After starting off the season with a few lackluster offensive performances, Andrea Bargnani has picked up his play since moving into the starting center position for the New York Knicks. Following a rough start when he seemed out of rhythm (and even got booed a few times), he seems to have regained his confidence on the offensive end and has started shooting quite well. He’s now up to 51 percent shooting from the field and 41.9 percent shooting from three while scoring 15.1 points per game (20.7 per 36 minutes).
Most of his improvement has stemmed from a better understanding of his place in the Knicks’ offense. In the preseason and the first few games of the regular season he had a troubling tendency to clog the paint during Knicks’ drives by floating around the mid-range area instead of spotting up at the three-point line and spacing the floor. Not only that, but when he got it beyond the arc he’d often pause and think about his next action, relying on his pump fake far too much rather than simply taking the open three. Bargnani has gotten more comfortable with letting those threes fly, and he’s finally starting to provide the kind of spacing his teammates need to get going on offense.
That being said, he still has a few issues on the offensive end. He’s not a very good finisher at the basket and he does have a tendency to be a bit of a ball stopper. While his increasing willingness to decisively take open shots is a welcome addition to the offense, he doesn’t move the ball well and his turnover numbers dwarf his assists. He also forces the issue a bit at times. He’s excelled at knocking down open looks (and he’s gotten a lot of them thanks to the attention Carmelo Anthony draws), but he still has some issues getting his own shot. At times he attacks as if he has blinders on, ignoring open shooters even as he draws help defenders. One particularly bad sequence against the Atlanta Hawks ended with him trying to shoot out of a double team in the post and getting swatted by Kyle Korver, of all people.
Bargnani’s posted the highest offensive rebound rate of his career so far, but he has still struggled to protect the defensive glass. He’s only grabbing 3.6 defensive boards per 36 minutes, an absolutely abysmal number for a player with his size. He grabs rebounds that present themselves to him, but he almost never wins the battle for contested rebounds, often allowing opposing bigs to bully him.
Defensively he’s been a nightmare, although he was never brought to the team to be a defensive anchor from the center spot in the first place. His man-to-man defense is actually fine. He’s shown a willingness to contest shots and his size and length are very useful when defending post-ups. However, his team defense has been a disaster. Bargnani has been flummoxed by even the most basic pick-and-rolls and has shown little inclination to step in front of guards and wings as they drive to the rim. They’re often met with just a wave of the hand and a halfhearted attempt to contest the shot. While nobody expects him to fill Tyson Chandler’s shoes, he absolutely must improve his effort as a defender.
Andrea Bargnani still has a long way to go before he’s a complete player and there’s a chance he’ll never be a strong rebounder or defender, but his improved offensive play has made him a valuable contributor to the team in recent games.