Now I know what some readers might say, after doing an in-depth analysis on most of the starting lineup, why would the next player on the list be Andrea Bargnani? Because I feel like Bargnani, barring any health setbacks or inability to mesh in the preseason, will be in the New York Knicks starting lineup to start the season. Why? Because he can shoot and help the Knicks stretch the floor like very few front courts in the NBA today.
Very few players need a fresh start in a new city with a new organization like Andrea Bargnani. He was drafted no. 1 overall in the 2006 NBA draft to play center next to Chris Bosh, an all-star in his own right. In two seasons together Bosh and Bargnani never really meshed well on the court, but in the 2008-2009 season Bargnani finally starting playing like a lottery pick when he averaged 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. Then in the 2010 season Chris Bosh left Toronto to join Dwayne Wade and LeBron James in Miami, leaving the burden of the Raptors franchise on Bargnani’s shoulders. Clearly he wasn’t ready to be the leader of the franchise.
In the 2010-2011 NBA season Bargnani had his best statistical season when he averaged 21.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, but that wasn’t enough to lead the Raptors to a playoff berth. In the two seasons between 2011-2013 Bargnani has managed to play just 66 games, not even a full NBA season, in two years. In just 35 games last season he averaged his second lowest field goal percentage (40%) and second lowest three-point percentage (31%). This would lead many to ask, why would the Knicks take a chance on this guy?
Simply put, after the 2013-2014 NBA season Bargnani has a player option, so assuming he doesn’t like being in New York, he will likely opt out the Knicks could be cleared $10 million dollars off the cap. If the experiment works and he meshes well on the court, he has the player option to be back next season for a $11.5 million dollar player option. Either way this will turn out to be a low-risk, high-reward type of move for the Knicks, considering they only gave up Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson. The only part of the trade that didn’t make sense for the Knicks was the three future draft picks. The only way this move could burn the Knicks badly is if Bargnani has another injury ridden season and then takes his player option just for a payday, in which case the Knicks could look to trade him as an expiring contract.
As far as on the court the question has never been talent with Bargnani, but rather injuries and his perimeter game in comparison to his size. Aside from Dirk Nowitzki, not many other 7-footers can shoot the ball like Bargnani. In the right system with the right pieces around him, Bargnani can be a major asset to a team. Bargnani’s ability to stretch the floor at the center position or shoot over most power forwards probably has head coach Mike Woodson drooling. If Bargnani can mesh with his teammates there is no reason to think that the Knicks won’t be among the league leaders in three-pointers again. Especially since he will likely be the third or fourth option on the court and not have the offensive burden on his shoulders.
The NBA average PER (player efficiency rating) is set to 15 every season, last year Bargnani posted a PER of 11.27, which is very poor for a player of his ability. The problem is he became the focal point of the Raptor’s offense when he was on the floor and far too often he settled for perimeter jumpers instead of trying to drive to the basket, not to mention he hasn’t truly been 100% healthy the past two seasons. What makes him a special talent isn’t just his ability to shoot, it’s also the fact that at 7’0″ and 255 pounds, Bargnani has the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. He must take better, more efficient shots in order to be a threat offensively.
When looking at the shot chart above, keep in mind that the red spots are below average field goal percentage. A big issue offensively for Bargnani is the fact that he is a below average finisher at the rim. Around the basket he finished 45-94 which is 47.87%. To put that in perspective, Bargnani is only slightly worse from 16-24 feet, where he shoots around 44%, in comparison to the 47.87% from right around the rim. Concerning to say the least, he has to convert the easy opportunities.
The biggest knock on Bargnani is that for a 7-footer he doesn’t rebound the ball and is a very poor defender. With a career average on 4.8 rebounds, it’s safe to say that Bargnani will not be helping out Tyson Chandler in the regard this season. Bargnani doesn’t box out and fight for rebounds, which is inexcusable considering rebounding is more about effort than skill. Coach Woodson will quickly bench Bargnani if the effort isn’t there defensively either. Similar to Amare Stoudemire, it seems like Bargnani is best when playing defense on the interior, where he can use his length to block shots, but once you drag him out to that 10-15 foot range he becomes a major liability defensively.
Bargnani has a great opportunity to revive his career in the big apple. He will not have the pressure to be the focal point of the offense, that burden will be with Carmelo Anthony, but rather Bargnani will be a third or fourth scoring option, which is a role he should thrive in. Barring any major setbacks from a health standpoint he should be a major part of the Knicks rotation and a difference maker offensively. If not expect him to hear it from the crowd at Madison Square Garden early and expect his stint in New York to be a short one.