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Oftentimes, when a player is unspectacular and yet useful, intangibles are used to explain away their contributions. Such is the case with Amir Johnson, arguably the Raptor’s most important player when on his game. While his 10 points, 6 rebounds are respectable, they are nowhere near the upper echelon of great power forwards. Kirk Goldberry even included him in his article on unspectacular power forwards who lack one critical skill in today’s NBA: Outside shooting.
Popularized by the use of small ball by the Heat, shooting bigs are close to a must have these days. The rational is that by pulling a big out of the key, other players can run rampant around the rim. The Raptors in fact have one such player, who goes by the name of Patrick Patterson. Patterson’s injection of fluidity and energy into the Raptor’s attack was such a contrast to Amir’s low key contributions that certain portions of the fanbase are clamouring for a change in the starting lineup. While Patterson will no doubt get his fair share what with Johnson’s injury history, Amir Johnson’s screen setting and rim protection are too important for Dwayne Casey to leave on the bench. The other Raptors need him too much.
Firstly, Amir’s rim protection is a very unheralded part of his game. As much as small ball is a buzzword on offence, rim protection is perhaps getting even more attention these days. While his 2.1 blocks per 100 possessions is not spectacular, the lesson that we have all learned from characters like Javale Mcgee is that block’s aren’t everything. In fact, when J. Gomez researched role bigs such as Amire, he found that Amir topped out as the best at both deterring and affecting shots at the rim. Statistically speaking, it doesn’t matter how Amir does it, it is all about the output. And these numbers frame Amir as an elite defender. With players such as Demar DeRozan and Greivas Vazquez sometimes acting as turnstiles on defence, it is up to Amir often times to clean up the mess and force shots away from optimal areas. Without his defending over the long haul, this weakness would be too much to overcome. Amir is simply to valuable on offence.
Tomorrow, I will touch on his offence and recap this situation.