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On Amir Johnson, Lou Williams and Important Free Agency Decisions Ahead

Two of the Raptors' core will be unrestricted free agents this summer. What should the Raptors do?

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors have a lot of things to consider this offseason, both with the coaching staff and the roster. The decisions on whether to extend Jonas Valanciunas (maybe) and Terrence Ross (no) can wait, the trade market will develop, but one certain fact they'll have to deal with: Amir Johnson and Lou Williams will be unrestricted free agents on July 1st.


Amir is, somehow, only 27 years old, but already completed his 10th season in the league, being the last prep-to-pro player before the NBA instituted age limits which prevented high school players from entering the draft. This season, Amir averaged 9.3 points and 6.1 rebounds, his per-36-minutes stats were on par with his previous two seasons. As we know by now, a lot of what he contributes aren't reflected in the box scores.

He was one of the better Raptors in the four game sweep against the Wizards. Amir is a dependable player, but you have to wonder if the Raptors want to commit long-term to someone who will probably not be able to stay on the court for the duration of the contract.

After LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan and a very deep list of restricted free agents are off the market, teams that strike out on their top targets will likely look at Amir as an option. With his skill set, I don't think a $10 million per year contract is unreasonable. The Raptors might find that price to be too steep, especially if it goes beyond two to three years.

Here's the conundrum. Ideally, you'd want Amir on this team, for his reliability even if his minutes decrease next season and beyond. But if you're paying that price for a power forward, that slots in as your starter. It means you're sacrificing a chance to use that money to upgrade the four spot, or elsewhere while sliding Patrick Patterson into the starting lineup.

If I were to guess, the Raptors will make an offer to Amir, but perhaps only a two or three year deal, and they won't want to get into a bidding war with other teams once the total dollar amounts and years escalate. Make an offer you're comfortable with, and let him decide. This is one of those "always business, never personal" bridges every team has to cross, especially with a very popular player in the city and the locker room.


Lou's free agency is even tricker. Despite how frustrating his game can be when he's 1-for-12 instead of 9-for-12, Lou is still an asset with his ability to provide secondary scoring off the bench. His game is never going to mesh with what the analytics suggest should be a more efficient approach. He has said numerous times that he likes shooting threes at the top of the key and the elbows because that's where he's comfortable, even though he's a near 50.0 percent three-pointer shooter from the corner spots (compared to around and below 30 percent up top).

The end of quarter (and in a game against Detroit, end of game) isolation possessions that end with a 35-footer from Lou are frustrating. But could a new coach (or a change in philosophy from Dwane Casey) coax more out of Lou's skillset. If the Raptors can acquire a low post scorer, and move other pieces around, there's room for Lou's contributions. Right now, if often feels like he's just an extension of everything the Raptors do on offense: toss up perimeter shots, pray. With a different roster around him, the team may be able to maximize Lou's strengths.

Regardless, he's going to suck up possessions. But when he's not gunning, he can draw fouls, and I do feel like his playmaking ability is underrated. The Sixth Man of the Year award might drive up his price -- individual awards tend to do that -- and it only takes one suitor to drive his price up.

I don't have a great feel as to how much Masai Ujiri feels about Lou. I think it's really going to depend on what happens with the rest of the roster. Because I would be against bringing Lou back if we were bringing back the exact same team with the exact same approach on offense. But I have a sense neither of those things are true.

Whether Lou is part of the turnover this summer, or if he's considered an integral piece moving forward. I'm not sure.


One thing I am sure of: changes are coming.

What does everyone think?