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How will the Knicks use Andrea Bargnani this season and what will his production level be?
Joe Caporoso - Regardless of whether Bargnani comes off the bench or starts, the Knicks need him to be supplemental scorer who helps space the floor. We know he isn’t bringing much as a rebounder or defender, which may make it wise to get him out there frequently with Tyson Chandler or Ron Artest, but his real value will come in making shots. We saw last year the Knicks need more offensive options when JR Smith is MIA either literally (because of his knee this season) or figuratively (like he was in the playoffs last year). There is no question Bargnani is a talented player with the ball in his hands and if he can give the Knicks the occasional double digit scoring night when he knocks down a few threes, it will be hard to complain about. I don’t want to put a points per game prediction out there because he needs to prove he can stay healthy first.
Chris Celletti - I’m not sure yet exactly how Mike Woodson will use Andrea Bargnani, but I do know how I would use him. I’d certainly bring him off the bench, because I don’t want to move Carmelo Anthony away from the power forward spot to start games. If you recall, last season Anthony was very dangerous in the first quarter, and a lot of that probably has to do with the Knicks creative positive mismatches by going small. To me, Bargnani is best served on the Knicks’ second unit, giving them a little bit of an inside-outside presence. Many people view Bargnani simply as an outside shooter, a perimeter threat, but he’s shown an ability to get to the free throw line in his career – namely in 2010-11 and 11-12 (hat tip to Joe Flynn over at Posting and Toasting for making us aware of this).
With possible floormates in J.R. Smith, Metta World Peace, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Pablo Prigioni, Bargnani would be best served playing as a pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop stretch 4 or 5 (Before you freak out, I’m not suggesting Bargnani play 40 minutes a game at center, I’m well aware of his defensive and rebounding struggles). There are times Bargnani can and should play with the first unit as well; putting him on the court with Anthony and Tyson Chandler could open up some space for Melo to work on the block, as well as create pick-and-roll opportunities for either himself or Chandler. The idea that Bargnani is simply an outside shooter is off-base. At his best, he’s a versatile offensive player that can be dangerous both inside and outside. I’m not going to predict scoring or shooting numbers, but I expect Bargnani to help the Knicks’ offense to be a bit more versatile and deeper than it was last season, an offensive that already ranked 3rd in efficiency.
Kevin Smith - I wish that Mike Woodson would start Bargnani, thus moving Melo to the three while still keeping the floor spread, but it seems that the head coach and small ball are attached at the hip. Sure, the Knicks gave no reason why they should move away from a smaller lineup, but if they’re going to meet up with a bigger team like Chicago or Indiana in the playoffs again, Melo at the four makes no sense defensively.
With Melo starting at the four, it seems more likely that Bargnani will come off the bench with STAT, forming one of the worst rebounding duos in the league. Still, I’m expecting an uptick in the former first round pick’s production offensively. Sometimes all a player needs is a breath of fresh air, and while there’s plenty more oxygen in Toronto than New York City, Bargns will no longer have to shoulder the load in order for his team to succeed. He of course needs to stay healthy, but with a better supporting cast, Bargnani should turn in to a handy role player. If nothing else, he’ll put up twice the production of Marcus Camby and Steve Novak.
Tim Murray - Initially when the Knicks brought in Bargnani, I was worried that it may force Melo to compromise his role at the power forward position. Melo had a lot of success playing down low last season including leading the league in scoring and facilitating in a way that led to good looks from behind the arc. This is why I would like to see Bargnani come off the bench with J.R. Smith, where he will need to adjust into a role where he knows when to stand behind the three-point line and when to fill the lane and crash the boards. He will also force defenses to give J.R. Smith less attention than Smith is used to giving him greater and higher percentage opportunities than last season. The main thing to keep in mind however is that he is replacing Novak and Camby so whatever his contribution is in whichever way Woodson uses him will lift the Knicks higher than those two did last season.
Chris DiGioia - As for Andrea Bargnani’s production for this season, I can think of one obvious, yet vital factor in that equation: health. Bargnani was once a number one overall pick not too long ago, and he’s proven before he can be a valuable asset in this league. After averaging over 20 points per game between the 2010-2012 seasons, Bargnani has seemed to hit a wall because of the trouble he’s had staying on the court. However, for the sake of the argument, let’s say he stays on the court. In my recent article regarding how Bargnani fits into the the Knicks rotation, I explained how a stretch four can truly help the flow of the offense. With Bargnani starting at the four, this ultimately allows Carmelo Anthony to slide back down to his natural small forward position, without having another huge body clogging the paint alongside Tyson Chandler. If the Knicks started Amare Stoudemire there, the same issues will be reiterated; there’s not enough room for Carmelo to operate.
Although Bargnani is certainly not considered a defensive force in the paint, let’s face it, he’ll have more of an impact then Novak ever did. Bargnani does have the ability to block some shots, while still stretching out the floor. He’s a three-point shooter, and having another seven foot frame on the court couldn’t hurt. I’ve been a huge advocate for the Knicks to snag a power forward similar to his game, and now it’s time to utilize his skill set.