Before the season started, I posted a rather controversial and popular post about the Top Ten Myths About Andrea Bargnani. It was the most viewed post ever and still gets a lot of views. Not all that much time later, I promised that I would leave Bargnani alone for a while, that I’ve pretty much said all I want to say and that continuing seemed pointless.
Well, now it’s more than halfway into the season, and everyone else seems to be getting in on the action, so I figured I might as well, too.
Now, despite what many may believe, I am not happy about the recent play of my favourite punching bag. Sure, it’s nice that more and more people are finally, coming to my side of the argument, but the fact is the worse he plays, the more difficult it is to trade him and the less you get back for him.
Before I get to the new myths, let’s take a quick look at the previous ones.
10. Bargnani is a top 10 center
Well, at this point, I don’t know if many would think he’s even a top 20 center, but you definitely have to put Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Tim Duncan, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, Al Jefferson and Nene ahead of him. All those players defend, rebound and score efficiently. You could also make a hell of a case for Tyson Chandler and Emeka Okafor, two defensive centers who have huge impacts on their team. Brook Lopez has regressed badly in his third season, yet is still producing at a similar rate as Bargnani, and is much better than him on the defensive end. Roy Hibbert started off the year on fire and has not been able to hit the rim for the last month, but at least his rebounding and defense have been decent enough to make up for it.
9. Bargnani is a good interior defender because he blocks a lot of shots
Well, this year he’s blocking less than one shot a game, good for 49th in the league. Either way, that argument isn’t working, now.
8. Bargnani is a good passer
Bargnani is currently averaging a career high 1.8 assists per game, which is good for 6th among centers. Not bad, except when you consider that he’s 11th among centers in assists per minute. Not bad, not not great, either. Even worse, however, is that he is 49th among centers in assist to turnover ratio. He makes nearly 2 turnovers for every assist he gets. Not good.
7. Bargnani should rebound better without Bosh
Bargnani is averaging at the lowest rate of his career, tied with his first two seasons. He’s rebounding at a much lower rate than the previous two years, when he was also a poor rebounder.
6. Bargnani has improved every year in the NBA
Bargnani is averaging a career high in points and shots per game. He’s improved his offensive game, to be sure, but his rebounding and defense are as bad as they were in his rookie season.
5. Bargnani is a great scorer
He’s currently the second highest scoring center in the league, and 17th overall. Great, right? Well, you need to take into consideration that he’s taking 18.1 shots per game, which is actually the 8th highest amount in the league. In other words, 9 players score MORE than Bargnani does, yet take fewer shots to do it. Scoring 21 ppg should not be looked down upon, but two of the most difficult things in the NBA, is going from 50 wins to 60 wins, and going from scoring in the low 20s, to the mid-to-high 20s. A lot of players have scored 21 ppg. Very few have scored 25 ppg or more.
4. Bargnani has not been given a chance to shine
He’s the number one option, plays more minutes than anyone on the team and is in the top ten in shots per game. I’d say he’s been given a chance.
3. Bargnani is like Dirk Nowitzki or Pau Gasol
When Dirk or Pau aren’t hitting their shots, they still find a way to help their team. After nearly five years, Bargnani hasn’t figured out how to do that.
2. Bargnani is really a power forward
This season, especially when Reggie was starting, Bargnani played de facto power forward far more than people realize. He defended more power forwards because Reggie wasn’t quick enough to handle them, and the centers would defend Reggie so they didn’t have to chase Bargnani out to the perimeter. And notice where Bargnani plays when the play a zone. He plays on the wing, leaving the middle position for either Amir or Ed Davis. And none of that has helped.
1. I hate Bargnani and am being too hard on him
I think it’s becoming more and more apparent that, while I may be a little more vocal than most, I’m certainly not wrong.
And now the 5 new myths about Bargnani….
5. JAY TRIANO IS AT FAULT FOR NOT HOLDING BARGNANI ACCOUNTABLE
I certainly have defended Triano in the past, but one issue I’ve gotten on him for recently is allowing Bargnani to play when he seems to have absolutely no interest in playing defense or rebounding. I am absolutely perplexed why Triano allows Bargnani to play when he is hurting the team so much. My opinion of him has gone down a fair bit with his handling of Bargnani. That said, it’s ultimately up to each individual player to hold themselves accountable to do the things that need to be done. Good players don’t wait for the coach to make them play defense. They know it’s something they need to do in order to win.
The difference between the majority of the players in the league and the ones that end up winning Championships are the Championship players don’t need to be motivated to play the right way.
4. TRADING YOUR LEADING SCORER ISN’T GOING TO HELP A TEAM THAT’S REBUILDING
This is a big one. Bargnani is the team’s best scorer, so how do you replace it if he is traded. It’s true that it’s hard to find 20 ppg scorers in the NBA. The Raptors have had 5 in their history (counting Mike James). Of course, being the leading scorer on one of the worst teams in the league isn’t all that much of an accomplishment. And really, anyone on the team can score. You can share the scoring. You don’t NEED a 20 ppg scorer. You can get a few 15 ppg scorers who will do the same thing.
More importantly, if the defense improves, you don’t NEED to score as much. And really, on a team that might not even win 25 games, does it really matter if you don’t have a top scorer. I’d say there are plenty of other things to worry about.
3. BARGNANI SHOULD BE KEPT BECAUSE HE IS WORTH HIS CONTRACT
One thing I have defended about Bargnani is that he is not overpaid. For the production he brings, $8 million, which is what he is making this year, is not out of line.
That said, that doesn’t mean he’s worth keeping. If thinking about whether or not you should keep a player, their contract is THE LAST thing you should look at.
A lot of people have said they’d rather have Bargnani and his contract than LaMarcus Aldridge, who gets paid an average of $3 million more per season that Bargnani does over the course of his contract. I’ve heard the argument that, for the money the Raptors save, you could get another player who rebounds and defends. Well, it doesn’t quite work that way. First of all, it’s difficult to get a decent player for $3 million these days. Secondly, you can only play five players at the same time. LaMarcus not only scores the same amount as Bargnani, but rebounds AND defends much better. You don’t need a player to “make up for” his weaknesses. You can simply find a player that compliments Aldridge, instead of one that will cover for him.
In the end, it’s not how much a player makes, but whether or not he helps your team win.
2. BARGNANI WOULD START ON MOST CONTENDERS
Many Bargnani defenders claim that we are all simply undervaluing Bargnani and that other teams would LOVE to have him on their team. It’s certainly true that a number of teams would love to have Bargnani, but few of those teams would be contenders and who knows what role he would play on the team.
Teams like Boston and San Antonio have something in common. Take a look at their front line and you won’t find one poor defensive player. Why? Because they know one of the most important things to winning is good interior defense.
Miami certainly wouldn’t put much value in Bargnani’s scoring. Scoring they have. Bosh, a former 23 ppg scorer is only scoring 17 ppg right now because they have plenty of scoring. Bargnani would be the last thing Miami would need.
Oklahoma also has plenty of scoring, and their biggest weakness is interior defense. Bargnani wouldn’t help with that in the least.
The Lakers have struggled at times this season, mostly due to lack of defensive focus. With Kobe, Pau, Odom and Bynum, scoring is the least of their problems. Besides, ask Stacey King how Phil Jackson feels about big men who have trouble focusing on defense and rebounding.
Probably the main reason that Dallas got off to such a hot start was because of Tyson Chandler and the way he anchored their defense. They have Dirk, and they know defense is the way to get to the Finals.
Orlando might very well be the only contender who I can see Bargnani not only playing a big role for, but possibly starting. After the recent trade, it’s clear that Otis Smith thinks that Dwight Howard is good enough to cover for other player’s defensive weaknesses. Otis Smith is wrong, which is why Orlando probably won’t get past the second round of the playoffs.
Which brings me to my last myth…
1. IF YOU SURROUND BARGNANI WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE YOU CAN COVER HIS WEAKNESSES
This seems to be a big mantra. If only the Raptors had a true defensive center, Bargnani’s defensive problems wouldn’t be such a problem. It’s true that surrounding a poor defensive player with good defensive players can hide his weaknesses a little. The problem, though, is that you can always temporarily cover for a player, but eventually those weaknesses get exposed. And in the playoffs, they always do, eventually.
Anyone who watched the recent Raptors-Bucks game should have noticed that the Bucks were focusing their offense at Bargnani, knowing he was the weak link. They either tried to post him up or isolate him in order to drive at him. A good coach will figure out how to isolate the weak defensive player and focus their offense on him. And it’s a lot easier to do against a big man who is weak defensively.
You COULD surround him with great defensive players, but it’s not going to get you very far. More importantly, why would you even try?
Is Bargnani’s scoring really that irreplaceable that you need to go out and build an entire team around him to hide his defensive and rebounding “issues”? He’s not even a very efficient or consistent scorer. There are 22 players in the league right now that score 20 ppg or more.Interestingly, neither Boston, nor San Antonio, nor New Orleans, not Utah, nor Atlanta have a player on the team that scores 20 ppg or more.