Last post, the argument was originally made that Amir’s small yet significant skills lead to him being better suited as the starting power forward. The idea of this post was to prove the importance of his pick setting by illustrating the difference of with or without Amir Johnson. Full Disclosure: I spoke too soon and the stats speak a different, and yet not completely damning, tale. To illustrate the benefits of both players, I pulled up the WOWY stats for both players. To keep this simple, I’ll paint the picture by focusing on Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry. As the two most important players on the club, the contrasting numbers of this duo are enlightening.
Kyle Lowry’s bulldog mentality was a key behind the Raptor’s identity last season, and Amir Johnson propelled this shift in thinking. There is a fine line between reckless and confident, and Kyle Lowry was able to channel his intensity into productivity. With Amir Johnson on the floor, Lowry’s aggressiveness was a threat and not a weakness. The basic stats show that Amir increased Lowry’s Assist % by 4.9%, while decreasing turnovers and % Shots Assisted by 0.9 and 6.9 % respectively. What these stats show is that with Johnson on the floor, Lowry was the unquestioned leader. Quite justifiably, if I may add, as increasing workload while decreasing turnovers is unheard of. One of the keys to Lowry’s revival was his newly found proficiency from behind the arc. Amir was instrumental to this, as his prescence alone encouraged Lowry to take 7.1 more threepointers per 100 possessions. While admitedly Lowry’s drives did decrease, he did use the seperation to take a much more valuable shot – his 3 point shooting was up by almost 4 %. So in short, Amir Johnson helped Lowry to channel his aggression into a positive factor.
While Lowry was important, it would be unwise to talk about Demar’s All Star season. While gifted with amazing athletic ability, this season was when Demar learned to take advantage of them fully. As an almost parallel to Lowry, Patrick Patterson increased Demar’s Assist % by 2.5 % while decreasing Turnovers and % Shots assisted by 0.9 and 12 % respectively. What most impressed me was the True Shooting percentage, as it rocketed from 50.7 % to an astronomical 59.2 %. Essentially, while taking on a heavier load with Patterson, Derozan’s shooting ability also turned from a Rodney Stuckey chucker into a Kevin Love superstar. Taking a look at his shot chart’s, a simple shift in philosophy is responsible for this. While he decreased long two’s with Patterson by 8.3 %, he increased his shots at the rim by 6%. Although he says differently, Demar’s strength is not his mid-range jumper but rather his ability to get the rim for fouls. In the case of Amir, the seperation that his picks create is unnecessary, as his man can simply sag into the paint to force an inefficient (an ugly sub-40% shooting percentage) shot out of Derozan. This benefit is not afforded with Patterson involved, as Demar can expertly use even a smidgeon of space between help defenders to create contact on moving defenders. Patterson’s mere prescence is the best thing to happen to Demar.
The debate between Patterson and Amir is more complicated than first anticipated. The answer rests in the eyes of the beholder. Whose strengths need to be maximised, Lowry or Demar’s? To me, the stalemate on offence actually benefits Amir, as his better defence, which has been ignored in this post, gives him the edge.