Definitions of what it means to be the best player on an NBA team vary from person to person. However, in my opinion the most accurate means of judging who is a team's best or most valuable player is to look at their player efficiency rating (PER).
That being said, if you were to go by who was the most efficient player on the Toronto Raptors last season then the answer is simple. With a PER of 17.67, Amir Johnson was the best player for the Raptors last season.
I understand this could be a controversial argument and many Raptors fans may counter to the tune of, “How can he be our best player when he only played 25.7 minutes per game?” Or, “But DeMar DeRozan is the future of this team and is our best player.”
Well, when you look at his stats per 40 minutes, you gain a far more accurate understanding of just how valuable Johnson was for Toronto last season.
While playing through injuries, Johnson was still able to put up a solid 14.9 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists per 40 minutes, to go along with 2.3 blocks per 48 minutes and a .568 field goal percentage. Furthermore, if he had taken 19 more field goal attempts, he would have qualified for the official NBA rankings and would have had the fourth-best field goal percentage in the league last year.
What does this tell us?
First of all, it tells me that if Johnson was to play about 35 minutes per game—which is roughly how many minutes Andrea Bargnani and DeRozan played per game last season—he would have averaged very close to a double-double per game with a field goal percentage around .560.
Johnson started in 54 of the 72 games he played last season and the jury is still out as to whether he should and could be a decent starter, or if he is better suited as a role player off the bench. I do not know the answer to this question, but what I do know is that the efficient numbers he put up were good enough to earn him the 24th spot on my list of the 25 most efficient players under 25 in 2011.
I would also argue that his performance this past season should merit him a spot in the starting rotation for the at least the first half of next season. This would allow ample time to judge whether or not Johnson can in fact repeat last season’s performance and average close to a double-double per game in about 35 minutes played, which he was on pace to do in 2011.
Does anyone else agree that he is now worth the five-yea,r $5 million extension he signed this past off-season?