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.