It was the start of free agency in 2009, and the Raptors signed Amir Johnson to a $34 million five-year deal. I was disappointed. I was disappointed that our top-priority signing had never averaged more than seven points and 18 minutes per game in a season. To me, Amir's ranking in the Raptors' offseason priorities spoke volumes about our team's standing as a mediocre franchise at best.
Since then Amir worked his way into the hearts of the collective Raptors' fans. Although his numbers have never been eye catching, he has often been described as the heart of Toronto's team. The gangly forward never takes nights off, works hard, and appears to be giving his all every time he steps onto the court. His effort was not lost on the fan inhabitants of Jurassic Park. We noticed that he'd always battle for rebounds, hustle on defense, and clearly look to add to his game each offseason. For example, it was evident over the past few seasons that Amir had tried to become more comfortable with becoming a three point threat, even if it never really materialized.
However, perhaps it is his hard nosed, pedal to the metal style that made the truth that much more difficult to accept. Despite his best efforts, and his intangibles, it became apparent this season that if the Raptors ever want to develop into a true contender, Amir Johnson cannot be a starter. On the offensive end, Amir isn't a true threat inside or out. On defense, he tries but can't contend with the bigger post players such as Nene or Gortat, but at the same time isn't particularly effective in small ball line-ups. Frankly, this past season Amir looked like a player was big on heart that was being failed by his body. Whether the front office chooses to bring back the 28 year old is up in the air, but what isn't is that he will likely be served best as a primary or energy big off of a contending bench.
75 Games (72 Starts), 26.4 mpg, 9.3 ppg, .574 FG%, .413 3FG%, .612FT%, 6.1 rebs, 1.6 asts, 0.9 blks
December 5, 2014 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Loss)
Christmas came early for Amir. Even though we lost, for one night Amir Johnson was the best player in a Raptors uniform. Despite the loss, Amir posted an impressive 27/7/4, missing only four shots in 33 minutes. Thoroughly outplaying the Cavs' prized offseason acquisition and perennial All-Star Kevin Love, Amir showed us how good he can be when everything is clicking.
February 2, 2015 vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Loss)
Amir's performance was a surprise to me, because on paper the Bucks appear to be the type of team that he should thrive against. Before you get up in arms about how there is no shame to being outplayed by the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo, note that Kenyon Martin, playing on a 10-day contract, outplayed Johnson. Posting a paltry 3/3/5 with 3 fouls in 17 minutes, this game served as an example of how limited Amir's production and value to the team becomes when his energy doesn't translate.
Strengths & Weaknesses
+Heart, effort, and whatever other intangible you can think of
+Long and athletic
-Limited on the offensive end
-Struggles with bigger and stronger post players
Role Next Year
As I've already stated, it remains to be seen whether Amir will be back in purple next season. Honestly, I would be surprised to see him back. Despite the mutual like and respect, I think this might be one of those situations where it might be mutually beneficial for both parties to move on. If Amir does come back, lets hope for the Raptors that it will be in a high-energy reserve role. If not, let us bid a farewell and thank you to one of our favourite warriors for over the past half decade.
A GIF to sum up the season
What do you guys think of Amir's season?