Toronto Raptors: Is Amir Johnson Set to Leave Toronto?


Toronto Raptors: Is Amir Johnson Set to Leave Toronto?

You’ll have to excuse me for channeling my inner-Tom Petty, but I think it’s fair to say the Toronto Raptors are currently “Free Fallin”. Since their impressive demolition of the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto’s finest have gone 1-8, with their solitary win coming against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.

More from Toronto Raptors

While we always knew the Raptors were unlikely to keep up their franchise record-breaking start to the campaign, the recent descent has been shocking. I’m not sure if it was worse losing to the league-worst New York Knicks or being torn to shreds by the Golden State Warriors? (Okay, fine! The defeat by the Knicks was more humiliating.)

In any event, the Raptors have 19 games left to try and steady the ship ahead of the playoffs. (Surely they can’t “do a Leafs” and miss the postseason altogether can they………Can they?!?!)

Interestingly, the recent run of form has brought up all sorts of questions: Is Kyle Lowry going to break down before the season ends? Will Terrence Ross ever fulfill his potential? Can DeMar DeRozan be a consistent bona fide number one scoring option?

Along those lines, another important question to ask regards the long-term future of Amir Johnson. He was a fan favourite with the Raptors long before the current team became popular, but there are concerns about if he will remain in Toronto past this season.

Jan 31, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) is fouled by Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) during the second half at Verizon Center. Toronto won 120 – 116. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The 27-year old (I can’t believe his age. It seems like he’s been around forever.) will become a free agent at the end of the 2014-15 campaign. And given his ongoing battle with injuries, combined with his dip in form this season, there is every chance the Raptors will not re-sign Johnson in the summer.

I should stress, this doesn’t mean Toronto won’t attempt to negotiate a new deal altogether. However, I can see there being a decent-sized gap between what the team and Johnson (or more specifically his agent) believe he is worth.

What will likely factor in is how Masai Ujiri and company decide to measure Johnson’s worth, when deciding what to offer him. For example, from a statistical standpoint, the 2005 NBA draft pick is on course to record the worst rebounding average (5.8) of his six-year tenure in Toronto.

However, as Eric Koreen of the National Post wrote, there’s more to Johnson than his numbers. The power forward is also recognised for setting screens, as well as his help defence.

On top of this, we shouldn’t downplay his influence off the court. The Raptors roster has an excellent camaraderie, and you better believe that Johnson is a big part of this. (Heck, even the Toronto media love Johnson – and the team in general. No small feat.)

Unfortunately for the Los Angeles, California native, there are other factors in play, which may well affect his future in Southern Ontario. Koreen advised that one season, Johnson had the best individual plus-minus of any NBA player on a sub .500 team.

Now, fast forward to the current campaign, and Johnson’s influence has eroded, to the point that the Raptors scoring defence is virtually the same, whether he’s on the floor or not. In fact, there’s times that Toronto’s other front court options, such as James Johnson and Patrick Patterson, have been more successful, while he is riding the bench. (Johnson may actually be better-suited to a reserve role moving forward.)

Overall, I still believe the Raptors will make an offer to Johnson, in part because of how much Ujiri’s emphasizes team chemistry. However, unlike a year ago, I won’t be as surprised if the former Detroit Piston is plying his trade elsewhere come next season.