defence, and if he can accomplish those two things, then there’s no doubt in my mind that Amir can simply out-work anyone ahead of him on the team’s depth chart.

Take last off-season for example, when he was handed a rather large extension in what most believed was a reward for less than stellar numbers. Instead of settling with his just good enough to get paid game, Amir went to work on improving his free throw shooting and overall offensive range. The result was a stunning improvement in his shooting that saw him extend his range to just in front of the three-point line and up his free throw average from 64 to 79 per cent, while still maintaining his almost automatic finishing touch around the rim.

His steady progression and accomplishments in two years as a Raptor, his youthful energy, his blue-collar work ethic on the court and his sky-high potential already make him a fan-favourite among the rabid Raptors’ fan-base and a worthy candidate for these depressing Ultimate Raptors Rankings.

But throw in a down-to-earth attitude and a “regular guy” approachability on the streets of Toronto, and Amir has nearly reached the level of cult-following icon. Just ask RaptorBlog editor Scott Carefoot, who’s so gaga for Amir that he couldn’t write this post on account that he wouldn’t be able to stay objective.

In hindsight, I wasn’t exactly critical of Amir in this post either, but that’s OK. It’s not like anyone is declaring him a future All Star – realistically, that’s not happening. But he can be a continuing piece of the evolving Raptors puzzle, who tops out as a 15-and-10 guy while simply out-hustling everyone around him.

After some of the stiffs that have both come through the Air Canada Centre over the last 16 years and have made their way in to these rankings, isn’t that hustle and likability almost enough, as it is, to put Amir Johnson in the Ultimate Raptors Rankings?

He’s no. 24 after two years in a Raptors uniform – if we were to do this again in five years, how high could Amir go?

Though perhaps the better and more common question being asked today is, “how much more depressing will the next 23 Wednesdays be?”

Once again, don’t forget to join our RaptorBlog Facebook Page, where you’ll be notified of any new RaptorBlog posts and breaking Raptors news and notes, while being able to discuss and debate the latest Raptors-related topics with fellow die-hards.

Comments (10)

  1. Assuming Amir stays with the Raptors for another five years or so, I’m sure he’ll be in our top 10. There’s so much I like about Amir, it’s ridiculous. Great choice, great post.

  2. So if Amir were to leave tomorrow, he’d be one spot better than Joey Graham? I don’t buy it.

    Sorry, Scott, I just can’t see you living down putting Joey on the list, in any circumstances.

  3. Nice article on Amir.

    I see him topping out at maybe 17 – 9 not that much different than 15 – 10.

    Of course his value to the Raptors is a lot more than just his points and rebounds.

    I also see him as the Raptors leader on the court, though his constant hustle and playing through injuries. Whether he can also become a locker room leader and team captain, only time will tell.

    We shall see

  4. Do these more than once a week! This is ridiculous!

  5. Maybe Scott has insider info on when the lockout is going to end, and has timed the pace of these write-ups accordingly.

  6. No insider info, here. I’m just not confident there’s going to be a 2011-12 season.

  7. I admit, I was one of the pessimists that felt that Amir was being overpaid with the contract extention.

    But since then, I’ve come around – even going so far as to try to start a chant of MVP after his hustle helped us come from behind to beat the T’Wolves @theACC.

    I see him as CB4 2.0.

  8. Despite all the incredibly mediocre Raptors we’ve had listed so far, nothing has made me more depressed about this franchise than this post.

    Don’t get me wrong, Amir is a great bench player who gets into foul trouble, and has been for the past two seasons. But that’s exactly the point–a great bench player who gets into foul trouble for only two seasons of work is #24 on the all-time Raptor list. Really? What a pathetic franchise.

  9. If you’re depressed now, wait until you see AC Earl at No. 8. ;-)

    Ok, maybe not AC Earl, but I’m sure there are a lot of underwhelming players on their way.

  10. I give him props of how he rose up in the league, but Raptors fans are delusional if they think that he will get any better than he did last season. the man is essentially a transition players with no real post moves to speak of. He is also too skinny to defend in the paint. Add the fact that he was posting those numbers on a very poor performing Raptor team diminishes his value even further. He’s a solid role player and nothing else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *