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Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Amir Johnson

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Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson

Position: Power forward/Center

Status for 2018-19: Unrestricted free agent

Johnson in 2017-18
The Sixers signed Johnson to provide solid backup minutes to Joel Embiid. He certainly wasn’t spectacular in that role, but that’s not who he is. He did his job.

Johnson averaged 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, playing in 74 contests. He averaged 15.8 minutes per game, his lowest since the 2008-09 season.

It seemed like Johnson’s name was always linked with Richaun Holmes, the younger, springier center also competing for backup center minutes (see Holmes' evaluation). While Johnson doesn’t have Holmes’ athleticism or offensive ability, Brett Brown preferred the veteran’s defense. During the regular season, Johnson had a 101.3 defensive rating, while Holmes’ was nearly five points worse, at 106.2.

At the start of the postseason, Johnson played some important minutes with Embiid working his way back from a left eye orbital fracture, and he played well. Despite Johnson not creating much of his own offense, the Sixers had no problem scoring when he was on the floor. In fact, Johnson’s 121.5 offensive rating was the best of any player in the first round of the playoffs.

Brown then drastically cut his minutes against the Celtics, Johnson’s former team, leaning heavily on Embiid. Johnson only played 17 minutes the entire Boston series, sitting on the bench for all of Game 4 and 5. He didn’t score in the series.

Signature game
In the Sixers’ 121-113 win over the Hawks on April 10, their 15th straight victory, Johnson posted 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. That game was during Embiid’s recovery from his eye injury, which gave Johnson more of a chance to shine.

When Embiid was active, however, Johnson mainly just held down the fort while the big man got some rest.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Johnson sometimes seems older than he actually is, mainly because of his experience and the way he carries himself. At 31 years old, Johnson has already played 13 years in the NBA, since he was the last player to be drafted directly from high school in 2005 before the league changed its eligibility requirements.

JJ Redick and Johnson were two players the young Sixers could always turn to for wisdom. Johnson never complains about his minutes, always plays hard and goes about his business like a true professional — there’s no doubt he’s a good guy to have in the locker room.

Does that mean he’ll still be a part of the Sixers’ locker room next season? Not necessarily. With the Sixers looking to acquire a superstar this offseason, Johnson would likely have to take a pay cut from the $11 million he made this year if he wants to stay in Philadelphia.

And in the long term, the Sixers may ultimately want to place their faith in Holmes, who’s seven years younger and has a higher upside. If Holmes can improve his defense, Johnson could be expendable.

On Johnson
“It was amazing, to a man, how consistent the reviews were. People skills, works his butt off, could handle sitting and swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. To be able to bring him in the game, and not worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots isn’t ever on my mind with Amir. He’s a perfect teammate.” 

- Brett Brown on Johnson after the Sixers' 107-86 win over the Jazz on Nov. 20

Brett Brown responds to Glenn Robinson III's comments: 'This is a show me league'

Brett Brown responds to Glenn Robinson III's comments: 'This is a show me league'

Glenn Robinson III had some concerning remarks about his role in an interview with Basketball Insiders. The veteran wing said that it was “not really explained” and that he doesn’t “really understand it.”

In Brett Brown’s pregame availability before the Sixers’ home game against the Knicks, the head coach responded to Robinson’s comments.

“About six seconds before I came out here, we spoke and I did see that quote. ... And that is not true. With all of our players, you sit down and you go through this clearly. After All-Star break, every single one of them got a roadmap — this is your role, this is what we expect.”

Speaking to reporters in the locker room before the game, Robinson did get the chance to add clarity to what he said.

"I think some of it got a little blown out of proportion, but it was just really like figuring out my role here," he said. "What did I get brought here to do? How can I help this team? I understand that both me and [Alec Burks], we were brought here to help this team win and that's what it's about."

When Robinson was brought in along with Burks from the Golden State Warriors, they both seemed to have clear roles. Burks would provide a scoring punch off the bench while Robinson provided an ideal 3-and-D wing.

That hasn’t exactly come to fruition. We’ve seen flashes of what Burks can do — especially in the Sixers’ overtime win over Brooklyn — but Robinson has struggled since a strong debut. He’s 0 of 9 from three and hasn’t made the defensive impact the team was hoping for.

Both players were in the midst of career years on expiring deals, meaning a possible lucrative free agency payday was on the horizon. Brown gets all that goes into a midseason trade but needs Robinson to provide what the head coach believes he can.

“I get when you have a career year on a poor team and it's a contract year, I understand it. I coached those years myself,” Brown said. “And so in the middle of all of it, he's good people. He's a good person and he's trying to figure out what his next step is while coexisting in a team framework. …

“I think that he has an important role to play here. We hope to see more of it. But as I said to him, and I'll say it again, this is a show me league and here it is, and this is what we expect and hope to see. And from time to time, we have seen that. I think that he is a league keeper.”

Down All-Stars Ben Simmons (lower back impingement) and Joel Embiid (left shoulder sprain), there should be plenty of minutes up for grabs. Robinson should get a closer look while in the starting lineup Wednesday.

After talking with Brown, does Robinson have a clearer picture of his role?

"I'm just really at that wing spot just competing every night and playing hard and really just letting him figure that out, and I just control what I can control on my end."

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Glenn Robinson III on his role with the Sixers: ‘I don’t really understand it’

Glenn Robinson III on his role with the Sixers: ‘I don’t really understand it’

Updated, 6:54 p.m.: On Monday night, Brett Brown responded to Robinson III's comments about his role, while Robinson had a chance to clarify how he feels about his place on the team (see story).

Glenn Robinson III was having by far the best season of his NBA career, starting for the Warriors, averaging 12.9 points per game and shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

Then he was traded to the Sixers.

Since being acquired by the Sixers along with Alec Burks, Robinson has started two games, come off the bench in four and missed all nine of his three-point attempts.

In an interview with Basketball Insiders’ Spencer Davies, he did not sound pleased with his situation.

Even when (Golden State) played Philly, I showed them what I could do,” Robinson told Davies. “So to play those consistent minutes a night and perform well … that’s the most disappointing part about coming here is that — both of us (are) coming off career years where we’re looking at hopefully big numbers after the season. I know I’ve got a family to feed. So you think about all those things.

“All those things play a role, and then when you come here and your role’s not really explained or you don’t know what’s going on with the trade — it’s not like it was a trade where you come in and immediately have an impact. It’s a little different, so … this team is full of wings, full of guys who can play. So really, I don’t really understand it. But it’s a business, you’ve got to make it happen and go out and try to do your best every night.

Though the Sixers have actually gone 4-2 with Robinson, the team has been in a state of constant change since acquiring him and Burks. Since Robinson has joined, the Sixers have used five different starting lineups. They’ll have to use a sixth Thursday night vs. the Knicks with Joel Embiid out because of a left shoulder sprain. Ben Simmons will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks with nerve impingement in his lower back. 

Robinson had a promising first game after the trade, scoring 10 points on 5 for 6 shooting against the Bulls and moving sharply off the ball, but it’s certainly true that Brett Brown has yet to find a clear role for him.

Last Friday, Robinson talked about the adjustment of moving in the middle of the season. 

“It’s always different,” he said. “You come into a new team and there’s new plays, new personnel. I think that they’ve came it pretty simple when both AB and I have been on the court. Like I said, it’s always different and you kind of learn on the fly and adjust. But teammates have been great, kind of telling us where to be and what to do during the games.”

The 26-year-old is in his second stint with Brown and the Sixers after playing 10 games in Philadelphia his rookie season. 

He still expressed some optimism to Davies that the team can turn the season around. 

“A lot of talent. I think we can go as far as we stick together and want to go,” Robinson told Davies. “We’ve just got a lot of great players and they know how to play the game. That’s the biggest thing, so as long as we can stick together, come together … it’s about defense for this group. We’ve got all the talent in the world to score. I think that we’ve got high chances.”

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