Earlier this week, our man Sean Woodley jumped the gun. (Well, OK, I jumped the gun, since I published the piece.) Instead of asking whether or not the Raptors should keep Amir Johnson, he worked from the assumption he was already a goner. The thesis here was final: who should the Raptors get to replace Amir?
In Sean's defense, the sad part here is it's a totally fair assumption to make. After his tenth season, and sixth with the Raptors, Amir appears poised for a steep decline in value as a player. (There are lots of qualifiers to add here: Amir is still hugely valuable off the court as a human, he's still a solid pro to have within your organization, etc.) Sean's piece covers all of that, and the stats in this case do not lie. It's a bummer.
When Johnson was signed for the 2010-11 season at $30 million over five years, it looked like a gross over pay. Amir had just come off his first season with the Raps, after a largely quiet four year run in Detroit, with averages of 17.7 minutes, 6.2 points and 4.8 rebounds. Nothing in those numbers jumps out to say "starting power foward." Johnson managed to play in all 82 games that year--the only time in his career--and was a five year veteran at just 22 years old. But that was Amir then.
Astoundingly, Amir played up to the value of that contract. He became a solid scorer, a deft pocket passer, and a great defender in the post and along the perimeter. He even sort of added a three point shot. Through the years, Amir remained as the team's consummate glue guy. While the NBA now seeks to play handsomely for big men with this skill set, the Raptors already had Amir Johnson quietly doing work.
Now the Raptors and Amir find themselves at a crossroads. For Johnson, at the ten year mark of his career and racked by various wear-and-tear injuries, it's time to look for one last big pay day. If you're Amir, you know there is interest, even through the decline. Big men with smarts and touch don't just fall from the sky, and having a player like Johnson, even in a limited role off the bench, is a value-add for any team.
For the Raptors, it's time to assess how much Amir's outside-the-boxscore value is really worth. Can you trust a big man with his recent track record of injuries? Does the decline get steeper from here? Do you offer a short term contract or low ball him on a longer one? Just what could Amir's potential role be for Toronto after all those years when he was the team's heart?
Tough questions all-around. And so with that, we open the floor. Let's let the poll decide and tell us what you think in the comments.
What should the Raptors do with Amir Johnson?