Toronto Raptors fans were lining up, offering to drive Andrea Bargnani to the airport to get him out of town because they didn’t want him on the team so bad. Unfortunately, they should have been more careful with what they wished for.
Although Bargnani had his share of flaws, including being outrebounded by most point-guards, he was never placed in the proper role in Toronto.
After Chris Bosh left for South Beach, Bargnani was given the leadership role by default. He was placed as the face of the franchise and was given the ball as the primary option on offense. However, Bargnani was never suited for either role; he’s not a leader and he’s not good enough to be the first-option on any team in the NBA. These aren’t faults of his own, as he never asked to be the team leader or face of the franchise, and he never demanded the ball on offense.
The facts are the Raptors weren’t very good, and being so short on talent, they needed Bargnani to be something he wasn’t. Fans grew frustrated because he never became the player worthy of being drafted first overall in the NBA draft. Unfortunately, his draft year was awful, and even though Bargnani might not have been worthy of the top pick, he’s still a top-five player from the 2006 draft.
Bargnani’s last season in Toronto was disappointing, as injuries limited the player to only 35 games. Prior to last season, his three previous years in Toronto were quite impressive for a team extremely short on talent. Bargnani’s numbers prior to last year’s injury plagued-season are as follows:
2009-10: 17.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists.
2010-11: 21.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists.
2011-12: 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, two assists.
His ability to shoot the ball is incredible for a player his size. It’s impossible to guard him when his shooting stroke is on, because big men don’t want to play him at the three-point line and he’s capable of shooting over nearly every defender.
For Bargnani to truly succeed in the league, he’d be best suited as a third or fourth option on a team, which is exactly what he will be with the New York Knicks. In New York, Carmelo Anthony will be the man. J.R. Smith will think he’s the man, but will settle for being the secondary option. Bargnani will then come in as the third option, and when teams are focused on double-teaming Anthony, Bargnani will thrive. He’s in a pressure-free role as the third or fourth option on the club, because if they don’t succeed, the blame will be on Anthony, not Bargnani.
Bargnani fills a great need for the Knicks with his ability to space the floor, something Raptors fans will be kicking themselves over if he is able to put up significant numbers. With all the talk surrounding Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan’s inability to hit three-pointers consistently, opponents are going to pack the paint and force the two to settle for long-range jumpers. Bargnani would have been perfect for the duo by freeing up floor space, as the two could have taken turns driving to the basket and kicking it out to Bargnani if the opponent isn’t playing honest defense.
Now the Knicks will be able to space the floor for Anthony, Smith and Iman Shumpert to drive to the basket. If opponents pack the paint, Bargnani will be waiting on the perimeter to burn them from downtown. For the fans that claim Anthony is better suited at the power forward, he’ll essentially be playing the position. Anthony will start at small forward, with Bargnani at power forward. However, Anthony will spend much more time on the inside with Bargnani on the outside, which plays to both their strengths.
Regarding Bargnani’s defense, it’ll still be subpar at-best. However, with Tyson Chandler standing behind him protecting the rim, Bargnani’s poor defense will be a lot less noticeable in New York than it was in Toronto.
Unfortunately, all of this has the potential to drive Raptors fans mad, as it’s quite possible Bargnani would have finally fit in Toronto the moment they traded him. They need floor spacing for Gay and DeRozan, which would have made Bargnani the perfect third option. They have a potential defensive anchor in Jonas Valanciunas, who could have bailed out Bargnani on defense.
Regardless, what’s done is done; there is no turning back now. However, Raptors fans shouldn’t be surprised if Bargnani excels in New York.