Since Amir Johnson inked his contract last year there has been a lot of comments here at the republic as to the quality of said contract. At times it seems like we are beating a dead horse. I’ll admit my bias right now. I am on the Amir bandwagon and loved that he was re-signed. When all the negative press came out surrounding his signing, many (including an article on NBA.com) got the numbers wrong; however, it didn’t stop me from wondering if we overpaid. Lately, there has been an argument that Amir is not a long term piece and that he could be moved for an equal player at a cheaper cost because Davis is our PF of the future. To weigh in on previous threads surrounding our PFs see the threads created by hateslosing, Raptor4Ever, & another one from Raptor4Ever
Despite my negative first impressions of the contract I had come to think it was pretty reasonable considering he has shown improvement. In an attempt to justify Amir’s spot on the raptors I spent my boss’s hard earned money commissioning a study into Amir’s contract vs. other PF/C who have a comparable salary this year and/or a comparable contract over the next 5-6 years. To get a copy of the spreadsheet (broken down into 3 pages, please let me know and I can email it to you).
All stats provided by Basket-Ball-Reference.com
Salaries are provided by hoopshype.com
Why did I choose per game stats as opposed to per 36? Because Darius Songalia still gets 4.8 million even though he only plays 7.1 minutes a game. When it comes to actual production/cost, game averages seem more reflective.
Of the 45 Players making between 3 Million (Carl Landry, Matt Bonner, Joakim Noah[3.1]) and 8.2 Million (Lamar Odom, David West, Luis Scola [7.2]), here’s where Amir ranks on per-game stats:
Games Played: 12th
FG Attempts: 21st
FG%: 2nd (behind Ronny Turiaf [2.6 attemtps vs. Amir @ 7])
Offensive Rebs: 7th
Defensive Rebs: 17th
Tot Rebs: 17th
Personal Fouls: 1st
Age: Tied for fourth youngest with Hasheem Thabeet and YI Jianlian. Only Griffen, Love, and Beasley are younger while making >3 mil.
None of these stats are particularly surprising for us because we know Amir’s game pretty well but to summarize: Amir is Great at FG%(even though he is slightly above avg. in attempts), Shot blocking, Offensive rebounds and not being injured. He is better than average at assists, defensive rebounds and points. He is below average at getting to the line but he hits a good percentage when he does. He is the best (read: WORST!) at personal fouls, but that doesn’t stop him from logging above average minutes. Other than fouls Amir is >average at everything compared to this group of peers. Here’s the list of guys that dominated these categories in my subjective order of dominance/ awesomeness
Tied for first: Griffen & Love (pretty much 1 and 2 on every category)
3rd: Harford (top 5 in almost every category)
Rest of the Best (ranked in my subjective order of their overall ranking based on above categories):
Varejao (this doesn't mean I think that Beasley is better than Varejao, just that he is better according to these stats)
So based on these stats Amir is descent, but not spectacular. If he were to continue playing at this level he could be a starter, but not a good/great one. However, how good is he relative to his contract?
This year Amir had the 24th best contract out of 45. So we have a better than average player getting paid a very slightly below average salary. Amir is giving us some value although not necessarily a whole heck of a lot. However if you continue to compare his salary year over year things get interesting. Next year Amir will be 23rd out of 38 players remaining under contract. In the 3rd year of the contract Amir will be tied with Channing Frye with the 19th best contract out of 28. The fourth year of the contract has Amir 15th out of 16, now slightly ahead of Frye. In the 5th and final year of his contract Amir is 9th out of 11th. ahead of Frye and Gooden (whose salary remains at 6.6 his 3rd, 4th, and 5th years of his contract).
Finding: RELATIVE TO OTHER PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT, AMIR’S CONTRACT BECOMES MORE VALUABLE YEAR OVER YEAR. This is assuming he sustains his current output with no decrease or increase in production. However, the overall value of his contract will be greatly impacted by the outcome of the collective bargaining agreement which will determine the terms of new free agent contracts.
So we got a guy whose production versus contract is good. However, there is a chance (and arguably a good one?) that he will not be our starting power forward of the future as significant improvement would still be necessary. There is an argument that Ed Davis is the PF of the future and we therefore have a redundancy or log jam (if Evans is resigned to a reasonable contract) at the four spot. Subscribers to this logic perspective argue to move Davis and get a “cheaper” player to play back up to Davis. Cheap is good, but if you really want to compete in the NBA you do have to spend some money, so ultimately value, is better.
What happens when we compare Amir to back-up PF/C also making around the same money? When filtered for players with lots of games but few starts and playing between 32min/game (Jeff Green) and 8min/game (Hasheem Thabeet). How does Amir fair against this group of 27?
Minutes Played: 4th
FG%:2nd (Turiaf again)
Offensive Rebs: 2nd (Behind Jeff Foster [note: Reggie was excluded do to not enough games played])
Defensive Rebs: 5th
Total Rebounds: 5th
Blocks: 2nd (Behind Tyrus Thomas)
Age: Tied for youngest with Thabeet and Jianlian.
When compared to the rest of these “back-ups” (Again it could be argued some of these guys are starters) Amir comes in top 10/27 in every category, even though he is 13th in salary. So he is still exhibiting value at 25.8minutes/game. However are they any other “cheaper” players that could net us a similar/better value? There are only 8 players on this list that are currently signed to => 3 year contracts and will make less than Amir throughout the entirety of their contract. They are:
Compared to these 8 players:
Minutes/game: 1st (2 5.5, Brandon Bass is 2nd @ 25.2)
FGA:2nd (behind Bass w/ 8.5)
FT%: 3rd behind Matt Bonner and Brandon Bass
Offensive Rebs: 1st, Bass is second
Defensive Rebs: 1st, Bass is second
TOT rebs: Amir followed by Bass
Assists: 2nd Behind Brad Miller
Blocks: 1st (Anderson Second)
Points: 2nd behind Bass
So it’s not surprising that Amir and Bass are 1-2 in almost every category because they play the most minutes. So far we have used per game stats because they reflect what is going on. However, when we shift to the possibility of could someone replace Johnson and duplicate his production per game stats are limited. What happens when we compare the “per 36 minutes” stats of these 9 players?
FGA: Bass, Warrick, Pekovic, Amir
FG%: Amir, Andersen, Warrick, Maxiell
FTA: Warrick, Andersen, Pachulia, Pekovic, Bass, Maxiell, Amir
FT%: Bass, Miller, Amir
Off Rebs: Pekovic, Amir, Andersen
Def Rebs: Andersen, Pachulia, Amir
TOT: Andersen, Pachulia, Amir
Assists: Miller, Pachulia, tied: Amir/Warrick
Blocks: Anderson, Amir, Pekovic
Fouls: Pekovic, Pachulia, Amir (WOW there are people with worse foul problems than Amir! )
Points: Warrick, Bass, Pekovic, Amir
It is pretty easy to argue that Andersen is better at defense than Amir and that Warrick and Bass are better offensively; however, it would be very hard to argue that any of these players are better than Amir at both ends. Amir also is the youngest of this group, so you could argue that he is as likely, if not more likely to improve relative to the rest of these guys.
Based on what I’ve learned by going through this exercise, I would say that over the next two years…
Best Case Scenario: Amir’s numbers improve significantly and although he is not an all-star is a slightly better than average starting Power Forward.
Worst Case Scenario: His numbers stay the same, or decline slightly, and we have a slightly overpaid back-up Power Forward.
Most Likely Scenario: Amir's production stays the same or goes up slightly and we have a very valuable back-up power forward.
Based on Amir’s age, current production, and salary, combined with the organization not wanting to go to much younger, it would be VERY difficult to replace Amir’s production in both offense and defense with a “cheaper” player. Therefore, it makes sense to keep Amir for at least the next two seasons, at which point his contract will still be valuable even if he doesn't "fit" with the team or is unhappy in his role.
***Of course this all depends on the impact of the new CBA. If the new CBA significantly lowers the amount that players make then Amir’s contract won’t be as good as relatively speaker; however, it will still be good compared to all the rest of the contracts that were signed before the new agreement***
This post took me over two days to compile analyse and write so I appreciate feedback, especially if you think it was too long/useless.
***Also if one of the moderators could fix the thread title so it says "Amir Johnson's" not "Amir John's" I'd appreciate it.