Last year, Amir Johnson played for the Sixers.
That sentence is about as interesting and exciting as Amir Johnson gets. The Sixers didn’t bring Johnson in last year to elevate the team, they brought him in to stabilize it as a veteran presence on a young team. While “veteran presence” is often used as a justification to sign or play over-the-hill players who do not deserve it (*cough Hakstol cough*), in the Sixers’ case, they did legitimately need a backup C who could give them decent minutes and fill in if Embiid got injured.
And that’s exactly what Johnson did. According to NBAWowy, the Sixers had a 106 ORtg (points per 100 possessions) and a 105 DRtg while Johnson was on the court and Embiid was off it. He is not a highlight reel. He doesn’t really score. He doesn’t block anybody into the second row. He’s just where he’s supposed to be, when he’s supposed to be there. His rebound, assist, steal, and block rates are all average or better for a center.
Sixers fans may not like Johnson and may pine for a more flashy player such as Holmes, but there’s something to be said for having a guy who just gets the job done – and Amir fits the bill.
Notable Offseason Points
“Amir Johnson” and “notable” very rarely end up in the same sentence together. He re-signed for cheap early in the offseason. The Sixers brought in Mike Muscala to play most of the minutes Johnson played last year. That’s about it.
Strengths and Areas of Improvement
Johnson’s strength is his general aptitude and intelligence. This has often led to him being underrated by fans, as it is much easier to judge a player on highlight blocks than on a slight repositioning on the weakside to close a passing lane. He is not going to leap himself out of position to contest a pump fake, but will get his hands up. To truly enjoy and appreciate Johnson, you must watch him when the ball is nowhere near him to see how he subtly affects the team on both offense and defense.
At the same time, the reason his strengths are things like “positioning” and “intelligence” is because, well, he’s athletically limited and skill challenged. Johnson maximizes every tool he has, but he just doesn’t have many. When forced to man up against some of the behemoths and silky smooth athletes that play at C, Johnson is exposed. Trying anything more offensively difficult than a quick turnaround baby hook is an adventure.
Johnson is who he is. He’s not going to significantly improve, and he’s not going to forget how to play basketball. When he plays, he is much like an offensive lineman: you only notice him when he screws up. Expecting this old dog to learn new tricks is expecting too much.
Expectations and Predictions
Johnson will play if and when other guys are injured and during the middle of the season when the bench gets longer and minutes more spread out to keep guys fresh. He will do Amir Johnson things, giving the team perfectly average minutes and letting the other guys carry the team while he performs his role. When it comes time to the playoffs, I doubt we’ll be seeing him at all.
And at the end, we will recap his season by saying “This year, Amir Johnson played for the Sixers.” Sometimes that’s all there is to say.
Editor’s Note: Beginning September 27 and continuing up until the start of the season, we will be profiling each member of the current 76ers’ roster. Be sure to check out our schedule below and hear what our writers expect from our Sixers players.
|September 27||Jonah Bolden||October 8||Wilson Chandler|
|September 29||Shake Milton||October 10||JJ Redick|
|September 30||Zhaire Smith||October 11||Robert Covington|
|October 1||Furkan Korkmaz||October 13||Dario Saric|
|October 3||Amir Johnson||October 14||Markelle Fultz|
|October 4||Mike Muscala||October 15||Ben Simmons|
|October 6||Landry Shamet||October 16||Joel Embiid|
|October 7||TJ McConnell|