Stuck in the middle with Andrea Bargnani

Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do,

Lyrics from Stuck In the Middle With You.

When Bryan Colangelo selected Andrea Bargnani as the #1 overall pick in the 2006 draft, he certainly saw a lot of intriguing talent:  Bargnani, a 7 footer with good quickness, lots of skills and 3 point range.  He is versatile, which is a plus.  Sure he needed to work on few things like rebounding and defense, but everyone in Europe struggled with these things when they came over to the NBA.  But his upside was too hard to ignore.  Bargnani in his rookie season did show flashes and had a promising season overall; he had no post moves, but he has a sweet jump shot and above average quickness.  The Raptors won the Atlantic division in Bargnani’s rookie season.  Things were looking good for him and the franchise.

Flash forward to 2010.   Bargnani is still an enigma of sort.  He did improve offensively; he is no longer strictly a jump shooter, he could now post up smaller players and score.  However, he has not shown one ounce of improvement in his weakest traits such as rebounding and defense.

With a 5 year 50 million contract, the Raptors need Bargnani to be productive at both ends.  And with Bosh gone, Bargnani needs to be show that he is worth the money and he is the new franchise player.  But so far we have not seen anything from him.  He has struggled mightily on offense in the pre-season, which I could understand.  Players go through droughts on offense, but defensively, well let’s look at this clip below.

Jay Triano did an interview with the media today, and a reporter asked him did Andrea Bargnani improve his play in help defense situation, and Triano flat out said ‘No’. (Around the 3:30 mark)

This is coming from the same coach who said that the Raptors played hard after losing a game at home by 25+ points.  So Bargnani’s defensive inefficiency clearly frustrates Triano too.

The Raptors cannot afford to not play him, since no one in the right mind could justify 50 million dollar on the bench.  As long as Colangelo is around, he is not going to be traded.  Even if Colangelo is gone, his contract makes it very difficult to get value back.

On the floor, Bargnani is best paired with a big center who can be a help defender and a monster rebounder.  It’s too bad that Dwight Howard is playing in another uniform, because he would be a perfect fit for Il Mago.  We don’t have that player in our lineup.  The closet one is Reggie Evans, but while Evans can rebound, he isn’t a great defender especially on the help side.  And he struggled so badly on offense that he would be a serious liability when you play him 20 minutes.  Every stats metric has it that the Raptors are worse having Andrea Bargnani on the floor.   But the Raptors staff keep putting him out there because there really is no choice.

Being versatile is a good thing, and many people think Bargnani is versatile.  Not many 7 footer can do things like Bargnani.  Unfortunately, there is a flip side to this.  He can’t do anything that a 7 footer is supposed to do.  Basically, we have a 7 footer who has a SF game on offense, but he can’t play that position (as they have tried that many times).

I made a comment last year that giving Bargnani a 5 year contract is a bad and puzzling move.  Now I think it could be a crippling move, unless the Raptors can find someone who can cover his mistakes or find some team who’s willing deal for him.  I  don’t have faith in Raptors accomplishing either of those things.  The most likely scenario would be me watching Raptor game on TV, while banging my head against the wall when Bargnani misses another defensive assignment.

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