Amir Johnson Wins 2017-18 NBA Hustle Award

06/25/2018 at 10:06pm

By Brian Martin

End of season awards are usually reserved for players that make highlight reel plays, that are mainstays on the SportsCenter Top 10 each night with thunderous dunks, buzzer-beating shots or blocked shots that end up in the third row of the stands.

Last season, the NBA introduced the Hustle Award to honor the players whose greatest contributions may not always show up in the box score or make the nightly highlights.

What was often described as dirty work or intangibles now has measurable stats associated with the effort plays that are critical to team success:

After Patrick Beverley won the inaugural award a year ago, this year’s honor was given to Philadelphia forward Amir Johnson as he was presented with the NBA Hustle Award at the NBA Awards Show on Monday night in Santa Monica, Calif.

"This is definitely an honor," said after receiving the award on Monday. "I pride myself on doing the little things on the court and I just want to say thank you to my teammates and coaches. This award means a lot."

Final Standings, 2017-18 NBA Hustle Award

Rank Player Team
1 Amir Johnson Philadelphia 76ers  
2 Thaddeus Young Indiana Pacers  
3 Larry Nance Jr. Cleveland Cavaliers/L.A. Lakers  
4 Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers  
5 Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans  

How The Hustle Score Is Calculated

Here is a quick rundown on how the overall hustle score is calculated:

  • Players who played minimum of 50 regular season games and at least 15 minutes per game were eligible
  • The five Hustle Stats measured were Screen Assists, Deflections, Loose Balls Recovered, Charges Drawn, and Shot Contests
  • Players were compared by position (G/F/C) within each stat on a per-minute basis
  • Within each stat, a metric was calculated for each player based on his relative performance
  • The five metrics were summed together to determine players’ aggregate scores, with Amir Johnson earning the highest score
  • Thaddeus Young, Larry Nance Jr., Ben Simmons and Anthony Davis rounded out top five

What Sets Johnson Apart From The Field

Let’s take a look at Johnson’s hustle profile, with his stats in the five key hustle stats and ranks among all players as well as players at his position.

Note: All hustle stats below are on a per-minute basis as to even the comparison among players that play varying amounts of minutes per game.

Hustle Stat Amir Johnson Overall Rank Forward Rank
Loose Balls Recovered 0.04 27 11
Charges Drawn 0.01 4 4
Deflections 0.06 93 41
Screen Assists 0.16 7 4
Contested Shots 0.35 43 22

Johnson finished in the top 10 overall in two of the five hustle categories (Charges Drawn and Screen Assists) and ranked fourth among players at his position in both categories. While he did not dominate one single category, his contributions across the board of hustle plays helped earn him this end-of-season honor.

To fully appreciate a player like Amir Johnson, you have to look deeper than the standard per game box score stats. On the surface, his 4.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.6 blocks don’t really stand out.

But if we look closer, we see that Johnson was one of only 31 players to hit those benchmarks this season while playing at least 50 games and he played by far the fewest minutes (15.8 per game) of any player on that list. In fact, he is one of just three players to average fewer than 26 minutes per game and average those numbers.

By playing limited minutes (this season was Johnson’s fewest since the 2008-09 season in Detroit), Johnson was able to impact the game in spurts as he appeared off the bench in 56 of his 74 games this season.

With seven players averaging double-figures in scoring, the Sixers did not need points from Johnson. Instead, he was called upon to do all of the little things to help the team succeed: set great screens and crash the glass for extra possessions on offense; guard opposing bigs, have active hands to force deflections and turnovers, be the first to loose balls, and box out and rebound to end opponent possessions on defense.

When looking on a per-36 minute basis, Johnson led the Sixers in offensive rebounds, ranked second in blocks and fourth in steals among players that appeared in at least 15 regular season games.

Johnson’s combination of per-minute efficiency in both traditional and hustle stats offer a clearer picture of his importance to his team and his overall impact on the game.