amir johnson

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

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Richaun Holmes

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Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Richaun Holmes

Richaun Holmes

Position: Forward/center

Status for 2018-19: Club option that must be exercised by June 29 at $1,600,520

Holmes in 2017-18
The Sixers made it quite clear from the beginning of the season that they were going to opt for substance over flash at the backup center position. That meant Amir Johnson would receive the bulk of the playing time behind Joel Embiid instead of Holmes.

Sure, Holmes can be the prototypical spark off the bench that comes in throwing down monster dunks, grabbing boards and blocking shots. The 24-year-old can also miss reads on offense and lose his man for easy baskets on the defensive end.

Johnson is nowhere near the level of athlete as Holmes, but the veteran provided a steady approach to the game that Brett Brown favored for the Sixers.

So Holmes, who missed the first eight games of the season with a broken bone in his left wrist, was limited to a career-low 48 contests and saw his minutes dip from 20.9 a night one season ago to 15.5.

Not an ideal situation for a player with a club option on his contract for next season.

Signature game
Holmes had a string of games in mid-December when he put up big numbers, scoring in double figures six times in an eight-game stretch. However, those numbers proved pretty hollow as seven of those eight games resulted in losses.

Let’s go with Dec. 30 instead, a 107-102 road comeback over the Denver Nuggets. With Embiid sidelined, Holmes came off the bench to record 14 points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 19 minutes before fouling out.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Unlike T.J. McConnell, Holmes didn’t get verbal confirmation that his option would be picked up from team president Bryan Colangelo at end-of-season press conferences.

While it seems unlikely the Sixers will bring back Johnson at a similar salary to what he made last season, the organization will likely see what else is available on the backup big man market.

Still, at 24 years old and with an extremely manageable salary of $1.6 million, Holmes should expect to be back with the Sixers next season. Anything after that will hinge on the amount of growth he shows in what could be his last chance with the team.

On Holmes
“It’s always a competition. Coach always lets it be known that we’re going to compete for spots, going to compete for playing time. Just have to come in next year ready to compete and ready to compete harder.”

- Holmes on whether he expects to be the backup center next season

JJ Redick, Sixers' veterans want to return under right circumstances

JJ Redick, Sixers' veterans want to return under right circumstances

CAMDEN, N.J. — “See you next year.”

That’s how Marco Belinelli signed off in his final press conference of the season Thursday. Whether or not Belinelli and the Sixers’ other veteran free agents will be back next year is of course still uncertain, but all four players were emphatic that they want to stay in Philadelphia.

Thirteen-year veteran JJ Redick said that — along with the culture and talent of the team — the unique experience of playing in Philadelphia is one of the factors that draws him back.

“I don’t want to offend any of the other places I’ve been or teams I’ve been on, but this was probably my favorite year of my career,” Redick said. “Playing in Philly is its own experience and our fans, the city, the buzz about sports and about this team was amazing. I think I said this on media day: ‘the first time I’ll ever play in a real sports town.’ And it definitely lived up to those thoughts. It was awesome to play in Philly.”

That’s not to say Redick will automatically come back to the Sixers without considering other possibilities. He’s pragmatic about the free-agent process and said he’ll weigh contract length, total value, winning and proximity before deciding his next destination.

“I’m sure we all hope that I am back,” he said. “The numbers can get tricky. It’s not my job to worry about that. I’ll let [general manager] Bryan [Colangelo], my agent and the events of the next two months play out, and we’ll make a decision.”

Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, both of whom were bought out by the Hawks mid-season, each spoke highly of their relationships with coach Brett Brown when discussing why they would like to return.

“I really love to play for Coach Brown,” Ilyasova said. “The way he coaches, for me, he’s more like a player-coach. He communicates with players with a high level, and you always knew what to expect from him. I think the most important thing for the players is just to know what coach wants from you, and just deliver.”

Belinelli is grateful for the opportunity Brown and Colangelo gave him to resurrect his career with a winning team.

“We really have a great relationship, me and Coach Brown,” Belinelli said. “With Bryan, too, when I was in Toronto, Bryan was there, so we know each other. But Coach Brown is great. He gave me the possibility to come here, and [I was] really born again after a couple years in Sacramento, Charlotte, Atlanta, and he gave me the possibility to be myself. That, for me, was really important.”

Amir Johnson, a 13-year veteran like Redick, echoed his teammate’s sentiments when reflecting on his first year with the Sixers.

“From the players to the fans, it was probably one of the greatest seasons I’ve played during my 13-year career," Johnson said. "It was awesome, man.”