The Amir Johnson Nonsense Must Stop

The Bargnani talk veered off into a discussion of whose minutes a guy like Reggie Evans should be slicing into, if any? Is it Bargnani’s or Johnson’s? The stats point to the Raptors being a better team with Johnson on the floor as he brings more defense at the cost of offense which we seem to have in spades. Does Bargnani get a free pass when compared to Johnson? Amir gets yanked out of the game after two bad plays, but Bargnani continues to see floor time (39+ minutes last night) despite being a non-factor on defense and providing inconsistent offense. Is it a double-standard? What kind of message does it send?

via Rapcast #63: Bargnani indicted | Raptors Republic – ESPN TrueHoop’s Raptors Blog.

I kind of hope the Raptors re-sign Bosh and then find some magical way to trade Bargnani. Because the amount of crap that kid gets in comparison to two role players behind him is ridiculous.

Reggie Evans can’t play. I mean, he can. You just don’t want him to. He’d make a nice mascot, but I don’t want him working pick and roll defense on the floor. And that’s the good side of him. Because if he tries to shoot, whoa boy.

Amir Johnson is the other one. The dude was a rallying point in Detroit. Now he’s a rallying point in Toronto. I honestly believe that fans want him to start and for Bargnani, scoring 20 points with 10.5 7.5 (CORRECTION: I massively screwed up here and posted Barg’s TRR, which is horrid at 10.5, instead of his Total rebounds, which is mediocre at 7.5) boards per 40, mind you, to come off the bench.

Andrea Bargnani is a better basketball player than Amir Johnson. A MUCH better basketball player. All those things that people tend to denigrate him for, the defense, the focus, etc.? Those are systemic problems. It’s not like the Raps are a solid defensive squad except when Bargnani’s out there. They are systemically bad at defense.

Meanwhile, when he is on the floor, he provides a range shooter and athletic big that creates matchup nightmares all over the place. When Johnson is on the floor? He creates a big man version of Matt Barnes without the range.

I’m not sold on Bargnani as a centerpiece, but that’s the whole problem with this Raptors roster. The core pieces that have been set up as what should be built around, probably aren’t. That includes Bargnani. But that also includes Amir Johnson, Reggie Evans, Jose Calderon, and possibly even Chris Bosh.

UPDATE: I fear I may have (yet again), oversimplified things without pointing out all the random nonsense going on inside my head. So a few follow-ups.

1. The podcast is quite good. That’s why I linked to it. They mostly talk about the facts, which are that the defense does statistically play better with Johnson on board rather than Bargs, and there could be a host of reasons for that.

2. My main beef with the Reggie Evans thing is that there is a palpable sense from Raptors fans (not specifically the fine gents at Raps Republic) that they need more Reggie and Amir. That that will make them a better basketball team. Which completely ignores the fact that what Bargnani gives them on offense is really difficult to replace. A big that can stretch the floor, drive, and hit from the perimeter? That’s kind of a big deal. I know there’s some disappointment with Evans from Raps fans, but instead of turning on management, Bargs seems to be the main target.

3. It actually brings up a really interesting idea I’d like to kick around, on if there is a significant increase in sixth through eighth men off the bench in defensive lineups on average, and where Johnson lines up with that.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.