The Celtics had a great run in the second half of last season and they definitely have potential in the frontcourt, but one thing the Cavaliers exposed was the complete lack of defensive presence inside the paint for Boston. Danny Ainge wanted to address this issue in free agency, and he accomplished his mission with the signing of former Toronto Raptor Amir Johnson, a player who may not light up the stats category, but a player who does everything the right way. His consistency and inside presence will help Boston take the next step in their quest to return to contention.
Johnson, 28, was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in the east side of the city. He attended four different high schools, two in his freshman year alone. He enrolled at Verbum Dei High School and played for them as a sophomore, but once again he decided to move on and he transferred to Westchester High School. He exploded onto the national scene as a senior, winning the coveted Mr. Basketball award in the state of California and he also led Westchester to a state Championship win. Johnson was going to attend Louisville, but he decided to forgo college and head straight to the NBA.
Johnson must have received some bad advice because he slipped deep into the second round, being selected with 56th overall pick by the Detroit Pistons. Johnson didn't see a lot of playing time his first two years in the league, appearing in 11 total games and only playing 163 minutes, but he showed flashes of being able to score and also being strong defensively. He was so young that it took time to develop physically, which was the biggest problem with high school-to-NBA players. We see the same issues with the one-and-done college players now, so just imagine being in the NBA as soon as high school ends. It overwhelmed many players, but Johnson has been able to carve out his niche.
His final two seasons in Detroit were better; he played in 62 games each season, and he started 24 games in 08-09. He provided strong production in minimal minutes and showed the rest of the league that at age 21, he'd taken his lumps and was ready to become a regular rotation player in the NBA; being traded to the Toronto provided that opportunity. His first season was decent, playing all 82 games, starting five and averaging just under 18 minutes per game, but Johnson's time was about to come.
During the 2010 offseason, Chris Bosh bolted to join the super-friends in Miami; the move was a jolt to the Raptors, but there was one person that was happy about it- Amir Johnson. Johnson started 54 of 72 games in 10-11, averaging just under 26 minutes, 9.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. He also only committed one turnover per game; Johnson proved to be a very efficient player even with extended minutes. In six seasons, Johnson averaged 75 games, 25.3 minutes, 58% from the field, 6.3 total rebounds, 1.1 block, and 8.8 points per game. His best season was 2013-14 when he averaged 10.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Johnson signed with the Celtics for two years, but his contract is only guaranteed for one. With the effect that Johnson has on teams, it is a good bet that he'll be here for both years. Johnson may not start, but he'll average at least 25 minutes per night and help solidify an area that was a major weak spot for the 2014-15 Celtics. If Johnson can provide what Danny Ainge signed him to do, Boston should take the next step in the Eastern Conference and possibly overtake Johnson's former team up north.
Statistics Provided by Pro-Basketball-Reference.com/Amir Johnson
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