Spotlighting and Breaking Down Toronto Raptors' Power Forward Position
Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough are the Toronto Raptors' primary options at power forward heading into the 2013-14 regular season.
On occasion, you'll see guys like Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and even Steve Novak suit up at the four, but as far as the depth chart is concerned, Johnson and Hansbrough are the only two penciled in at the position.
Johnson is currently locked-in as the starter, but don't be surprised to see Hansbrough take away some of his minutes over the course of the season. Both players have similar playing styles that allow for head coach Dwane Casey to sub in one or the other without losing too much production on the court.
To be honest, both Johnson and Hansbrough are better suited for reserve roles, but that is neither here nor there. The Raptors' starting lineup is potent enough on offense to the point where whoever starts at power forward isn't going to be relied on to score a lot anyways.
Can the position be upgraded? Absolutely. However, you have to work with what you have.
Gay, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas will carry much of the offensive burden, so Johnson/Hansbrough can essentially just let their games come to them and contribute in other areas that sometimes go unappreciated.
Starter: Amir Johnson
2012-13 statistics: 81 games, 28.7 minutes, 10.0 points, 55.4 percent from the field, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.4 blocks, 1.4 turnovers, 17.3 PER
2013-14 salary: $6,500,000
Amir Johnson will be entering his fifth season with the Raptors, which as far as the franchise is concerned, is an extremely long time.
Only nine players—including a returning DeMar DeRozan—have remained with the team for a similar duration or longer.
After Johnson signed a five-year, $34 million deal under the Bryan Colangelo regime, many Raptors fans believed that it would be next to impossible for Johnson to live up to that contract. Well, after a strong showing in 2012-13, those doubts are slowly fading away.
An argument can even be made for Johnson being the most consistent Raptors player from start to finish last season.
His addition of a 15-foot jumper to his arsenal was a pleasant surprise. Watching Johnson attempt jump shots would, at one time, make his coaches cringe. Now, it can be counted on to keep the defense honest in tight situations. It's still a work in progress, but soon enough, it will become an even greater part of his game.
His durability was also a tremendous asset that benefited the Raptors greatly. Even with nagging injuries, he would continue to play and fight through the pain. He was one of only three players—DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross being the other two—to compete in at least 70 games.
Johnson would lead the team in rebounds (7.5) and double-doubles (15), and finish second in shooting percentage at 55.4 percent. His contributions were sometimes overshadowed by the bigger names on the roster, but that doesn't make them any less important.
As mentioned earlier, in a perfect world, Johnson would come off the bench. He would get more looks on offense and be able to exploit his high motor against second-unit players. With all due respect, it's hard to imagine the Raptors getting very far with Johnson as their starting power forward.
Thankfully, over the past two seasons, the eight-year NBA veteran has steadily improved in many areas and proven that he won't be a liability as a starter. He doesn't need the spotlight, nor does he crave it.
His minutes are always going to be there. Coach Casey rewards players who bust their tail. Johnson fits that description to a tee.
Expectations will continue to remain at a steady level. Johnson set the bar rather high last season, but if he can continue to produce at that pace, he should be just fine.
Projected 2013-14 statistics: 27.5 minutes, 10.4 points, 56.7 percent from the field, 7.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.6 blocks
Backup: Tyler Hansbrough
2012-13 statistics: 81 games, 16.9 minutes, 7.0 points, 43.2 percent from the field, 4.6 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.2 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, 15.3 PER
2013-14 salary: $3,183,000
On July 15th, the Raptors signed former Indiana Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough to a one-year deal with a team option for a second.
Hansbrough, 27, spent the last four seasons with the Pacers organization after being drafted 13th overall in the 2009 NBA draft. He has career averages of 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds.
From his college days as a member of the North Carolina Tar Heels to his three years of postseason experience in Indiana, Hansbrough has been a winner wherever he's played.
That's how you help change a losing culture. You sign guys who are accustomed to winning and can play with that mentality night in and night out. GM Masai Ujiri was well aware of that when he went out to sign Hansbrough.
Who should start at power forward for the Toronto Raptors in 2013-14?
When given the proper chance to compete, he can certainly produce respectable numbers. Primarily coming off the bench for Indiana, Hansbrough occasionally found himself in the starting lineup as an injury replacement. In eight starts, the Pacers went 6-2 with Hansbrough averaging a double-double of 14.8 points and 10.1 rebounds.
His toughness and intensity during games have built him a reputation—whether it be good or bad—around the league. Hansbrough is an extremely tenacious basketball player who isn't afraid to bang down low and use his upper body strength to outmuscle the opposition.
His "Psycho T" nickname—which he earned at UNC—is well-deserved.
Who could ever forget his UFC-style takedown of Jonas Valanciunas during the Raptors' visit to Bankers Life Fieldhouse back in February? There are no limits to how physical Hansbrough can get during games. There is proof in the pudding.
As far as his offensive repertoire is considered, Hansbrough is very limited. He's tried to integrate a mid-range shot into his game, but to no avail.
277 of his 407 total shots were from around the basket. From 16 feet to the three-point line, Hansbrough nailed just 29 of 90, which equates to 32.2 percent.
He's also not a particularly good defender. He doesn't force many turnovers, as evident by his low steals and blocks numbers. Hansbrough has also been known to get beaten by quicker forwards down in the paint. However, that's certainly something that can be worked on with coach Casey and the Raptors' staff.
Hansbrough's immediate role with the Raptors will be similar to the one he had in Indiana. He will be the team's second or third man off the bench, play in short spurts throughout the game and help provide energy when it's desperately needed.
Projected 2013-14 statistics: 19.8 minutes, 9.0 points, 44.7 percent from the field, 4.7 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.4 blocks
*All statistics/depth chart information courtesy of Basketball-Reference, NBA.com/stats and HoopsHype.com.
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