Andrea Bargnani Roundtable

The Knicks made a surprising trade with the Raptors. We discuss it here
1. What are the Knicks getting in Andrea Bargnani?
  • Taylor Armosino (@tarmosino): A 7-footer that hasn’t shot well in three seasons, can’t defend or rebound, and is injury prone. Statistics aren’t a skill, rather the result of a skill, but the numbers on Bargnani are scary bad. There’s no denying that he has the ability to shoot from three, but he hasn’t been good at it for a while now. Since shooting 40.9% from three in 2008-2009, his three point percentage has rapidly declined, topping off at 29.6% and 30.9% each of the past two seasons. If he isn’t able to be an above-average shooter, he’s a minus-minus (or minus x2) player. He can’t rebound a lick, can’t defend a lick and takes tough shots.
  • John Gunther (@EmbraceAnalytix): A restoration project and a lot of questions. The hope is that the Knicks are getting the floor spacing, scoring big man that Bargnani was from 2008 through 2011. A volume scorer to help ease the burden off Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith (if he returns). In reality, that Bargnani has not really existed the past two seasons. He averaged 21.4 PPG in 2010-11 while shooting 34.5% from 3P with a 44.4% 3FG%.  But his long distance shooting has plummeted consistently since he shot 40.9% in ’08-09, down all the way to 29.6% and 30.9% the past two seasons. Accordingly, his eFG% has come down as well. As his efficiency has decreased and his scoring tapered off, he suddenly became the bane Raptors fans existence so much so that Bryan Colangelo was publicly shopping him at the trade deadline. All this has left the Knicks to acquire Bargnani as a “fixer-upper.” Is he still a “floor spacer” despite his noticeable drop off in 3P%? Could a change of scenery bring him back to his previous self? Is his previous self (scoring yes, but Bargnani has consistently rebounded at a historically low rate for a 7 footer) even the type of player the Knicks really need? Time will tell.
  • Brandon Rushie (@Ayo_Rush): The optimist in me says we’ve just added a 7-footer with a pretty set shot who can contribute in the pick and pop and can draw rim protectors away from the paint. His presence will generally improve spacing for a team that loves to stretch the floor and shoot the three. Andrea clearly crumbled trying to shoulder the weight of being “the guy” in Toronto, but in New York he’d be a 2nd/3rd option, and probably playing no more than 20-22 minutes a game. The wary Knick fan in me is disgusted at the fact we just gave up three picks to get rid of two bad contracts, and received a disappointing one-way player who was reportedly on the verge of being amnestied. He’s an atrocious rebounder for his size and a sub-par defender, compounding two of our biggest weaknesses, and comes with durability concerns – having only played 66 games over the past two seasons.
  • John Dorn (@JSDorn6): The Knicks are getting something they already have too many of: a one-way player. Sure, they needed a big. But they needed a big that can help on the glass and that can defend. Bargnani, in 7 seasons, hasn’t proven that he can do either. He’s an offensive center whose offensive game isn’t good enough to justify that label. Spot-up three shooters didn’t last in Woodson’s system last year, and there’s no reason to believe they will any time soon. Overall, Bargnani is a decent scorer, who scores in ways the Knicks don’t need.
  • James Griffo: (@J_Griff): To be exact, the Knicks are getting a stretch-four/stretch five floor spacer in Bargnani. But something that is very important in a stretch-four/stretch five is that the player is capable of hitting perimeter and mid-range jumpers, hence the rudimentary floor spacing skill, which is something Bargnani can’t do. He’s an average-to-mediocre-to-subpar shooter. Combine that with also being a poor rebounder and injury-plagued for the past two seasons.

2. Who won this trade?
  • Armosino: The team that plays in Canada. From a player standpoint, the trade was probably a wash. Camby and Novak were minor role players at best, and the Knicks get back a project that still has potential to be a positive contributor. What puzzles me is why the Knicks, negotiating from a point of leverage, had to give up any picks at all, much less a first round pick. Everyone covering the Raptors is a) happy Bargnani is gone and b) shocked they got draft picks for him. This was a guy who was probably going to be amnestied because he was horrible and had a huge contract. New York did Toronto a favor by simply taking him off their hands. Why they had to throw in picks is beyond me, and really is a fireable offense by Glen Grundwald. In today’s NBA, teams should only give up first round picks to either move up in the draft or acquire a superstar. Bargnani is certainly not a superstar and they didn’t move up in the draft obviously. This was a very puzzling and disappointing trade from New York’s standpoint.
  • Gunther: Raptors. In some cases trades do not have a winner or a loser, but work out well (or poorly) for both teams involved. There is still an outside chance that both teams will come out winners depending on how Bargnani plays in NY, but the Raptors are already undoubtedly in the win column. Masai Ujiri (yes, of Melo trade fame) pulled off a coup that no one expected; actually getting a 1st round pick in return for Bargnani. The deal itself is really just an exchange of bad contracts, and without the picks being exchanged would have likely been a wash.  But since there were picks exchanged, and all 3 of them went to Toronto, its pretty clear Ujiri accomplished more than anyone expected he would have.
  • Rushie: It appears the Grunwald is making this move with 2015 in mind; Novak was the only player on the roster who’s contract extended into 2015 (Felton has a player option in 2015/2016), and now with his contract off the books, we’ll be looking at a sizable amount of spending money come that off-season. Considering Melo doesn’t opt out, it could be a legitimate chance to pair another big name alongside him. As great as that is though, the Raptors just got a trio of picks, including a first for their equivalent of Amare Stoudemire. Anyone who knows me understands that I am vehemently against trading away picks; its the cheapest was to add young rotation players, an asset you’d think a team in the position of New York would covet. However,if management is able to stand pat and see this supposed plan through, then in the long run they may be the victors. Dolan isn’t known for his patience, though.
  • Dorn:  You have to say Toronto “won” the deal. They shed a player they haven’t wanted in a long time, for one. Also, they received Steve Novak, who can be a serviceable offensive player–but that barely has anything to do with them “winning.” Masai Uriji ditched not only an albatross contract, but a player who isn’t very good , but he also got back draft picks. One second rounder could have been sufficient. Maybe two. But they netted a first as well. A first round pick. One of the first 30 picks in the draft. I’m rambling because I still can’t wrap my mind around it. It’s a no-brainer. Bargnani can go onto be a serviceable Knick, and it would still wouldn’t justify trading a first round pick.
  • Griffo:  To say that the Knicks won this trade is like saying “FIRE!” in a crowded movie theater when there’s actually no fire, but there are some that argue the Knicks won this trade (somehow). The people that argue for the Bargnani trade may bring up Marcus Camby’s uselessness due to injury from last year as a key point in their argument, which is very true, but the fact that Steve Novak, who has shot above 40% from beyond the arc in his two seasons with the Knicks, compared to Bargs .309 and .296 3P%’s from the last two seasons, is hilarious. Not to mention that Novak is a slightly crappier rebounder than Bargs, with a 5.4 TRB% compared to Bargs 7.6 TRB%. The Knicks are totally contradicting their concept of “win now.” Wait until Bargs gets injured with the training staff we have.
3. Do the cap implications of this outweigh giving up a first round pick?
  • Armosino: If it came down to choosing between more cap space in 2015 and a late first round pick, I could see the argument in going with the cap space. However, there was literally no good reason to throw in a pick to get this trade done. The Knicks were operating with leverage, taking a horrible player off a team desperate to move him. They could’ve, and should’ve, had both the pick and the cap space.
  • Gunther: No. You could argue that the cap savings in 2014-15 is one the shrewd move here by the Knicks, but that would be discounting the fact that Bargnani was a potential amnesty candidate, and the Knicks just gave up 3 picks (including a 1st) for the right to pay him $22M over 2 years. You simply cannot give up assets, which picks are (especially under the new CBA), for someone that every team around the league determines to be a liability from a cap standpoint. Additionally, if we take Blake Griffin’s Kia back to 2010 and the Tracy McGrady trade, you will remember that the Knicks paid the price of a 1st rd pick for the Rockets to take on the contract of Jared Jeffries. The cost of the 1st rd pick in this instance? $6.88M in cap space. Steve Novak’s salary in 2015-16 is $3.75M. There are countless other examples where greater cap space has brought back less than the 3 picks the Knicks just gave up in order to both take on Bargnani’s contract and shed Novak’s salary in 2015-16. Regardless of whether Denver has the right to swap the 1st rounder, the value is not made up in the cap space alone.
  • Rushie: Again, what we do with that cap space will determine if this was a smart move or not, but as of today, the Knicks got fleeced by Ujiri. For a second time.
  • Dorn: They absolutely don’t. The Knicks are saving themselves $4 million in salary two years down the line, and paid the price of 3 future picks. Picks (basically FREE talent) that would have ushered in the next era of the franchise, seeing that the team’s books are being wiped clean after 2015. Now, sure, they’re free of Novak’s $4 mil in two seasons. But they’re also free of any sort of cheap, young help that could come in to be part of the future.
  • Griffo: Eh, no. Let’s take the time machine to 2015. Melo, Amare, Tyson, Shump, among the rest of the team, is coming off the books that year (except Felton, who has a player option in 2015-16). Draft picks are incredibly valuable, even if a team makes a terrible selection after the fact. Every draft pick will have a boom-or-bust outcome, no matter what the circumstance. I guess the terms “draft pick” and “future” makes the Knicks front office gag. If the Knicks won’t be able to retain at least one of their big three that offseason, then that’s where the traded away picks would’ve came in handy, helping them to stockpile assets. On the bright side, the summer of 2015 will provide an ample amount of cap space, along with having the ability to offer a max contract, so trading away Steve Novak is beneficial for financial reasons, because he’s due cash for his final two years on his deal. If the Nuggets are nice enough to swap their 2016 first rounder as well, then woo-hoo! And, thankfully, the second rounders that are being dealt away are very low picks, so that’s good, for the most part.
4. How does this crowded front court fit together? Does this mean the end of Melo at the 4?
  • Armosino: It looks that way. Unless they plan to stash Bargnani at the end of the bench and use him only when Stoudemire gets injured, it’s hard to see how this fits together with Melo at power forward. I can see the rationale offensively of pairing Bargnani next to Anthony and Chandler. The Knicks can continue to run their small-ball style, just with a bigger lineup. Unfortunately, they have to play defense. Rather than adding defensive pieces to compensate for Anthony, Stoudemire, and Felton, the Knicks added another horrid defensive player. Moving Anthony to the 3 takes him from below average to putrid on that end of the floor, without anything other than Chandler to cover up his deficiency. Offensively, they can fit Bargnani in, but they’re going to get killed defensively.
  • Gunther: Offensively I think they can fit. Even if the Knicks go with Tyson-Bargnani-Melo frontcourt either to start or in stretches, it won’t be much different than when Novak played alongside Tyson and Melo. In theory, Bargnani would still be able to create that all important space and allow Melo to operate on the block and create for himself and others. This isn’t as bad a fit as say, Amar’e at the 4 in this lineup. Defensively, however, I am concerned. The choice is either have Melo chase around opposing 3s (bad), or sacrifice rebounding and defense by having Melo or Amar’e play PF with Bargs at C (worse?). Neither of those options are optimal. So, Melo may see his minutes at the 4 decrease this season, but I think this move says more about where the team thinks Amar’e is right now than about them writing off Melo playing the PF position. Management is putting no eggs in the Amar’e basket. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking (I like Melo at the 4), but further evidence to suggest that they will play Melo at least some at the 4 is in the drafting of Tim Hardaway, Jr and the continued courtship of the likes of Francisco Garcia, Matt Barnes, and Carlos Delfino in free agency.
  • Rushie: I believe so. While Andrea isn’t exactly in a position to demand starting minutes, a healthy Amare will almost surely start, but I expect him to begin the season with a minutes restriction. That will probably lead to him splitting his playing time with Andrea at the 4, and Melo moving back to the 3. I think the best combination would be a Melo/Andrea/Tyson frontcourt: Melo on the right block, Chandler roaming the middle as usual, and Andrea setting picks at the top of the key, drawing a big out of the paint and looking for the pick and pop.
  • Dorn:  You have to think that this is the end of small-ball for the Knicks. I can’t see Stoudemire and Bargnani both settling for a bench role. At the same time, there’s no way the team could get away with those two playing simultaneously on the second unit. Nobody really knows how this is all going to fit. You’d think either Amar’e or Andrea would be shipped out before the season, but they may be the two most un-tradeable players in the league.
  • Griffo: Just looking at the projected starting five for next year, that 18th ranked defense from last season is going to plummet all the way down to the gallows of hell, into the abyss, a dungeon that’s filled with fire, brimstone and skeletons. At least Tyson Chandler is still there. But when Mike Woodson has to adjust his rotations in-game, there will be a unit of great disaster – featuring Felton, Melo, Bargs and Amare. It seems like that Woodson’s genius Melo-at-the-4 will be on a respirator, for now. Maybe Melo at the three might work with Bargs on the floor, but that means if Melo-iso is going to occur, he won’t get a ton of spacing like he did at the 4. So, it’ll be interesting to see how Mike Woodson deals with that conflict.
5. Does this significantly move the needle in either direction?
  • Armosino: It has the potential to, and not in a good way. If the Knicks do in fact move Anthony back to small forward, their defense could implode at a level they cannot overcome. Bargnani won’t be a 30 minute a game player (I hope) so I don’t want to overstate what his impact will be. I think he’ll actually probably shoot the ball well in this offense with Anthony and Chandler directing most the focus of the offense. I’m not worried about the Knicks scoring, I’m worried about their 17th ranked defense getting even worse.
  • Gunther: It all depends on Bargnani. In all likelihood it doesn’t move the needle. But if Bargnani is as bad as he was last season and this acquisition leads them to play more traditional lineups w/ one PG and Melo at the 3, then it will definitely move the needle in the negative direction. If Bargnani can improve with the change of scenery, then there is a chance the trade will help the Knicks by adding another scoring option and another big that, while he doesn’t do some of the things traditional bigs do, can frustrate rival bigs like Noah and Hibbert by drawing them out of the paint. Is Bargnani alone going to be enough to topple Miami and the rest of the East? Of course not, but since the team was desperate for more scoring it could help them keep pace with the Nets, Bulls, and Pacers if Bargnani can perform to his potential. But given the recent evidence, I’m not banking on Bargnani being the best that he can be, so it is likely the team just threw away a couple of picks while not totally mortgage the future by also compromising cap space. The Knicks keep treading water while the Heat raise banners.
  • Rushie: No. They didn’t necessarily get worse; Camby battled injuries all season and fell out of favor with Woodson. Novak stopped being a focal point after the departure of MDA and Lin, and it was pretty clear that Woodson himself had no idea how to incorporate him into the offense. Both were signed to terrible contracts that are no longer on the books. However, the Knicks finished last year as the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA, not to mention one of the top overall offenses in the league. Their biggest needs after draft night were a point guard, rebounding, and defense. Andrea addresses none of those. Even if he bounces back and becomes a more efficient shooter, it’ll be hard to stomach watching a possible frontline of Melo, Amare, and Andrea attempting to defend. It’s even plausible that Chandler’s struggles to stay healthy stem from the fact that the Knicks ask him to do so much defensively. Our inability to defend, especially on the perimeter, leads to him being asked to clean up everyone else’s messes far more often than not. This personnel change certainly doesn’t give him any help. A friend of mine even joked with me that we essentially traded for a “7-foot Novak with a worse contract”. All we can do is hope for the best.
  • Dorn: No, they’re not getting any better. Bargnani isn’t good. They’re also not getting a whole lot worse, since Novak was more or less a non-factor by season’s end and Camby barely stepped on the court. I’d say they’re getting slightly worse, only because Melo-at-the-4 is most likely dead, and there was no real reason to stray from that.
  • Griffo: I’ll end this on a positive note. Bargnani is only 27 years old, not old enough to be considered a washed-up first overall pick, although, it sure seems like he is. Only time will tell to see if he can turn back the clock to 2009-10, and if the future draft picks that were given away in this deal will pan out. Hopefully this trade can move in the right direction. I’m trying to be optimistic, but as of now, I’m still puking bile from this trade.

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