Amir Johnson To Benefit From Al Horford Signing

Feb 25, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) defends against Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) defends against Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

The presence of Al Horford will allow Amir Johnson to play a position that comes more naturally to him

As the Boston Celtics officially introduced Al Horford to the media, Brad Stevens applauded Horford’s ability to influence the players around him. One current Celtic that stands to benefit from the presence of Horford is Amir Johnson.

With Horford, Johnson can return to the power forward position, where he is much more effective. There will still be times where he fills in at center, but the majority of his minutes should come at the power forward position – a position that comes much more naturally to Johnson.

Johnson was Boston’s de facto center last year, due to lack of better options. Though it took some time for him to adjust to the new position, he really picked up his play and embraced his role in the second half of the season, especially towards the end of the season. An adjustment period was to be expected, just for the sheer fact that he was joining a new team. Throw in the idea of playing a unfamiliar position and that complicates things.

In his six years with the Toronto Raptors, Johnson was effective both as a starter and a reserve, but as a power forward, not a center. What helped him to be successful during that time was having a capable center next to him. Playing alongside guys like Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas served Johnson well. It’s not as if these guys are elite centers, or even NBA All-Stars, but they allowed Johnson to play power forward, which he’s better suited for.

Playing alongside guys like Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger last year, Johnson may not have been listed at center on the lineup sheet, but there was no doubt as to who was responsible for manning the middle. For the first 10 seasons of his career, Johnson was primarily a power forward. Now, with the addition of Horford, he’ll be able to return there.

Johnson is not the kind of player to put up eye-popping numbers, but if you compare his one season in Boston to some of his best seasons in Toronto, you’ll see there’s room for improvement. With the Celtics, Johnson average 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in 22.8 minutes of action.

While the rebounding numbers are on par, Johnson contributed a few more points per game while with Toronto. He had back to back seasons of 10+ points per game in ’12-’13 and ’13-’14. Part of that may be attributed to the style of play and the design of the offense leading to more scoring opportunities for Johnson, but you can’t ignore the fact that he was playing a different position.

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At 6’9″, Johnson is a bit undersized to be a center. While his wingspan and athleticism help him overcome that at times, he’s still better suited at power forward. Horford is listed at 6’10”. One inch may not seem like a big difference, but, sometimes, that one inch can make all the difference. It’s more than the height though, Johnson and Horford have different body types as well.

Johnson is listed at 240 lbs., just five pounds fewer than Horford, but the two have different builds. Horford is a bit more solid than Johnson – who has a more slender frame – and can provide a more physical presence in the paint. He’s better suited to protect the basket, and allow Johnson to provide help when needed.

Though it’s still too early to forecast starting lineups, a logical starting five for Boston would seem to be Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Johnson and Horford. Stevens was quick to point out that Horford will help “enhance his teammates on the floor.”

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Certainly, Horford’s passing, shooting and other abilities will help boost his teammates. However, just his presence on the floor will be enough for Johnson.