Feb 3, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Toronto Raptors power forward Amir Johnson (15) drives toward the basket during the first half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Dwayne Casey: a tough decision at Power Forward?


Dec 28, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) passes the ball against the New York Knicks at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Knicks 115-100. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 28, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) passes the ball against the New York Knicks at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Knicks 115-100. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

There are a few questions Raptors coach Dwayne Casey will need to make moving forward through the second half of the season.  Casey will be faced with a decision at Power Forward which I do not think will be too easy for him (nor would I want to have to make it myself).  Will Amir Johnson be healthy enough to start down the stretch, or does he come off the bench like he is now?  Some fans may think I’m crazy for asking such a ludicrous question, but I do have plenty of intriguing arguments to back this up. 

Patrick Patterson is playing his best basketball since the 2012-13 season (in which he started 38 of 47 games for the Houston Rockets with former teammate there, who was also the point guard on that team, Kyle Lowry).  Patterson has been trying to find his game since the Rockets traded him (much like last year’s trade when the Raptors sent Ed Davis away as part of the Rudy Gay deal during the best stretch of Davis’ career) starting only 3 of the remaining 24 games for the Sacramento Kings that year.  It would seem that being reunited with Kyle Lowry has really helped Patterson, who is shooting an impressive 50.6% from the field since joining the Raptors, while attempting 57 three pointers!  That is not an easy number to reach shooting the three as often as that.  Patterson is also averaging 44% from the three-point line as a Raptor, which is an exceptional number for a Power Forward.  Patterson is playing the best basketball in the 4th year of his still young career.  Playing with Jonas Valanciunas, I would argue Patterson is a better complement to Johnson, as Patterson is primarily around the perimeter setting screens, or looking for his shot, whereas Johnson prefers to roll to the bucket after a screen or play in the post.  This makes life harder for Valanciunas as it is easier to send another defender to him quickly.

I don’t want you to think I am not an Amir Johnson supporter in all of this.  When the Raptors first got Amir Johnson and he was an unknown commodity, I was vehemently attempting to prove his worth to the doubters.  I told my best friend who was skeptical about Johnson that I thought he played like a young Kevin Garnett.  Was I stretching the truth a little, well yes I was; Johnson has blossomed into a very good role player in the NBA.  Johnson has even been an adequate starter (far better than Andrea Bargnani for that matter), and a impact player for the Raptors franchise.  However I believe, at this point in his career, he would serve the Raptors better coming off the bench to give JV a blow or take over the Centre spot when JV runs into early foul trouble.  Another reason I would move Johnson to the bench is, despite his great durability in terms of games missed as a Raptor, his health seems to always be a cause for concern.

I know that I said I would not want to make this decision earlier, but I do believe starting Patterson is the best decision for the Raptors going forward.  Giving Johnson a chance to come off the bench and not abuse his body might be better both for the Raptors and Amir Johnson alike.

Tags: Amir Johnson Dwane Casey Patrick Patterson Toronto Raptors

  • Jensan

    Amir , as a 5 backup makes more sense than Tyler as a backup 5 .

    Additionally, Amir has scoring ability for 2 nd team combined with john Salmons and Vasquez / Nano. By playing hansborough and Novak , you have a gritty 2nd lineup.

    • Greg Hall

      I agree with you here, Amir tends to be a better fundamentally sound defensive Center than Tyler. Hansbrough is the guy you need to bring a physically imposing presence to bother guys, but he can be beat by those more crafty players that Amir doesn’t.

  • mweichert

    I’ll upset a lot of Amir fans, but I actually wish that Amir would have been traded. He’s a good player to have on the bench in the 2nd line-up, but I’m not sure he’s needed with Hansbrough and Hayes. I’d like to see him traded for a top rebounder, like David Lee, as the Raptors need to improve on the defensive glass. We need a presence in the paint to move forward.

    Aside from that, I’m going to rant – why on earth doesn’t T-Ross drive and finish strong at the basket more often? He’s good great athletic capability, and I see him often able to drive past his opponent only to put up a finesse shot, when he should finish strong and try to get to the line. T-Ross has many characteristics that remind of me of T-Mac, but if he doesn’t start doing the above I would also look at trading him for someone who can.

    • Greg Hall

      Hello mweichert, you make a very valid point regarding our paint presence and rebounding needs. Whether I guy like Amir Johnson can bring in someone like that is another question though. You also make some good points about Terrence Ross, however he was a 3 point shooter in College and is still developing his game. Ross has been making great strides on the defensive end this season, and sadly is reminding me more of Jimmy Butler of the Bulls than T-Mac (although I’m not doubting his ability to be a T-Mac like player).

      I am pleased that the team was not blown up or radically changed to allow the chemistry on this team to remain and give these guys who’ve earned a high playoff seeding to give it a run together. Thanks for your comments.