The New York Knicks front office rarely makes a decision that the whole fan base can agree upon in unison, and the recently completed deal forAndrea Bargnani is no exception. While some fans see a talented, seven-foot reclamation project, given up in exchange for low usage players and potentially unavailable draft picks; other fans see a poor rebounding, turnstile defender in the decline being exchanged for bright, shiny, new players in the form of draft picks.
But what was the purpose of trading for Bargnani? Surely the Knicks are aware that the seven-foot Italian has managed just 66 games over the last two seasons, shot just 30% from three-point range the last two years, grabbed more than six rebounds per game just once in his seven-year career, and was dangled with desperation by the Toronto Raptors over the last year. Well, Bargnani’s signing could mean a few things for the Knicks.
1.) The loss of J.R. Smith and Chris Copeland.
Chris Copeland has apparently drawn interest from a number of teams already, and with the Knicks’ best asset to keep him — the mini-MLE of about $3.5 million — possibly needed for other free agents, Copeland could flee for more money. Smith may hang around as the Knicks can offer him about $5 million with 175% raises each season. But in case one or both players bolt, Bargnani is scoring insurance. At his best, he’s been one of the elite big men scorers in the league (from 2009-2011, he averaged a combined 19.3 points per game on 46%FG and 35.8% 3FG) with the ability to spread the floor, face up, and post up. He’s got a similar, but more developed game than Copeland with about the efficiency of Smith. If those two flee, Bargnani will probably see time as the second scorer next to Carmelo Anthony.
2.) An answer to the Indiana Pacers.
As discussed, Bargs at his best can spread the floor for the Knicks. He doesn’t offer up the value of Tyson Chandler by any means, but what he does offer is an answer to the paint-packed defense the Indiana Pacers used to stifle the Knicks in the playoffs. Even with ‘Melo at power forward, the Pacers ran the Knicks off the three-point line and offered them open mid-range shots, or forced them into a clogged paint. Chandler simply doesn’t pull defenses away from the basket, so in some lineups, Bargnani could be used to space the floor and pull a defensive stalwart like Roy Hibbert, or maybe even Joakim Noah, away from the basket. We saw last season how the Knicks shaped their summer around building a team to compete with the Miami Heat. Fresh off an elimination by the Pacers, it’s likely that the Knicks are searching for answers to beat their next biggest competition.
3.) Amar’e Stoudemire insurance?
Stoudemire has made it onto the floor for just 76 total games over the last two years (only 29 in 2012-13), and even when he’s been able to play, he’s only been effective for about half of that time. The Knicks seem to be growing and changing around Stoudemire, who rarely factors into their bigger plans anymore, so Bargnani could be looked at as the backup power forward or center scorer in place of Stoudemire. Even at his best, he’s not as good as Stoudemire was, but in limited roles — especially with ‘Melo off the floor — Bargnani could be featured in the Knicks offense should Stoudemire find himself strapped to the bench with more injuries.
4.) A future trade piece/cap relief.
The current CBA says a player acquired in a trade can’t be traded for another two months. The Knicks would have a hard time convincing any other team in the NBA to give up what the Knicks did to get Bargnani, but perhaps they could squeeze a draft pick or another coveted player by trading Bargnani again. Similarly, Bargnani has an Early Termination Option in 2014-15 worth $11.5 million. An expiring contract worth that much money would have a lot of value in a trade. Grabbing Bargnani also further clears the Knicks’ cap space in 2015, meaning they’ll have even more room to work from the ground up.
As of now, the Bargnani trade seems tough to stomach because the Knicks gave up future draft picks for a player the Raptors were desperate to get off their team. However, it’s possible that he can have a renaissance of sorts when he gets to a new team in a better situation. In any of the above four cases, Bargnani could be an expensive, but worthwhile pick-up.
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