The New York Knicks decision to trade for Andrea Bargnani hasn’t been a popular one amongst fans. There is valid criticism to be made of the trade and of the logic behind it. However, considering the Knicks general situation for the next two seasons, this isn’t the unmitigated disaster some people are making it out to be.
Operating under the reality that the Knicks have a 2 year window with their current core, Bargnani brings more potential and upside than Marcus Camby and Steve Novak. When focusing just on the players involved, you shed bad contracts of two players who weren’t contributing to your rotation for a bad contract of a player who will hopefully contribute to your rotation as a 3rd or 4th scoring option. Bargnani has been bad the past couple of years but this is still a guy who averaged 21.4 points and 5.2 rebounds on 45% shooting over 66 games in 2010. There is offensive talent there and an ability to stretch the defense. You are working under the assumption that he will play better in a less featured role. Bargnani can’t be a go-to-guy or lead scorer but maybe in 20-24 minutes per night, he can find a niche as a key role player on a playoff team.
It is perfectly understandable to question if he has in it him to be a productive asset on this roster but the ceiling and potential makes it a worthwhile gamble at the cost of Camby and Novak who were doing nothing here in the upcoming 2 year window. Bargnani’s contract comes off the books the same time as Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire, setting the Knicks up with plenty of spending money for the 2016 off-season. They will actually have more financial flexibility now thanks to getting Novak’s contract off the books.
The painful aspect of this deal comes from losing three (!) draft picks, particularly the 2016 first rounder. Despite this likely being a low pick and despite 2nd rounders having a low success rate, particularly for the Knicks, you always hate to give away assets, particularly when you will be rebuilding the roster in 2016. Yes, the Knicks might be able to buy a pick or two back or acquire another one down the road but with their history of draft pick treatment, it isn’t all that likely. Considering how lowly Toronto apparently valued Bargnani, it is hard not to think that this deal could have pulled off by sacrificing less picks.
Regardless, this type of decision or transaction shouldn’t shock anybody. The Knicks are cap strapped with limited flexibility for the next 2 years, smack in the middle of Carmelo Anthony’s prime. They are going to do whatever they need to do to remain relevant and surround him with as much talent as possible. Simply put, Bargnani is more talented and has more upside than the Novak/Camby combo, with limited options…the Knicks are going to take the gamble without considering the potential of an unnamed 2016 draft pick selected somewhere in the 20s.
Ultimately, the amount of sting on this trade is going to depend on Bargnani’s production. If he resembles the player he was in 2010, you won’t hear the chorus of negative chatter particularly when the Knicks are gearing up to make a max offer to a free agent heading into 2016. The 2013-2014 roster isn’t set in stone yet but there is a chance it could be an overall upgrade to the 54 win team from last season. People HATED the Knicks approach last season but weren’t complaining during the winning streaks and Atlantic Division title being clinched.
The Knicks were the 3rd-5th best team in the East prior to this trade with no flexibility until 2016. The Knicks are the 3rd-5th best team in the East after this trade with no flexibility until 2016. They will now have a little more cash that off-season but lack two draft picks leading up to that off-season and one draft pick after it. Questionable move. It is fair to be skeptical of it…but not earth-shattering, particularly if Bargnani finds a niche as a competent role player.