This was a guest post from Atique Virani, who may or may not have just been trolling Matt Moore.

Before this season, the book on Amir Johnson had already been written. He was destined to be a really good bench big whose lack of offensive skills outside of finishing right at the rim would prevent him from ever being an effective starter. Then, something strange happened when Andrea Bargnani was injured. More offensive responsibility was placed on Amir, and he responded beautifully. He maintained his efficiency at the rim while flashing increased ability to score from farther away. He also developed a nice rapport with the (sadly departed) Ed Davis to form one of the more underrated interior passing duos in the league. His growth this season, and his youth (he’s just 25, despite this being his 8th season in the league), beg the question: is Amir Johnson a viable long term starter for the Raptors?

His boxscore stats, even when adjusted for playing time and pace, don’t show any drastic improvement in his game. He’s rebounding and assisting at about the same pace as he always has, and his efficiency has dropped slightly, according to Hoopdata. The biggest change is in his usage, which is the highest it’s been since his 2nd year in the league, when he played in just eight games. That’s the thing about Amir. His minute and pace-adjusted statistics have always been stellar. The problem with him has always been staying on the court and maintaining his production in longer minutes. And that’s where he’s improved this season.

Amir’s defense has been underrated for a few years now. He was an integral cog in Casey’s schemes last year, and this season, especially when he’s played with Valanciunas, he’s been excellent. He still fouls too often but he’s improved his foul rate as the season’s gone on, according to Basketball Reference, possibly as a result of not having to cover for poor perimeter defenders as much. That rapport with Valanciunas is especially promising. According to NBA.com, Toronto’s Defensive Rating when those two are on the court together would rank as the best in the league by a ridiculous margin. Unfortunately, Casey hasn’t played the two together nearly as much as we’d like to see. I’m hopeful that as the season descends more and more into meaninglessness, we see more of this potential front court of the future. They’re both mobile, athletic, long defenders who are willing and able to provide smart help on drives to the rim, and Jonas’ ability to help frees Amir up and allows him to match up against similarly sized players.

I noted that Amir’s defense is sadly underrated, at least by non-local media. His offense is even more unheralded. Before the Gay trade, he formed one of the very best P&R duos in the league with Jose Calderon. The Raptors don’t run the P&R as much since acquiring Rudy, but Amir remains one of the most efficient P&R finishers in the league (joining him, promisingly, is Valanciunas). He doesn’t have the same rapport with Lowry, and Kyle isn’t as good a P&R craftsman as Jose, but they’re both athletic, and the chemistry between the two will come.

Amir’s compensated for the drop in P&R play by becoming a lot better in the post and in isolation. In previous years, when Amir would catch the ball at a standstill with a defender between him and the basket, he’d usually pass the ball off, or, even worse, turn the ball over or miss a wild shot. This season, he’s added a legitimate post move to his nearly barren arsenal, a spin move transitioning to a hook shot that he feels comfortable releasing anywhere within 10 feet. And it’s working, according to Basketball Reference, as he’s shooting nearly 70% on his hook shots. His jump shot remains at a merely passable 35%, however. Amir will never be the type of guy who can change a defense’s complexion with his post play but this improvement means teams cannot ignore him in non-P&R situations. The attention he draws now is integral to Toronto’s offense.

One last improvement that might point to a future as a starter: Amir’s passing. His big- to-big passes with Boss Davis have drawn attention nationally, even being noted by such luminaries as Grantland’s Zach Lowe, and for good reason. Amir’s become one of the better passing big men in the league. According to Hoopdata, Amir’s Assist Rate is better than that of All Star level forwards David West, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett. Amir still turns the ball over a lot but the improvement in passing is promising for his future.

Amir’s intangibles this season have been immaculate as always. He turns his ankle more than Stephen Curry, it seems, but he’s still one of the hardest working, toughest players in the league. He’s that rare commodity – a hustle player who also has legitimate basketball skill. And he’s only 25. There’s really no reason to believe he can’t be a legitimate starting calibre power forward for the next handful of years.

This was a guest post from Atique VIrani, who may or may not have just been trolling Matt Moore.

  • DumbassKicker

    Contents removed for being one of the most offensive and ignorant things ever said on this site. – sam

    • Macc

      Congrats, you’ve just been selected for Crap of the Day.

    • pdjjw

      You sure you don’t want to add something about how Jewish people are too short to play basketball?  

      I don’t know you well enough to know if you if this is supposed to be clever or sarcastic or if this is really what you believe.  And frankly I don’t care.   Whatever point you thought you were trying to make with this post missed the mark.  In future, if you don’t have anything intelligent to add to a discussion, please refrain from posting.

    • ezz_bee

      Jesus, that makes me want to know what he wrote that much more. 

      • Roarque

        Just move along – there’s nothing to see here.

      • Thegloveinrapsuniform

         shiaaat me too. the mods are such teases

        • cesco

          the comment is also posted under an article march 7th with 39 raps, ctrl +f “black” should lead you to it. 

          • Sam Holako

            Thanks, Cesco. Totally missed it before.

    • j bean

      Give yourself a kick. Your fascination with Andrea won’t allow you to accept that there is another PF on the team who has quietly developed into a valuable asset that is multi-dimensional. His game is getting better while Bargs is a little stagnant to put it kindly.

  • 511

    Nice to see Amir featured. He’s been great. 

    I miss him and Ed together. Enough that, now that the Rudy Gay honeymoon is done, I wish we hadn’t traded for Gay. Ya, it was fun for a bit there seeing Rudy hit a couple game winners and I even got into it, changing my mind for eight or nine minutes there about the trade … but the big-picture truth (as I see it) is Rudy is good, but he’s not that good. Certainly nowhere near nineteen-million-dollars-a-season good. And I can’t see how that dollar commitment doesn’t hurt us REAL goddam bad for the next couple seasons. And then (gotta say it) adding Landry goddam Fields six plus million dollars for whatever few minutes off-the-bench he often-as-not doesn’t even get to play (and what childishly ridiculous too-clever-by-half reason was it that we went out on such a skinny limb to sign him again? … oh yeah …) and … holy shit, we’re screwed. 

    25 million for two non-all-stars (and never will be, sorry). And some are saying that Colangelo should be RE-goddam-SIGNED? Are you fucking kidding me? 

    But … sorry, this post is about Amir. All the nice things said are true. Heart of lion. More love and loyalty to the city than any Raptor we’ve ever had, nobody even a close second. And the treat on the basketball eyes that he and Ed had goin and growin we lost because of … oh sorry. I forgot again. This is about Amir.  

    All I’ll say then is, Colangelo got so fleeced on that trade … (cuz Memphis SO wanted to get rid of Rudy Gay’s contract, they would’ve taken a bag of jockstraps along with Jose had Colangelo had the cojones to stand firm and negotiate like a man … not that he should’ve been going after Rudy Gay anyway, truth be told (or, imo) … but losing Ed in that deal added greater insult to injury than anyone will ever admit and most will likely ever know.  

    Ya, that’s how I really feel. I didn’t sleep good. And this team makes me nuts. 

    • ezz_bee

      I’m not super keen on Coangelo ATM, because it does seem like out financial flexibility has been hampered, and unless we can get something decent for bargs or possibly bargs + derozan we don’t have money or assets to make the team better.

       but the grizz management is on record as saying they weren’t getting the value for Gay they were looking for because teams thought they were under the gun of the luxury tax, and so before the gay trade they made a smaller trade which saved a bunch a cash which allowed them to be more bullish in what they were asking for gay.  You may not agree with the trade but and expiring + ed davis for Rudy Gay is a pretty good deal.Yeah it would have been awesome if it was Bargs+expiring for Gay, but I think memphis was willing to keep gay until the offseason if they didn’t get a deal they liked.  You can argue that BC should have waited until the off season, but I don’t think you can say we got “fleeced”.  Well you can, but I don’t think that’s fair.

      AMIR is the TITS!!!

      I have no problem with him being our starting PF, as he seems to be able to produce.  That said, if Coangelo can turn bargs + something, into a better PF than Amir, I’ve got no problem with Amir coming off the bench.

      • 511

        I’ll concede it MIGHT not be fair to say he got fleeced but I thought we could’ve gotten away with giving up less than Ed.  Rudy Gay is a good player and maybe very good if he’d maybe work within the offense a bit more (imo) but … what’s done is done. I don’t think we’re much better than where we were. And financially … I don’t see what the longer range thinking is. At all. 

    • Roarque

      Try not eating after 8 pm at night – that should help with the sleeping. Otherwise, we might have to start you on a suicide watch. Dude, the Boss was good but really?

      • 511

        ya .. probably shouldn’t write pre-java but … whatever. I did like Davis and what he and Amir were rounding into and was more than a little curious to see how good they might actually get to be together. 

  • Paul Stevens

    Signing Amir to the new contract has turned out to be one of the best things BC has done. I am eagerly waiting to see how things shape up over next season with JV and AJ being the two starting bigs. For years Amir was hamstrung by having to play center. No complaints, lunch pail attitude, even though it meant he was often over-matched and had to foul at a higher than desired rate. 

    Move Bargs, start JV and Amir, find a bench PF. Those are three of the most important steps that need to be taken on the Raps.

  • FLUXLAND

    It’s funny how everyone is ignoring Amir’s play during the two most critical games with regards making the playoffs.

    The Pacers game he checks out early by hacking everyone in sight, because he knew he was going to get his ass handed to him. And in the Bucks game he commits the dumbest offensive foul for a “young vet” that I’ve ever seen, because he ran out of steam, as evidenced by the rebounding onslaught that occurred in the closing frames.

    (Sherriff p00ka will have you believe Amir is a TEAM guy, while ignoring the reality of what is transpiring on the court.)

    But that’s Amir for ya, always getting his numbers vs shitty teams, shrinking when the chips are down, yet the THF are in love with their new hero and will now commence the elite starter/All Star propaganda, as soon as Amir gets more minutes … oh, wait he has..and he’s almost posting a double double on a losing team.. of course he’s the new crowned here in TO, he’s undersized and hence a “blue collar” kind of guy and this is where solid bench players are pushed as elite talent.

    Ugliest hook shot of all time. It’s like a  hook shot-put brick, if anything.  

     

     

    • Nilanka15

      “…always getting his numbers vs shitty teams…”

      You basically described every player on the roster.  We’ve been waiting for someone….anyone….to step up when games REALLY start to matter, and it never happens. 

      As Bruce Arthur recently said, yeah after year, it’s the same old story.

      • Nilanka15

        ^ This was me.  Accidentally typed my email handle in the name field :s

        • Nilanka15

          ^ Dammit!  Now it won’t let me change back to Nilanka 😐

          • Steve

            Ok there Mittlanka :) nice try. Will the really Mitt Romnilanka please stand up? :)

      • FLUXLAND

        (Nilanka? Are you there?  LOL )

        What Bruce Arthur wrote is on point, but it was still mild from my perspective; and more importantly I don’t see how this is news, since some of us having been pointing it all out for YEARS, while the p00ka shills have been calling us haters and not “true fans”.

        How long have I’ve been calling this outfit the Timberclips? Since Arse’s original site?

        How many times has it been proved and pointed out that Chemical BC cannot assemble a basketball team and resorts to collecting skinny and undersized Jacks Of All Trades? 

        Why are all his teams fundamentally flawed and always suck at rebounding and defense?  Why do his teams seemingly have a high coach/player turnover rate?  ( I bet he wanted to fire DC early on in the season, but couldn’t because of how it would have looked) Complete carbon copy from PHX, except dad is not around to prevent the really dumb moves.

        Why does BC continue to take on shitty contracts?  I swear this team is a Bad Debt Expense Account and development farm team for the NBA.  

        They are still suffering from the jinx of freezing out Zeke, and deservedly so.

        • Nilanka15

          This recent 5-game losing streak was the last straw for me.  I’ll continue to visit this site, and keep an eye on the headlines, but I just can’t commit to watching these guys play meaningless games. 

          Like Statement once said, this team is shit until proven otherwise.  I promise to live by this mantra so as not to be let down over and over again. 

          It’s all about managing expectations.  The best approach, is to have none 😉

    • milt palacio

      pretty sure he hit a game-tying buzzer beater against that same team he allegedly ‘checked-out’ against. 

  • Dr. Dread

    You forgot his great 3 point shooting this year! :)

  • Cheryl

    All I see is PASSION and HARD WORK from him.