The playoffs are in full effect ladies and gentleman. The Toronto Raptors are once again excluded from post-season action for the fifth consecutive year. It feels like ages since the Sea of Red once flooded the Air Canada Centre back in 2008.
The Toronto Raptors have made many, many changes since that time, whether it was the coach or the roster. Five losing seasons and two very prominent consistencies; Bryan Colangelo and Andrea Bargnani.
So now the question that remains is: where did the Raptors go wrong and how do they turn things around? Phil Jackson sure sounds like the sexiest option available to immediately replace Colangelo, however he is unproven as a front-office executive. But when you play six seasons of mediocre basketball, making a move of this calibre might be needed to shake things up.
The next option is to move keep Andrea Bargnani. Yeah, I said it. Sue me. Keep Andrea Bargnani.
Breathe for second, and hear me out.
2012-2013 was by far Andrea Bargnani’s worst year as a professional basketball player in the NBA. Not only statistically, but also based on the way he carried himself in the sense of his attitude, body language and behaviour in the media. He made some questionable statements over the course of the season that likely came out of frustration with himself and the losing situation of the team.
Last season Bargnani averaged 12.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in 35 games this season, which are well below his career averages. The season before that in just 31 games he was having arguably his best season averaging 19.7 points and 5.5 rebounds. He was playing so well fans and journalists alike were pushing for an All-Star appearance before he was sidelined with a calf injury.
So what happened this season? Why didn’t Colangelo move Bargnani when couldn’t he maintain the level of play that made us believe he could be a reliable scoring option? The answer is simple and has nothing to do with Colangelo. Bargnani can ball.
Over the last three seasons, Andrea has averaged 17.2 points and 5.2 rebounds, which are by no means slouch numbers. This season the Raptors as a team were hindered by injuries and roster changes at pivotal times that truly did not allow the team to mesh and for Bargnani to adjust himself to his new teammates. When he returned the situation was virtually foreign to him, for no one could have predicted the emergence of Amir Johnson in the rotation at the beginning of the season. A new core piece was established an Bargnani came back as the odd man out. In the eyes of many Andrea Bargnani had become expendable.
Going into next season the Raptors will be sure to be make some moves, however moving Bargnani probably won’t and should not be one of them.
With the addition of Rudy Gay, the Raptors acquired a gifted wing player who demands equally if not more attention on the offensive end of the court. Bargnani has not played with a player of Gay’s caliber since Chris Bosh was took his talents to South Beach. Andrea Bargnani as a centre-piece for this franchise has obviously failed. However,a healthy Bargnani as the third or maybe fourth option on the offensive end of the court is a dangerous thought. His ability to stretch the floor and take opposing big men out of the paint creates space for the likes of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross to penetrate and attack.
The NBA is not the physical game that it once used to be. Teams are finding success with small-ball lineups and an up-tempo style of play. Having a legitimate 7-footer who can hit the three-point shot in transition is a dynamic that many teams in league wish they had. Calling Bargnani soft, whether that is a label or a reality is no longer relevant especially with Jonas Valanciunas aka Val-Nasty coming into his own. With more offensive options on the court the defence is forced to make the tough decision on who to leave open. With Andrea Bargnani on the court, the Raptors are able to have five capable offensive weapons on the court at all times. The current Raptors roster definitely has skills of being offensively potent.
The Raptors lacked consistent three-point shooting all season. Those shots were delegated to Alan Anderson and John Lucas III who are decent role players but nothing more than that. Players on this team can not be playing out of their role in order for success to return to this team. With Bargnani coming off a career worst True Shooting percentage at .483 he should be looking to bounce back and return to form. True Shooting percentage is a statistic that measures a player’s efficiency at shooting the ball. It is intended to more accurately calculate a player’s shooting than field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and three-point field goal percentage taken individually. Make no mistake about it, IL Mago loves to play basketball, and he loves to shoot the ball. If Bargnani were to take the shots that Lucas, or Anderson usually chuck, the defences would have to play more honest, because not only is he able to shoot from the outside, but he has the foot speed to put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim. When Andrea Bargnani is aggressive, he is completely different player.
The 2012-2013 was salvaged near the end, but overall it was a borderline disaster. Due to his consistent inconsistencies, combined with the Raptors winning without him in the line-up allowed Bargnani to become the easiest possible scapegoat for the Raptors’ early season struggles. Heading into the offseason, Bargnani’s value is at an all-time low since he was injured to end the season and was playing terribly. Considering this, trading him at this point would be bad asset management once again despite what the fans want. The contract the Raptors would take back would likely be worse anyway, so there’s a solid chance that this would take the franchise another step backwards.
If he plays well, his contract becomes less of a factor to move because he his talents are hard to find around the league. Under Dwane Casey, Bargnani has become a completely different player for both the better and the worse. The 2011-12 famous 13 game sample size he gave the Raptors demonstrates that he’s able of being an aggressive stretch 4 that would fit perfectly in the Raptors line-up.
With a new role, and many new teammates there’s still a chance he feels out of place on this roster. When he returns, Bargnani must assert himself as a leading offensive option and realize that this is the most talented roster that he’s been apart of since joining the team in 2006. Like it or not, Bargnani will very likely be in a Raptors uniform to start the 2013-2014 season, but for how long is really up to him.