Is anyone else pissed that LeBron played against the Raptors, but took the night off against Chicago, which resulted in a Bulls win? How exactly is that fair? If the Bulls end up getting one more win than the Raptors, and make the playoffs, the Cavs should be fined heavily. Actually, they should be fined anyway. That just sucks.
Now back to my irregularly scheduled blog…
I’ve been accused of being too hard on Bargnani. And with the likelihood of Bosh leaving increasing, the chance of the “Bargnani-era” starting in Toronto is increasing. You’ll excuse me if I shudder while I type that, won’t you?
In the days leading up to the 2006 draft, I had high hopes that the whole Bargnani thing was a smokescreen. I hoped that Colangelo certainly didn’t think a soft, jumpshooting big man who couldn’t rebound and wasn’t a great defender was worth the number one pick. I was wrong. And disappointed.
I’m going to make a confession here. I’m a bit biased when it comes to basketball players. I think PG’s should pass first and shoot second, and I think big men should rebound and defend on top of whatever else they want to do. I believe these are ingredients to Championship basketball. And I’m not completely set on the pass-first point guard as long as you’ve got SOMEONE who can run an offense.
When I saw Bargnani, I saw everything I hated in a big man. He didn’t rebound and didn’t seem to know how to defend. Sure, being able to score inside more than he did would have been nice, but, quite frankly, I didn’t really care about his offense. To me, a big man who can’t rebound is like a hooker who can’t give a blow job. It’s sort of necessary for the position.
Look back for pretty much as long as you like. Every single Championship team has had their two starting big men average, at the very least, 7 rpg per 36 minutes. And those that averaged as little as 7 rpg were extraordinary defenders. Bargnani as never averaged close to 7 rpg per 36 minutes, and is certainly not an extraordinary defender.
Now, Bargnani’s backers will point to his strengths, which he does have. For a seven footer, he’s a very good shooter, and he is extremely agile for his size. He’s no lumbering giant. The main problem with his strengths, which I’ve discussed in earlier posts, is that he’s simply not an efficient enough offensive player to become a top scorer in the league. And if you’re rebounding and defense are as lacking as Bargnani’s, you have to be a GREAT scorer. And he will never be that.
The problem, of course, is he’s a jumpshooter, plain and simple. That’s really all he does well. After four years in the NBA, he’s still a poor post player, he doesn’t move well without the ball, and his only real move is a pump fake and drive from the three point line. He’s never, ever going to dominate a defender because he can’t. He depends so heavily on others creating shots for him, that he can never be counted on to be the 1st option in any offense, and probably shouldn’t every be the second option, either, considering how poorly he creates his own shot.
An incredibly high 75% of Bargnani’s shots are assisted. That’s a whopping 25% more than Bosh and 11% more than a guy like Amir Johnson, who would not be someone who you think of creating his own shot. He’s actually on par with a player like Denver’s Nene, who is certainly not close to the 1st or 2nd option. In fact, I’d say he’s usually the last option in Denver’s offense. Same with Boston’s Kendrick Perkins. The difference between those guys and Bargnani is they actually are above average rebounders and defenders, so any offense you get from them is a bonus. The funny thing, though, is that Nene only scores 3 ppg less than Bargnani, but he shoots at a much higher percentage, but you also get defense and rebounding.
In an earlier post, I discussed WHY Bargnani can’t become a top scorer. He doesn’t get to the line, which is a necessity. As we’ve seen recently with Bargnani, if his shot isn’t going down, he has little else in his arsenal to put points on the board. With Bosh, if his jumper’s not going, he can still get to the line. In a sense, manufacture points. Bargnani’s only real move to get to the line is the pumpfake, which doesn’t really work if his shot’s not going down. In fact, Bargnani is getting to the line at a LOWER rate than ever before.
The rate is derived from dividing the free throws attempted by the field goal attempts. This gives a true indication of how well a player gets to the line, because it doesn’t take into consideration their role in the offense or how many shots they take.
Last season, it looked like he had made a leap, which I discussed in the earlier post, but not only regressed this season, hit rock bottom. In fact, Bargnani gets to the line at the lowest rate of any rotation player (I didn’t check the others). That’s horrible for your second option.
And for a guy who is supposed to be such a good shooter, it would be nice if he actually showed it. Did you know that Bargnani is not even in the top 60 for 3 point percentage? There are 67 players in the league with a better 3 point percentage than Bargnani. This is his biggest strength, yet he’s not even above average at it.
So, he is an average shooter, doesn’t get to the line or create his own shot, doesn’t rebound and plays extremely inconsistent defense. Explain to me again why I am being too hard on him?
Now, Bargnani certainly has his backers, and I don’t think I’ve encountered a player who has more excuses from fans than Bargnani. Here are some:
Bargnani only plays outside as much as he does because that’s what he’s supposed to do.
WRONG! Bargnani has been asked to play inside more, even with Bosh healthy, but consistently floats outside. He doesn’t hold position well and doesn’t catch the ball well in the post. And when he does get the ball in the paint, more often than not will it end up being a fade away. Triano is loathe to publicly throw someone under a bus, but coaches have privately told reporters that Bargnani has frustrated them by continually floating outside when they want him inside.
Bargnani would have improved more had he had better coaching.
WRONG! Again with the coaching excuse. Many Raptor fans seem to be under the impression that good coaching is a cure all. NBA graveyards are littered with talented big men that Hall of Fame coaches never got what they needed from them. Larry Brown certainly didn’t make Darko Milicic an All-Star. Phil Jackson never made Stacey King look anything like what he was expected coming out of college. It’s Brad Sellers, though, who I am reminded of when talking about Bargnani. A lottery pick for the Bulls, he had a very good coach in Doug Collins teaching him. Collins, for all his weaknesses, was always considered a great teacher.
of the big pieces of which the Bulls were building around a young Jordan. Sellers could score, rebound and defend. He was athletic and had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, he seemed to be allergic to the paint. After a promising rookie season, Sellers eventually faded away into NBA obscurity because he was the player he was. A soft, jump shooting big man. No one, not Doug Collins nor Michael Jordan could change that.
Bargnani worked out with Moses Malone this past summer, a Hall of Fame big man. He’s been taught by coaches like Marc Iavaroni, a big man with a lot less talent who won a ring as a starter in Philadelphia. He’s been tutored by veterans like Bosh, Nesterovic and Reggie Evans. At some point, it’s up to the actual player to develop his skills.
Bargnani rebounds at a lower rate because he is out on the perimeter.
WRONG! Apparently no one told this to guys like Dirk Nowitztki and Troy Murphy, who are three point shooting big men who don’t hurt their team on the boards. Being a perimeter player only hurts your chances of getting OFFENSIVE rebounds. On defense, chances are you’re in the paint guarding the other team’s big man.
Bargnani rebounds at a lower rate because Bosh takes his rebounds.
WRONG! Bargnani rebounded at a LOWER rate when Bosh was injured this year.
Bargnani is a good defender, because he gets timely blocks.
WRONG! Bargnani looked like he might become a pretty good defender this season, but he continues to constantly miss rotations, turn his back on the ball on defense, and allow his man to grab offensive rebounds. He’s not a good defender, and getting a couple of blocks doesn’t change that fact.
Bargnani is playing out of position and would be better if he played power forward.
WRONG! This has got to be one of the stupidest excuses. What position Bargnani plays has absolutely no bearing on how many rebounds he’d get, how often and where he’d score, and how good a defender he would be. In fact, playing at PF would allow more agile defenders to guard him, guys that are more accustomed to defending on the perimeter. And it would mean that Bargnani would also have to guard more out on the perimeter, which he is not very good at. And there are far more good PF’s in the league than centers, so day in and day out, he would have tougher defensive assignments. The fact is, Bargnani is best suited for center because few centers have the ability to guard him on the perimeter, which means he can get more open looks.
Bargnani has improved his post up game.
WRONG! Okay, maybe that’s not wrong, but his post game has gone from awful to below average for a big man. Sonny Weems, who is by all intent and purposes a rookie, has better post moves than Bargnani. Watching him during one play when he bullied Paul Pierce for a hook shot is something I’ve never, ever seen from Bargnani in fur years.
Bargnani is the type of player that can be fun to watch if you don’t really know a lot about the game. It’s amazing to see a guy that size shoot the three and the fact that he does sometimes get some timely blocks makes some people forget all the lapses on defense during the other 35 minutes of the game. Or maybe they simply didn’t notice them in the first place.
The reason I’m harder on Bargnani than any other Raptor is because every other player actually does something that is above average. Turkoglu is a great passer and playmaker. Calderon is an above average shooter (better than Bargnani) and is adept at running an offense. Johnson rebounds and defends very well. Wright is an above average defender. Both Weems and DeRozan are incredibly athletic gym rats who should only get better. Belinelli is a great passer, above average shooter and excellent playmaker. Bargnani is an average shooter who does very little else.
It’s been four years and he’s relatively the same player he was in his rookie season. And he wasn’t all that good then.