The Raptors came out with a 119-116 win over the Sixers last night in their first preseason game at Air Canada Centre, bumping their record to 2-2. Amir Johnson, who had 11 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes in the game, is featured today in our Raptors Preview:
Five years and $34 million is a mighty big commitment to a guy that’s averaged 4.7 points and 4.2 boards in five years in the league. That’s what the Raptors gave Amir Johnson this off-season, and you can bet he’ll be given every opportunity to earn it. Whether he can stay on the floor long enough to do so will be up to him.
Johnson, who was picked up from Milwaukee with Sonny Weems in a deal for Carlos Delfino and Roko Ukic in August 2009, had the best year of his young career in 2009-10, playing in all 82 games and averaging 6.2 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 62.3% from the field (albeit on only 4.1 attempts, but at least we know he’s not gonna force anything). Aside from the efficiency, he brought energy off the bench and gave Toronto’s second unit a huge boost…when he was able to stay out of foul trouble long enough, that is. Johnson averaged 3.1 personal fouls over just 17.7 minutes — numbers that won’t exactly translate well to starters’ minutes, which he figures to get coming out of camp with rookie Ed Davis injured and likely unprepared to step in anytime soon. Whether he does eventually get supplanted in the starting five or not, Johnson will have a large role in 2010-11 and will need to tone down the physical play to be productive.
One thing that makes Johnson’s huge contract slightly justifiable is his age — despite the fact he’s entering his sixth NBA season, he’s still just 23 years old, having been the last player in league history to be drafted straight from high school (the league has since changed it’s age restrictions, disallowing it). Considering his development from 2008-09 with the Pistons to last season with Toronto, you have to figure he’s going to be steadily improving in coming years.
As mentioned, Johnson figures to have the starting four position come regular season time, and it’s a role he flourished in, albeit in a small sample size, late in 2009-10. In five starts, including the last four games of the year, he averaged 17.8 points and 6.0 rebounds. Also, after the all-star break, Johnson saw his point and rebound averages rise to 8.0 and 5.0, up from 5.2 and 4.7, despite getting less than two more minutes of action per night.
2009-10: 82 games (five starts), 62.3% from the field and 63.8% from the line, 6.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.80 blocks in 17.7 minutes per game.
What to expect: More playing time, whether its as a starter or a reserve, and steady, efficient productive. If Johnson can stay on the floor for 30 minutes, 10 and 10 isn’t out of the question.