There is a lot of negatively around these parts and its not difficult to understand why. We barely had a 30 win team at the start of the season and plenty of injuries have made the situation even worse.

A couple topics are top of mind:

  • Demar DeRozan’s solid January #s
  • How poorly Andrea Bargnani’s effort stats are
  • Should Sonny Weems start?
  • Amir Johnson‘s contract – value or not?

DeMar DeRozan’s January

DeRozan has his weakness, but I’m impressed that he’s the first one to admit his deficiencies and put in the work to improve. DeRozan’s points per game are up over 60% from the first two months of the year. He also made it to the line 4.8 times a game in January, shooting a solid 84.4%.

DeRozan’s rebounds per game are also up to 3.8 per, from 3.3 per in November and December. However, his points per game increases have come at the expense (albeit small) of efficiency: he’s shooting 45.6% versus 48.1% in December and 45.9% for November. He’s relied on even more given all of our injuries. This certainly had an impact on double teams and the him being subject of defensive focus, which has weighed on his efficiency.

Overall though, he continues to improve. And I won’t bet against him.

Bargnani’s effort stats

Rebounds, steals, blocks, defense. All involve elements of grit and hustle.

Unfortunately, last year, Bargnani said this in an interview with The question was how does he get beat on the boards.

Being lazy maybe. That’s the only reason it can be. I’ve got the body, I’ve got everything to take 10 rebounds a game. It’s just sometimes I get lazy.

Perhaps that was good that he admitted there was a problem. Sadly, he hasn’t done much to improve.

Despite the loss of Chris Bosh, Bargnani’s rebounding has actually regressed. Surprisingly, all of his hustle statistics have declined versus his previous 4 year average, with the exception of steals – and that’s on an insignificant number.

On offence, he hasn’t been able to offset this regression. His TS% of 52.8% is his lowest since his difficult second year and his three point FG% of 32.9% is a career low.

If Andrea Bargnani is our star and second highest wage earner, he needs to perform at a higher level. Talent is fixed, but effort is variable. And he needs to start giving a little of the latter.

The team goes largely as Bargnani goes. Look at this distinct contrast:

Should Sonny Weems start?

I had a good “debate” (if one can debate via Twitter) with Tim Chisholm (one of my favourite writers) from TSN on starting Wright vs Weems. We agreed more than disagreed, but more importantly the discussion brought out my 4 key points to start Wright over Weems.

Obviously neither is a starter on a contending team (but we need something to chat about during a 10 game losing streak, don’t we?!), but I tried to make my point four ways:

  • Our starting lineup is quite weak defensively, but are solid offensive players. It can only help by inserting our strongest wing defender (Wright).
  • We can play Weems more minutes than Wright, but not as much against the opponent’s starting unit. Weems defense will not be exposed as much and he will have a relatively easy time scoring against the opponent’s second unit. As well, our second unit is much weaker offensively and this creates balance.
  • It rewards those who put in the most effort on D (Wright). This is a trait we need to instill in our young squad today – in order to properly build a winner.
  • It’s a misconception that Wright negatively affects the offense. In fact, the Raptors have a offensive rating 2.18 points higher with Wright on the floor. [Raptors defensive rating is an impressive 6.44 points better when he’s on the floor as per point #1]

Amir Johnson’s salary and value

I had to add this after reading all the inaccuracies in the comment section of this post.

Everyone has their favourite player that they wish to defend, but please at least use correct data in your argument. No, Amir does not make “6-7 million” per year. He makes $5 million this year, and will average $6 million over 5 years. Andrea Bargnani does not make $10 million this year (he makes $8 million) and will average $10 million.

This summer, I took a lot of flack against defending Amir Johnson’s contract against two similar contracts at the time: Drew Gooden’s and Travis Outlaw’s. To me, the relative value was an easy call. But not many agreed.
Given the recent discussion confusion in the comments section today, I have also added Andrea Bargnani’s statistics and salary numbers for an interesting comparison.

I shouldn’t need to comment. The numbers speak for themselves. Amir Johnson is generally putting up better numbers across the board despite being owed the least. Also he’s ahead of Bargnani in every category (besides AST%) while being paid 40% less Bargnani over his contract. Bargnani obviously has much more range, but also has many more weaknesses. Not sure that you can make a strong case against Johnson, who will make $20 million less than Bargnani over their contracts.

Oh, and the comment about Amir Johnson cannot stay on the floor? He’s at a career low 5.4 fouls per 36 minutes and a career high 25.3 minutes per game (despite some in game injuries). He’s only played under 20 minutes 9 times and only 3 of those were due to foul trouble out of 48 games played (equaling 6.3% of games). Those are the facts, but don’t let them get in the way of a good argument.

Questions? Email me: [email protected] or find me on Twitter.


  • WhatWhat

    But we run our offense through Bargnani, so regardless of how inefficient he has been, he’s a better player than Amir. /sarcasm

    • marz

      Despite your sarcasm, your point is still valid in my opinion. I believe that if you run the offense through Amir, his efficiency will drop. You cannot compare the two players on a numbers basis without looking at what they bring to the table.

      With that being said, I’d rather have Amir on my team than Bargnani.

      • WhatWhat

        Yeah, given the HUGE spike in usage he’s been forced to take, Bargs his done a great job on OFFENSE prior to this stretch of his.

        His regression defensive over the entire season is inexcusable though, regardless of how you look at it, and THAT’S why he’s being criticized so hard for. (But you agree with me, right? Why am I typing this again? )

  • KJ-B

    I think and hope that the “Weems-Gate” should come to a happy and organic end when Barbosa returns to the lineup…There’s no reason to give Weems 30+ minutes with the Brazilian Blur around–then DeRozan can play the three in the 4th Q with either Jose or Bayless running the point…

  • KJ-B

    Oh and Tom, could you look at this article from … It literally states that #7 is the 3rd worst 7-foot rebounder the NBA has ever seen; minimum 100 games…

    Please and Thanks!

    • Tom Liston

      Interesting. Tom Haberstroh does great work.

    • Nilanka15

      But, but, but, his English is improving, and Reggie steals his rebounds…

  • DG88

    These stats are only to make Andrea look bad and for Amir to look good. /sarcasm/excuse for Andrea Bargnani

  • Balls of Steel

    Thank you for your work Tom. Numbers don’t lie man. As far as running the offense through Amir and how that is going to affect his efficiency is hogwash. Let’s face it, given Amir’s limited ability to score outside 18 ft. (although he’s been nailing them of late), his efficiency would never go down the way people suggest it simply because of where he normally scores (he is third in field goal percentage). If anything, given his knack to score inside, there’s a better chance of him attracting double teams and creating more space for Toronto’s perimeter scorers. In the paint, he is also more likely to be fouled as well which is nice since he’s 81% at the line this season (a hack an Amir won’t work this time). Bargs will never attract a double team from 18 ft, the way Howard or Stoudemire does down low. That’s just facts. I would love to see Amir with at least 15 touches per game. You’ll see.

    • Nilanka15

      I usually agree with your posts, but not this one. Amir is a solid role player, nothing more. The offense should NEVER be run through him. He has very little one-on-one game. His offensive production is mainly due to his own hustle. He’s our new JYD (without the barking and towel waving)

      • Balls of Steel

        Perhaps running the offense through him is a stretch. I do think that he can be an effective option as a main post threat. Minnesota handled Bargs very well when Love admitted to forcing Bargs to the outer portions of the court (forcing low percentage jumpshots and fade aways) and kept him from exercising his usual drives and post moves. With Amir down low, he can attract players providing help defence thus creating more room for perimeter scoring (such as Bargs, Calderon). Think about it, we don’t have a 3pt. threat or a consistent post presence. This means that the Raps are one of the easiest teams to defend (regardless of their scoring capabilities). We need a mix of players on offence and ALL PLAYERS playing defense.

  • voy

    in my opinion, the argument should not be framed “if andrea is our star player…he needs to perform at a higher level”. Andrea simply needs to perform better.

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “star player” but just because someone is the best player on a team now doesn’t mean the organization is “building around him” or expects him to be the best player on the team by the time the raps are ready to contend. I know you never made this assertion but I think its important to highlight.

    Secondly, the fact that the raps are completely unable to contend without Bargs going off is indicative of how bad this really team is. Everyone said they knew this year was going to be a tough one but then every game the team loses its, like, a total surprise to everyone. This team blows. Its a collection of pieces that do not fit. Our starting line up consists of a pg who cant keep anyone in front of him and has trouble staying healthy when he avgs more than 30 minutes a game; a shooting guard who also cant, presently, defend or shoot from deep; a SF who is too slow to play SF yet too small to play PF; a 210 pound 6’8 PF; and a centre who doesn’t know how to use his 260 pound frame in the post. Individually, these guys may be ok pieces on other teams but together its a total disaster.

    Re: Amir. I like Amir. However, I’m guessing, no one else in the league was gonna give him 30 million over 5 years. Personally, I think Amir is too light to be a front line banger on a good team. I think alot of his back problems are a result of him going up against bigger guys who have an extra 20-40 pounds to lean on Amir. I think AJ would be a great guy to have coming off the bench once the Raps become a deeper team.

    re: weems vs wright. I’d love to see triano use wright against the other team’s best perimeter player, regardless if its the pg, sg, or sf. Its time to give the guy some burn. Tell him, dont worry about making mistakes. I’m going to give you 25 minutes a game till the end of the season. Show me what you can do.

  • Donny

    I think Amir should become our first option on offence based on these numbers. Do you agree with that Tom?

    I don’t know why Jay insist on going to AB first and make the defense focus on him !!!
    We should let Amir with these type of efficiency to be our first weapon, then after that, the left overs should go to AB or DD.

    Also, Tom, How does Amir’s number compare to All-stars like Gasol, Griffen, Duncan …
    It seems like it is pretty close when he has AB beat this badly ?

    Do I dare to say that these numbers suggest an ALL-STAR potential for Amir ?
    Did we actually paied him less than what he is worth?

    • voy

      Donny and Balls of Steel,

      In my opinion, AJ doesn’t have the game to attract a consistent double team. His repetoire of offensive moves is fairly limited. I’m willing to guess the vast majority of his points are from open jumpers and quick layups assisted by jose, and thats fine. I’m not taking anything away from Amir’s improvements, but lets not pretend Amir has the game where we can compare him to elite power players in the nba or where he can go one on one with his defenders and create his own shot.

      • Balls of Steel

        Voy, watch the games. Most of his points inside are EARNED. The fact that his moves are limited makes his paint points more cumbersome on his part. The way he cradles the ball towards the basket is very awkward. While the screen and roll plays he has with Jose ain’t smooth either, but it works. I’m not saying he’s elite either but at 5 mil and the numbers across the board is better than Bargs, what more could Tom provide?

        PS> The league is still giving him the open jumpers but he’s starting to nail it. His work with Alex English is paying off. Remember when Oakley was here? Remember his ugly jumpshot that he consistently drained from 20ft. That’s going to be Amir soon. He can be the Oakley without the mouth and attitude, with more playing time. He is developing into a fine post player – a lot better than Bargs in this department that’s for sure. Just 15 touches is all it takes.

        • voy

          what does bargs have to do with conversation? you floated your belief that Amir could draw doubles and I argued against it. What bargs does or how much amir gets paid has zero to do with this conversation.

          yeah, I remember the oak. maybe amir can be like the oak with a little more post game but thats certainly not a good reply to convince anyone that amir can consistently draw double teams. no one ever 2bled oakley. no one will ever consistently 2ble amir.

          • Balls of Steel

            It certainly has a lot do with Bargs especially in relation to the numbers Tom provided for the Statophile post. I believe there’s just too much of that Bargs hate floating as it is so I’m not adding to it. I’m merely commenting on Tom’s numbers with Bargs as a bullet point in his numbers argument. Be both have different views on amir and that’s fine. Both are valid points. Perhaps the conversation has evolved into Amir’s role in the offense of this team and the need to include Bargs has dissipated so I apologize.

      • Donny

        I don’t know about that Voy. Looking at numbers and I hope Liston puts up a comparison with Griffin, Duncen and other elite PF is the league and Amir seems pretty elite.

        Looking at these numbers he is beating AB badly. Why shouldn’t he be the number 1 choice in offence ??!! He has better % so he is a better shooter !!! If we give him the ball in the post as much as we give AB, then I am sure he can score more and be more effective.

        The Numbers Don’t lie, Amir is an Elite Player and soon to be an ALL-STAR and maybe based on Liston’s number he is alreDY ONE.

      • Tom Liston

        No, he shouldn’t be our first option. His points will come off fast breaks, offensive rebounds and open jumpers.

        Re: AB first. The issue is we have three primary players (AB, LK, and LB) that generally refuse to pass the basketball. Our opponent’s scouting staff sees this and its part of the reason why their eFG% is low (forcing shots). AB should be a focal point of the offense (along with DeRozan), but he should be taking less long 2s and more 3s/post opportunities.

        Johnson will never likely be an all-star (though one never knows I suppose). Point was for $6M a year on avg, he’s quite valuable. But not close to all-star material (what would the average all-star make? $12 million? More?)

        • Michel G

          Tom, the funny thing is, AB is average at best in the post, and is having his worst year from beyond the 3-point line. He’s most comfortable shooting the long 2s. So what do you do?

          • Tom Liston

            According to Synergy Sports, he’s ranked 27th in the league (measured by Points Per Possession – PPP) in post up situations – very good. Best situation for him.

    • Nilanka15

      The only reason the Amir/Bargs stats were compared was because of the argument started in A-Dub’s post today.

      Amir will never be a primary, secondary, or even tertiary option on offense (on any team). He’s a role player at best. But every team needs their collection of role players, as long as they know their role.

      As soon as you ask Amir to do more than he’s capable of, he becomes a Bargnani.

      • Donny

        Come on Nilanka, Look at the numbers. They don’t lie. I used to think like you before I see these numbers. If AB can be a primary offence, why NOT Amir ?

        • Nilanka15

          Like always, numbers only tell half the story. Watching games completes the story.

          Amir doesn’t have dribbling ability, he doesn’t have the bulk to back down opponents, he doesn’t have a “go-to” move in the post, he doesn’t have a turn-around jumper, he doesn’t have a jump-hook, he doesn’t have a left hand, etc., etc.

          100% of Amir’s offensive production comes from put-backs, perfect passes from Calderon on the PNR, wide open 18 foot jumpers, and the FT line. Giving Amir the ball and asking him to “create” offense is just asking for trouble. As effecient as his numbers are, Amir is VERY unpolished offensively. And having been in the league as long as he has, there’s very little reason to believe he’ll graduate from “role player” to “offensive weapon”.

          Don’t get me wrong, I like Amir. But I’m just telling it how I see it.

    • Theswirsky

      way to blow this out of proportion. This was based on intentionally misleading statements by some of Bargs supporters.

    • Giolondon999

      Amir first option????? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!! you are justa a bunch of AB haters …by the way noone on this team is a first option jet …even less DD , all the idiots are out for blood , you should just hope to get a good draft pick , even better if you stop watching basketball all togheter jesus how much crap I’ve been reading in these days!!!

  • hateslosing

    Amir will never be a number one option in terms of throwing him the ball in the post and saying score, he simply has no one on one game. He COULD be a number one option off the pick and roll and I think if this team were to move to a system where every play started with Amir setting the high pick for Calderon he could put up some big scoring numbers. I prefer to see him used as a role player and have him crash the offensive glass. Derozen is the guy we should be looking at running the offense through, not Amir.

  • WatchTheGamesYouMorons

    The level of knowledge of this site’s readers and posters has dropped like a stone. An NBA team is just as likely to run its offence through Amir Johnson as I am to ask Amir to perform open heart surgery on me. Any team with Amir as the #1 option is dead on the operating table.

    • Tom Liston

      The purpose was to show relative value since there was incorrect information. As you point out (thank you) it was NOT meant to suggest the offense run through Amir.
      Jose Calderon (and Bayless/Barbosa) should run the offense. Andrea and DeMar should have the ball the most, but we need better ball movement from all players.

  • Flonasel

    New format for Statophile is great. Much more organized and palatable

  • Tristan

    Great article.

    I completely agree that Amir has outperformed the other 3 players analyzed. But has it been mentioned that all 3 of these players have bad contracts? When comparing Amir to those other 2 contracts signed this summer (Gooden and Outlaw), Amir definitely comes out on top. But I’m not necessarily convinced that his contract is good value; it only proves that it is better than Gooden and Outlaw’s. I think most people would agree that those guys were most certainly overpaid this summer. If a moderately fit man beats two out of shape guys in a race, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good runner. It just means he’s better than the two fat guys.

    In order to determine whether or not we are getting Amir at a good price, shouldn’t we compare his contract to other players’ contracts that produce a similar amount? What do you think?

    • Tom Liston

      Great idea. I actually started this late summer, but the database took awhile to get going.
      (Cannot find an updated source of salary data to cut and copy – a long and manual process). But I’ll tackle it again.
      It’s not bad to compare contracts during the same period though. Every off season has unique dynamics.

      • Bo4

        Doesn’t have that data? That’s were I always go to get answers to my salary questions.