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Posted on May 24, 2011 | 14 Comments
As regular readers know (can you have regular readers for an irregular blog?), I have not been a big Bargnani fan over the years. I was not pleased when he was drafted and never once was very surprised by his development. At the time he was drafted, I remember saying that I saw his ceiling as 25 ppg with below average defence and rebounding. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was Bargnani’s career year. In the end, I’m going to guess that his 21.4 ppg that he achieved this season will be his career high.
For some people, it was the 21.4 ppg that caught their attention. For some people, that was enough. Not me. Bargnani is a very good scorer, but he’s not a great one. 21.4 ppg isn’t easy to achieve, but it’s certainly not extraordinary. His 21.4 ppg puts him 817th on the All-Time list in single season scoring, along with the likes of Ben Gordon, Jay Vincent (Sam’s brother) and Marques Johnson. And the fact that he did it on a 22 win team unfortunately makes the feat even less notable.
When discussing good scorers on bad teams, I always like to bring up Tony Campbell. Campbell was a deep bench player for the Lakers and Pistons in the 80′s who was signed by the newly expanded Minnesota Timberwolves. Before joining the T-Wolves, his career average was 6.4 ppg. His first season with the T-Wolves he was made the #1 option and ended up scoring 23.2 ppg, but his team only won 22 games. All told, he spent 3 seasons with the T-Wolves, averaging 20.6 ppg. Then he was traded to New York for a 2nd round pick. Why would a 20 ppg scorer be traded for a 2nd round pick? Well, that next season he averaged just 7.7 ppg.
So what was Campbell’s problem? Why was he never able to achieve the same heights he did in Minnesota? Well, for one thing, he simply wasn’t that great a player. Yes, he could score, but he wasn’t a very efficient scorer, and he really wasn’t very good at anything else. He was a poor defender and rebounder and not a good passer.
How does this relate to Bargnani? Well, let’s look at some of their advanced stats during their respective career seasons.
PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48 17.1 .520 .460 7.5 9.8 8.5 12.4 1.8 0.6 12.1 29.0 105 110 2.8 2.5 5.3 0.081
PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48 16.4 .533 .480 3.6 13.9 8.6 8.8 0.7 1.5 10.3 28.1 105 115 2.2 0.4 2.6 0.053
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
For the record, the first one is Tony Campbell and the second one is Bargnani. It’s hard not to look at those numbers and not notice the similarities. Keep in mind that Campbell was a 6’7 SF, and not a 7 foot center, as Bargnani is. Now, Bargnani obviously has more potential than Campbell ever did, which is why Bargnani was a #1 pick and Campbell was a 20th pick. But potential is only good when you fulfill it. And while Bargnani has certainly been impressive offensively, it’s those pesky other areas which he hasn’t quite excelled.
For five years, Bargnani was about as untouchable as one could be. Then a couple of weeks before the season ended, the first crack appeared. An article appeared in a New York newspaper that said that Colangelo was open to trading Bargnani this summer. This marks the first time that there was even a rumour of a willingess to trade Bargnani.
Then Leo Rautins mentions the rumour. Then Jack Armstrong and Matt Devlin talked about the possibility of trading Bargnani this summer. Keep in mind that these are Raptor employees. They get a lot of flak for ignoring the flaws of the Raptors, but that’s their job. And if they want to keep it, it’s probably best to stay positive. So when the Raptors commentators not only mentioned the possibility of a trade, but started criticizing Bargnani like they never had before, it seemed like it wasn’t simply random.
Then, Bryan Colangelo, a long time Bargnani supporter, goes on the FAN590 and changes his longtime tune about him. He calls Bargnani an enigma, admits he’s never improved his defense and probably won’t ever be a good defender, and says that he hasn’t worked on his rebounding nearly as much as the team would have liked him to.
He also refers to Bargnani as an asset, isn’t afraid to admit when something isn’t working and rejected the idea that he wouldn’t trade Bargnani simply because he was a #1 pick.
Wow. Talk about a bombshell.
Of course, he says that Bargnani has been miscast as a center, would do better playing alongside a defensive center and is a matchup nightmare on the offensive end.
It sounds like Colangelo might just be making another excuse for Bargnani and is planning on moving him to power forward next season, right? Well the only problem with that plan is that the Raptors already have two younger, more productive, less flawed and cheaper power forwards on the roster already, in Ed Davis and Amir Johnson. Moving Bargnani there simply doesn’t make sense.
To me, it sounded like Colangelo was doing two things in this interview. Trying to ease the fans into the idea that Bargnani will be traded, but also trying to keep his trade value as high as possible. I don’t believe he was saying Bargnani is really a PF because he wants to move him there. I think he was saying it as a way to give other teams a reason to believe the best is yet to come from Bargnani.
Well, yesterday, the final nail in the coffin that is Bargnani in Toronto went in. Bargnani, while doing colour commentary on the Italian feed of the Western Conference Finals, drops a few bombshells of his own. When asked if he could play anywhere in the NBA, where would he play, he responded…
“I want to stay in Toronto, at least this is the politically correct answer. If (I am) to go somewhere else, I’d like a warm climate city and a team where I can actually play in my role.”
Now, Bargnani was asked about playing elsewhere, and I don’t blame him for wanting a warmer climate. I think everyone living in Canada would say that. The thing that bothered me, and many others, was the crack about actually being allowed to play his role.
My question: What is his role?
He was given 18 shots per game, allowed to play 35 minutes per game and all this despite putting out much effort on defense or on the boards. And he’s complaining about that role?
He then went on to call Colangelo “uncourageous” for his criticisms, despite all of them being pretty much accurate.
Now, probably the most interesting thing about Dave Feschuk’s article on this in the Toronto Star, is that it originally contained a link to a picture of a rather out of shape looking Bargnani in Mexico. The link, and any reference to it, has been taken down. Yes, it was probably a little inflammatory, but the fact of the matter is that the picture shows a shirtless Bargnani looking nothing like the elite athlete he’s supposed to be. Yes, he’s on vacation, but what it tells me is that he follows the Hedo Turkoglu regimen for staying in shape rather than the, say, Steve Nash regimen.
Things seem to be going downhill fast for Bargnani in Toronto. All the evidence seems to point to Bargnani being traded before the start of next season. To me, it seemed like Colangelo has been planning it for sometime, slowly leaking the information out there in order to garner interest and ease the fans into the idea. His teammates, several of whom suggested the Raptors need a legit center, certainly don’t seem like they’d mind too much if Bargnani was in a different uniform. And if the Raptors are truly going to lose their identity of an offensive team that can’t play defense, they need to get rid of the poster child for that.
I think we truly are seeing the last days of Bargnani in Toronto.
In a later post, I’m going to look at where he might go.
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