Andrea Bargnani: One of the 5 Softest Players in the NBA

James BorbathContributor IDecember 29, 2012

Andrea Bargnani: One of the 5 Softest Players in the NBA

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    Andrea Bargnani is included in lists of the softest players in the NBA on a regular basis. Not exactly the way a former first overall pick in the NBA wants his legacy to be defined. However, Andrea Bargnani may perhaps be the definition of a term that is open to some interpretation.

    You can define “soft” in the NBA in a number of ways. The most obvious is a player who does not engage in physical play. If this guy were in the middle of an NBA skirmish, you would fall out of your chair in shock. He is the last guy you would want having your back in a dark alley.

    The term “soft” can also be in reference to your toughness, to your ability to fight through pain and injury. Sometimes, this can be simply unfair to knock a player for, but there is no doubt it happens. The Raptors have a player in Amir Johnson whom I have personally witnessed fight through injury and play through pain for years. That gains you a lot of respect from the people in your locker room, and from fans as well.

    You may question if the guys on this list know the difference between hurt and injured. We all do this without our medical degrees, of course. In all the definitions of the term "soft," this might be the cruelest and hardest to really prove. All people are different and some bodies recover faster than others.

    We never get to see how hard guys work when they are rehabbing an injury. Only people on the inside of an organization truly know how hard a player works to return to the lineup. 

    There is also being “soft” mentally, which can be a tricky one to define in real terms. We base these opinions a lot of times on body language and the effort level of players when things are going badly. We often hear of the mental grind of a NBA season, and some guys embrace that and others shy away from it.

    So, to make this starting five of softness, you need some combination of all these less than desirable attributes. In terms of Andrea Bargnani, you can make the case he fits in all three of these categories.

No. 5: Chris Bosh

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    Andrea Bargnani is not the first Raptor in history to be labelled “soft.” Isn’t that right, Chris Bosh? Chris Bosh can be considered in a lot of less than flattering terms. In his time in Toronto, perhaps the most famous and least kind came from Shaquille O'Neal, who said that Chris Bosh was "the RuPaul of big men" (via FanNation).

    I'm not sure if we'll go that far, but is Chris Bosh a diva-type personality? Hard to argue he isn’t, given all of his actions over the years. I watched a game recently in which Bosh got poked in the eye and went to the floor, looking as if he were taken out by a SWAT team. He must have studied the tapes of Vince Carter's injuries in his time in Toronto.

    The contrast of Bosh to LeBron James in terms of toughness and body type is stunning. At times, Bosh acts like he is a tough guy, but quickly turtles back into his shell. He talks a lot more smack as a member of the Miami Heat than he ever did in his time in Toronto.

    He would routinely get his lunch money taken by guys like Kevin Garnett in his time with the Raptors. Ultimately, Bosh never had the strength to be a leader with the Toronto franchise. He decided that to be the third-best guy in a trio and win some titles in South Beach was the route to go.

    The rest of the NBA has got to learn what people in Toronto already knew about Chris Bosh: He is fragile, and maybe no more so than in his own personal ego. He seeks attention at every turn. He just rarely does it battling in the paint.

    He would rather do it mugging with silly faces, crashing interviews he isn’t a part of or getting a guest appearance on Entourage.

No. 4: Vince Carter

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    This won’t be a list of Raptors and former Raptors, but how can we not have Vince Carter?

    When Vince arrived on the NBA scene, he never would have made a list like this. He was a monster and played the game with a real chip on his shoulder. If you were lined up on the other side of the floor, you legitimately feared the possibility of being on the next Vince Carter poster.

    Something changed, though, and he became this happy-go-lucky talented guy who never really wanted to get anyone angry with him. He also fell in love with his jump shot. He transformed from a flashy attacking, slashing dunking machine to a pretty boy three-point shooter.

    When Vince Carter got hurt in a game, it was an Academy Award-worthy performance. It got to be so bad, that Rasheed Wallace once looked at a Vince Carter writhing in pain on the ground and mocked shoveling dirt on him, as he was surly soon to be dead.

    The former slam dunk champion went as far as to say that dunking was overrated. The irony of that was funny enough, but it spoke to what Vince Carter has become: soft and no longer interested in attacking the basket unless he felt like it.

    Kobe Bryant is the exact opposite definition of the guys on this list. He plays through pain and has a killer instinct that is unmatched in the NBA. Vince has become this happy-go-lucky guy who had a similar level of talent, but was content with playing a finesse-style game. Vince was happy to make more friends in the NBA than anyone else.

    There really needs to be some Barney joke here. Vince Carter cannot have his natural talent questioned. Just as hard to question is the fact that he is one of the softer players this league has ever seen. The shame of it all is you get the sense he chose to be this way.

    Anyone else grows a beard and they look tougher. Vince Carter grows a beard and you just chuckle. Tough guy and Vince Carter will never be in the same sentence—well, never seriously.

No. 3: Brook Lopez

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    Maybe his twin brother Robin got all the toughness genes? There might be some actual medical evidence to support this claim. I'm not a doctor, though, and refuse to play one on the Internet. What is known is that Brook Lopez has seen his time on the injured list increase and his rebounding numbers go in the other direction.

    Brook Lopez can produce on the offensive end of the floor when healthy, there is no denying that. The problem is his lack of ability to fight in the paint for rebounds. Combine this with him not being the greatest defender in the world, and it negates a lot of the good things he can do from an offensive point of view.

    The Nets roster kind of reflects the acknowledgement of these issues. Kris Humphries got paid a heck of a lot of money to remain with the Brooklyn Nets mainly because he rebounds. They also brought in Reggie Evans to do the same and fight and scrap in the paint.

    Evans will have no better luck making Brook Lopez tougher than he did making Andrea Bargnani tougher in Toronto.

    At the end of the day, either you are a fighter and scrapper or you're not. If you watch Brook’s brother play, you see something totally different. They obviously look very different, but they play the game differently as well. 

    No one is ever going to make the claim that Robin Lopez is as talented as his brother. That said, Robin's scrappy and aggressive play is exactly what is lacking in Brook to make him that complete package many felt he could be when he was drafted.

    Injures and setbacks only add to the frustration that people have about Brook Lopez. It was likely the biggest stumbling block in the Magic and Nets making a deal for Dwight Howard to come to Brooklyn.

No. 2: Pau Gasol

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    There is a lot of debate on this one. Pau Gasol, like Brook Lopez, has a tougher-minded sibling, making it easy to compare and contrast the two. Marc Gasol could likely make a list of the toughest players in the NBA. The two were traded for each other, sending Pau to the Lakers, which also helps validate the comparison of the two.

    When Kobe Bryant says, “Put your big-boy pants on,” it doesn't really help your reputation, either (via ESPN).

    In terms of Gasol, it's, for my money, as much about mental strength as it is physical strength. He just seems to hit points in which he is mentally beaten down. That likely comes with playing for a demanding competitor in Kobe Bryant, along with a demanding organization, fanbase and media in Los Angeles.

    Every year the expectation on the Lakers and Kobe Bryant is to win the NBA Finals. Anything short of that is ultimate failure.

    It seems to weigh heavy on the back of Gasol and negatively impacts his play. Also, always being the subject of trade talk can be tough for even the mentally strongest to deal with.

    Going back to Gasol's days with Memphis, he was able to get the Grizzlies to the playoffs, but never recorded a playoff victory as the main piece on that squad. Things get tougher in the playoffs and defense increases to a higher level. Under that kind of pressure, Pau Gasol crumpled.

    His brother Marc, with a lesser role on the current Grizzlies, has seen more success. The trade to get Pau was once thought of as one of the worst in NBA history. The Lakers being able to secure a championship soon after the trade seemed to invalidate that suggestion. Looking back on it now, though, would the Lakers really rather have Pau than Marc?

    Rightly or wrongly, Pau Gasol gets labelled “soft,” and he will likely never be able to lose that label.

No. 1: Andrea Bargnani

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    In the opening, we called Andrea Bargnani the definition of “soft,” so to find him here at No. 1 is likely not too shocking. Some things about Andrea Bargnani just lead to frustration.

    The seven-foot size he possesses and lack of ability to rebound ranks high on the list of things that frustrate people. Worse is the seeming lack of effort on his behalf to improve on this sorely lacking skill for a player of his size.

    Rebounding is for someone else to worry about on the Toronto Raptors.

    Andrea Bargnani also wears the weight of being this franchises only ever No. 1 selection in the NBA draft. It is something that is tough to deal with for some players. It makes the demands of fans and the organization far greater on Bargnani.

    Andrea Bargnani was supposed to be able to handle that, though. I remember reading this in the lead up to the 2006 NBA draft when Bargnani was rumored to be the Raptors' choice for their first overall selection. It was said that in physiological testing Bargnani rated off the charts. Based on these tests, it was thought that he would be mentally tough.

    If I had five minutes with the guy that administered/evaluated this test of Bargnani, I would have some things to say about his results.

    Andrea Bargnani has been anything but mentally tough. He is almost babied and protected by this franchise to the point of insanity at times. Bryan Colangelo, the man that picked him, obviously has a great deal to do with this.

    I am more mentally tough for having had to watch this guy play for the last seven years.

    He fits the stereotype of what Euro-bashers hate about players: His defense is weak and he is a huge liability on the floor.

    He is the first ever European to be selected first in the NBA draft.

    Dirk Nowitzki comparisons have never materialized. Dirk may still be labelled by a few people as "soft," but, for the most part, that label washed away when he finally won a title in Dallas.

    Andrea Bargnani’s durability and toughness are also huge question marks. He basically was sidelined with a calf injury for half of last season. Right or wrong, most people believe a guy like Amir Johnson would have played through the pain of a similar injury.

    Bargnani always seems accepting of his fate no matter what the situation. He fails to show the effort and energy that people demand of him. His tough, scruffy exterior is likely thought of as him being too lazy to shave rather than anything else.

    Mentally, physically, on defense or in the paint, Andrea Bargnani is considered "soft." Even his greatest supporters admit to some of these shortcomings. You cannot make a compelling argument to dispute his standing as one of the softest players in the NBA.

    He came in with the nickname "Il Mago," which translated means, “The Magician.” Perhaps a better, more accurate nickname would be the “The Marshmallow Man,” given what he has shown so far in his NBA career.