A little over a month ago, I was calling Andrea Bargnani the Knicks’ silver lining. While the team floundered to start the season, Bargnani broke out for a strong start to the season. While the Knicks misfired from the field, Bargnani became the most reliable shooter, nailing pick-and-pops, catch-and-shoots, and taking it to the rim when defenses closed out on him. In addition, he showed surprisingly stout man-to-man defense, and in Tyson Chandler’s absence, he showed a willingness to compete on the boards and make hustle plays.
December has hardly been as productive as November for Bargnani, though. His scoring, field goal attempts, field goal percentage, rebounding, and assists are all down in the month of December and it’s a discouraging sign as the Knicks are approach a real time where they must begin to turn the season around.
Take a look at the month-by-month comparison:
The reason for the regression is tough to explain, too. Perhaps some of it could be related to Tyson Chandler’s return. In the four games since Chandler returned, Bargnani has averaged 9.2 points per game on 35.7% FG, 8.2% 3FG, and just 4.7 boards per game. Some of that could be attributed to lack of cohesion with Chandler. Although they had a full training camp together, Chandler missed almost two months of regular season action, so it could be an adjustment for Bargnani to figure out the spacing with another big man roaming the paint.
But that isn’t the sole reason as Bargnani was struggling even before Chandler returned. Historically, Bargnani has sometimes struggled in December, for whatever reason. In 2012-13, his numbers dipped pretty dramatically from November to December, and the same can be seen in the 2008-09 and 2007-08 seasons.
Part of the problem is that Andrea Bargnani just doesn’t positively produce when he’s on the floor. For the season, the Knicks have a -6.6 net rating with Bargnani on the floor and a .3 net rating with him off of it, meaning they outscore opponents when Bargnani sits. For December, Bargnani has a -2.9 net rating on the floor and a 2.1 net rating off of it.
Analyzing the lineups Bargnani succeeds in is even more difficult, particularly for December, because of the Knicks’ constant injury woes. In a month when Chandler, Kenyon Martin, Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Metta World Peace have all missed games, the Knicks’ lineups have been terribly inconsistent. For Bargnani, a player whose confidence is fragile, inconsistency could play into his struggles.
While Bargnani’s regression is puzzling, it’s clear that Bargnani is not providing what the Knicks expected from him. He obviously wasn’t supposed to tighten up the defense, but his inability to help space the floor — the Knicks shoot 34% from deep when he’s on the floor, 36% when he’s off — or act as a consistent secondary scorer has hurt the team. Bargnani was supposed to be the Knicks’ big splash this offseason, the offensive-minded acquisition to please Anthony when he called for more scoring, the key to busting the Indiana Pacers’ defense that halted the Knicks in the playoffs. So far, Bargnani hasn’t been that player nearly enough.
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