Andrea Bargnani has had an interesting career so far in the NBA. A seven-footer with a repertoire of skills on the offensive end, he was picked first overall in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors. Before the 2013-14 season, the New York Knicks acquired the Italian for a group of players, two second-round picks and their 2016 first-rounder. With all of those pieces traded for him, expectations were high, but from crazy failed dunk attempts and bad clock management, Bargnani didn’t live up to the hype. Now, with only one year left on his contract, his place on the Knicks roster and future monetary value are at stake.
While playing in only 42 games due to a torn ligament in his elbow, Bargnani’s stats in his first season with the Knicks were less than impressive. He averaged 13.3 points per game on 44 percent shooting and just 27 percent from three. He can be a very explosive player, but he has had trouble staying on the court the past couple years as he played in just a combined 66 games in his final two years with the Raptors on top of last year’s injury-plagued season. With president Phil Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher‘s new system currently being installed, how will Bargnani fit into it in what could be one of the most important years of his career?
During the Knicks’ Las Vegas Summer League game on Monday, Jackson joined the MSG crew during the game and answered some questions. Current announcer and former Knick Walt Frazier asked him about Bargnani and how he thinks he will perform with the team. Despite all of the negatives and trade rumors surrounding him, Jackson feels as though he can be a surprise talent for the Knicks next year. There are a couple of reasons why it would be hard not to agree with Jackson on this one.
First, with his ability to stretch the floor and score in a multitude of ways with his height, Bargnani can be a lethal weapon in the triangle offense Fisher and Jackson will install. The big men will have the ball a lot and his abilities, if executed correctly, will give him a lot of good mid-range looks at the basket. Not only that, but his threat as a scorer can open up options for his teammates. Bargani, who only averages 1.2 assists per game over his career, will have to become a better passer and playmaker for people other than himself to help out the team. With his height and scoring ability, the correct coaching could help improve his game and turn him into more of an all-around player. Look for Fisher and Jackson to show Bargnani a lot of Pau Gasol tape from when they were all with the Los Angeles Lakers (Jackson as a coach, Gasol and Fisher as players). Gasol and Bargnani both are similar in size and have the ability to knock down shots away from the basket, but Bargnani can learn from Gasol’s ability to pass, rebound and play defense. Bargnani could be the Knicks’ modified version of the Spaniard, who helped lead those Lakers to two titles when those three were together.
Another thing to look at is the team chemistry. Something that really hurt the Knicks last season was their lack of it on the court. By bringing in a guy like Jose Calderon, who Bargnani has played with before, and having an Italian friend like Pablo Prigioni on the roster will help in that regard. These are friends of Bargnani’s and people he is comfortable with, so if everybody can develop a stronger comfort level next season, Jackson and Fisher can achieve their goal of making this squad more team oriented. If that happens, they will probably see more positive play from Bargnani.
While Bargnani’s short tenure with the Knicks has been filled with mishaps, injuries and trade rumors, he has a lot to be motivated for next season. With his contract expiring, he is looking to play for money. With a new culture and system coming into New York, his unique skill set can be a huge help to the Knicks. If he can stay healthy and play well with some familiar faces surrounding him, maybe things will turn around for the big man.