In the stage of the season where the Celtics are establishing their true identity, Amir Johnson picking up his game is a giant plus. Trade rumblings persist about the Celtics trading for a big man. With that said, it’s important to note Amir Johnson is still a key part of this team. Amir will not post flashy stats, but his energy and hustle is important for the Celtics style of play.
There have been a few instances this season where fans have called for Johnson’s replacement in the lineup. Some fans have called for Jonas Jerebko to start at the four while some have even explored starting Kelly Olynyk or Tyler Zeller at the five. None are terrible options, but Amir Johnson is working the best so far. Johnson fits ideally for the starting unit and with the starting five healthy, it’s beginning to show.
What Johnson Provides
Photo Courtesy of Boston Herald
Amir Johnson will not put up the most points or rebounds in a game. With the many options on the Celtics bench, that should not surprise anyone. However, he provides many qualities to the team. For instance, in the game against Memphis, he basically took Zach Randolph for a trench fight down low. Hustling and intensity fits right in with the Celtics plan of working opponents all game. Also, since his benching against Houston, he is averaging 7. 5 PPG and 5. 3 RPG. He is also shooting just under 56% during this stretch. All of this is over his season stats of 6. 7 PPG, 4. 3 RPG, and 54% shooting. A huge plus is in the rebounding department where the Celtics need plenty of help, when he averaged 2. 0 offensive rebounds per game during this stretch, .
The best thing about Johnson in this role is what he does for teammates. The biggest benefit is his impact on Al Horford and freeing him up to play the four. Horford has recently stated that he is more comfortable at the four-spot moreso than the five. Johnson’s placement at the five allows Horford to stretch the floor at the four and to create more of an impact on the defensive end. Also, we see Johnson create many plays for Isaiah Thomas or Avery Bradley in the pick and roll. Set screens and working with the game plan make Amir Johnson more valuable than the stats show.
As well as Johnson has played lately, there is still a reason to question his future. If the team pursues a trade, his name could pop in trade discussions. The team still needs help on rebounding and still may pursue a big-name center or power forward. If they trade him, it would certainly have to be for an upgrade. If they choose to keep him and trade a different player, his role could get reduced. That is why we have to be a little cautious when looking at his immediate future.
Not only that, but he is a free agent after the season. The Celtics will not have Bird rights on him so it makes it slightly more difficult to re-sign him. With Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, Jonas Jerebko, and Gerald Green expiring on top of him, the team may not look to bring Johnson back over those other players. More interestingly, the team still has Jordan Mickey developing as well as Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic overseas. Johnson loves the Celtics and loves the game plan, but if the team wants to work with those players, it is possible he does not return.
For now, let’s ride the wave of Amir Johnson’s success. Johnson is showing that he can be a contributor still even if it is quiet in the box score. Working with the game plan and his hustle fits perfectly with the celtics.He will not be a prototypical starter, averaging roughly 20 minutes per game, but when he is on the floor, it is a plus for the team. It may not always be pretty, but he is picking up his game. It is time for us fans to recognize what he brings to the table.