Amir Johnson (15). Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

Toronto Raptors Player Profile: Amir Johnson

Name:  Amir Johnson

Position: Power Forward/Centre

Age:  25

Height:  6’9″

Weight:  210 lbs.

College:  n/a [Westchester High School, Los Angeles, #56 pick in ‘05]

Season with Raptors: 3

2011-2012 Stats: 66 GP, 24.3 MPG, 7.1 PPG, 1.2 APG, 6.4 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 53.2 FG%, 0.40 3P%, 69.0 FT%, 14.40 PER

Analysis: Amir “is what he is”. An NBA veteran of 7 seasons (the first 4 with the Pistons, before arriving in Tdot following a cup-of-coffee with the Bucks), in none of them has he averaged double figures in points or boards. Amir has established his levels of production, and is the most statistical predictable player we have who isn’t named Jose Calderon. The chance of a miraculous leap in his production is miniscule. So can Amir help the Raps this year more than last?

Amir is what I call a marker player. In my nomenclature, a marker is someone who is so below-average relative to the competition that his very presence on the roster indicates severe weakness. For example, having Jamaal Magloire on the team last year was like a wavin’ flag [pace K’naan] over the ACC, emblazoned “We’re not even pretending to compete this season”. In the case of Amir, he’s a marker when he’s a starter, which he was in 43 Raps’ games last season and 54 the previous one. If Amir is starting games this season, we’ve either got an injury, or one of the regulars is in the doghouse. [20-second timeout: I’m not yet ready to list my starting five, or second unit. That will have to wait until I release my detailed team forecast, and that won’t occur until I’ve seen a few pre-season games. For this Profile, suffice it to say that I don’t have Amir pencilled in as a starter.]

There’s no shame in being a solid contributor to the Raps’ second unit, and Amir can flourish in that role. Despite a herky-jerky running form, he gets up and down the floor well enough, and mucks effectively on the boards. He has no post-up game worth mentioning, nor is he blessed with the leap necessary to hit a turnaround jumper over even a mildly engaged defender. In fairness, his skills have expanded slightly; he will occasionally hit an outside jumper, or surprise his defender with a drive to the hoop. Calderon and he have some sort of mystical rapport, as Jose will find Amir with a perfect pass for easy buckets time and again. It’s quite remarkable, and fun to watch. He’s a solid defender who blocks his share of shots. Amir is very seldom hurt, and doesn’t appear to have any issues with his mates or the organization.

Amir did not have a good season last year. He appeared to be mailing it in on numerous occasions, and his offensive production stagnated. If he wants to wear Raptor red a while longer, that can’t continue.

The Raps have needed this guy for the past few seasons, and will need him this one too, but not as much. Ed Davis is a player with a higher ceiling, and could push Amir aside. At that point, he would be tussling with rookie Quincy Acy for minutes. It’s quite conceivable Aaron Gray could bump Davis, and Davis could bump Amir, and so on. For the first time in too long, making the Raptors out of camp will be an accomplishment, as will playing significant minutes. The Raps will have few marker players this season, which is a huge step forward. There won’t be any roster ballast, like Magloire and Alabi, nor will there be second-stringers masquerading as firsts-.

Key stat to watch-MPG: We want this number to go down! If it does, we’re likely to be winning. A player with Amir’s limitations should not be on the floor for half the game; 15 MPG would be right. 

He stays on the floor if: His production remains at his historical norms while playing fewer minutes. This may seem like a tall order, but it’s predicated on him being out there against the opponents’ second squad.

Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada. 


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