Expected Scoring – Amir Johnson

In the past few days, prompted by trade talk and and analysis from other blogs, I used Expected Scoring and Point Differential to take a look at the scoring efficiency of Jeff Green and Carmelo Anthony. As we move through the preseason and get ready for the regular season to start, I thought it might be fun to look at a few other players on an individual level through this lens and see what we might anticipate from their scoring efficiency this year.

If you’ve missed my other posts on the subject, Expected Points uses a player’s FGA from each area of the floor and multiplies it by the average number of points scored on that type of shot to come up with an Expected Point total from that area. The Expected Point total can than be compared to the actual number of points a player scored from that area to arrive at a Point Differential. This point differential is an expression of how a player shot compared to the league average, but I like that the comparison is drawn with actual point totals.  The average values of shots by location that I use (At Rim – 1.208, <10ft. – 0.856, 10-15ft. – 0.783, 16-23ft. – 0.801, 3PT – 1.081, FT – 0.759) were calculated by Albert Lyu of ThinkBlueCrew.

In my search for other players to discuss, I started by looking for someone who scored at a rate significantly higher than expected on shots at the rim. I then narrowed my search, looking for someone who had showed a pattern of improvement in their Point Differentials from year to year. A name popped out, Toronto’s Amir Johnson.

Below is a table showing Johnson’s Expected Points, Actual Points and Point differential for each area of the floor over the past four seasons (all numbers are per 40 minutes). If you prefer a spreadsheet to the embedded table photo, here is the link.

Johnson was drafted right out of high school, and spent four seasons with the Detroit Pistons, before moving on to Toronto last year. He played only 11 games over his first two seasons, which includes the 2007 data here. So primarily we are concerned the past three seasons, where he has played significant minutes.

The first thing that jumps out is that Johnson appears to be a player with a good sense of his own limitations. He rarely shoots the ball from outside of 10 ft., averaging less than 1.5 attempts per 40 minutes on all shots longer than that. He has scored at an above expected rate on shots at the rim in every season. In addition he made a huge jump last season scoring slightly more than 1.5 points more than expected on shots at the rim, per 40 minutes. To put this number in context, it’s roughly the same positive point differential that Greg Oden has on shots at the rim, or that Jared Dudley has on 3PTs.

The other really promising thing about Johnson’s numbers is the steady improvement he has shown in each area. His Point Differentials have increased on shots at the rim, <10ft., 10-15ft. and 16-23ft. in each of the last three seasons. It’s still rare to see him shoot long jumpers, but he has made progress to the point of shooting at essentially the league average rate on jumpers from 10-23ft.

With the departure of Chris Bosh, and the knee injury suffered by 1st Round Pick, Ed Davis, there should be an opportunity for Johnson to significantly increase his minutes this season. Johnson was among the most efficient scorers in the league last season on shots at the rim, and did his damage not just on offensive rebounds and off cuts, but in the post as well, where he scored a terrific 1.21 Points per Possession. In addition, he appears to have a legitimate claim to being a respectable mid-range jump shooter. A potential pitfall may be losing his discern for shot selection as his role and scoring responsibilities increase.

Amir Johnson seems poised for a break-out season. His notable defensive and rebounding abilities are combined with an increasingly efficient scorer’s acumen and the opportunity to play significant minutes. He looks to be a significant contributor in the Raptors’ frontcourt next season.

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2 Comments

Filed under Expected Scoring Player Profiles, NBA, Statistical Analysis, Toronto Raptors

2 responses to “Expected Scoring – Amir Johnson

  1. Crow

    I’d expect most of Johnson gain will be from more minutes and everything that goes with it . Beyond that unit impact, he’ll probably get more rebounds due to more responsibility. Maybe more shots. I don’t know if he gets “more” efficient than now. Holding it at current levels would probably be a pretty good accomplishment.

    • I agree that the most important thing for Johnson’s development is the increase in minutes he should see. It’s possible that an increase in usage could cause a slight drop in efficiency, but he has also made a slight improvement each year so those two factors could cancel each other out. What I was trying to get across is that he doesn’t need to do anything different or expand his offensive game, but just do it more often. He shouldn’t be taking long jumpers any more frequently, or trying to develop a face-up game, but continuing to focus on what he does so well. Maintaining his efficiency, but doing it in 28-32 minutes a game instead of 15-18 minutes will make a huge difference for Toronto, and will push some of his per game numbers into a range where he will get recognized by the more casual NBA fans.

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