Its become quite evident over the past few weeks the Raptors are better off without Bargnani on the team, as the team has reeled off six wins out of the past seven games as they try and close their road trip up strong against the Orlando Magic. The Magic will be without their star power forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis for the contest.
Sam Smith of Bulls.com, as well as Stein, are reporting that the Raptors may be leaning towards including Kyle Lowry in the trade with Bargnani. However, after his bulldog performance against the New Orleans Hornets, they may have to re-think what they are conjuring up in their heads.
Directly from the Stein's article above:
The key to Toronto's recent five-game winning streak?
There are a couple beyond the fact that the Raptors finally hit a favorable stretch of schedule.
1. Andrea Bargnani's injury and subsequent forced removal from the lineup improved the Raptors' struggling D.
Which raises the question: Will Toronto change course now and try to pair Lowry in future trade packages with Bargnani instead of Calderon?
It has been widely assumed for months that the Raptors would try to package Calderon's expiring deal with Barngani's in hopes of landing a top-flight player in return. But the Raps have actually functioned better so far this season when Lowry -- who brings an undeniable "swagger," as coach Dwane Casey likes to say, but is also undeniably up and down with his moods -- has been out of the lineup nursing a variety of injuries.
One source close to the situation said Friday that Bargnani remains "a lock to be moved." That naturally depends on finding a taker for the underachieving Italian forward, but Lowry's contract shouldn't be too hard to attach to a trade, valued at $5.8 million this season and with only $1 million guaranteed of the $6.2 million he's owed next season.
Now, I tend to agree with Stein on a variety of Raptors topics, but I do not agree with him here. Lowry's defence is quite good, and he's got the ability to guard just about any guard in the NBA.
Calderon does not have the ability to guard Luke Ridnour, let alone a guy like Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo.
The fact is, Lowry's injuries and the subsequent tear the Raptors have been on without him in the lineup is a result of a much more favorable schedule, as well as having Bargnani not out there.
What I mean is, Lowry is a risk taker on defence, electing to try for steals, which will sometimes put him out of position. What he needs is a big man underneath to block shots or to help him on defence.
Does that sound like Bargnani? Not really. With Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, and at the time, Jonas Valanciunas underneath, the Raptors' interior defence was much improved, and as a result, the wins have been coming.
As for Bargnani, how many teams would be in the market for a poor man's Dirk Nowitzki, who doesn't rebound the ball at all, doesn't shoot from the perimeter very consistently and only defends when the game is on the line?
Not many teams would covet that asset, which may mean the Raptors may have to include a guy like Lowry in a trade with Bargnani to get a team to bite on him. Like I said, a natural trade might be with the Lakers for Pau Gasol and Steve Blake. Gasol gets to play with his countryman Jose Calderon, and Bargnani gets to jack as many threes as he pleases while Dwight Howard picks up his garbage and puts it back with authority.
If the Raptors are smart, however, they would look to move Calderon instead of Lowry in that package. They may not be able to trade with the Lakers, but you never know.
Another team that may covet someone like Andrea Bargnani might be the Chicago Bulls, who could really use a four that spreads the floor. With Joakim Noah in the middle, Bargnani will have the ability to spread the floor and still have a guy underneath the bucket to pick up his misses.
The Tom Thibodeau-coached team is very good defensively, which further helps Bargnani because the team as a whole knows how to play good team defence and help at the proper times. Maybe Bargnani can learn something from the Bulls about defence, who knows.
A team like the lowly Charlotte Bobcats could have some interest in Bargnani because the team is one of the worst-scoring teams in the league. They do have Byron Mullens playing the power forward position there, but they just might want to try Bargnani there and hope that his 21 points a game average in 2010-11 wasn't just an aberration. A trade involving possibly a lottery-protected first and DeSagana Diop, an expiring contract, might get the ball rolling in trade talks.
Another team that may surprise you that could have some interest is the Oklahoma City Thunder, but I don't see a deal other than possibly Hasheem Thabeet and our pick back as a likely scenario.
Fact of the matter is, Raptors fans, don't expect to see much more out of Bargnani in a Raptors uniform. You can pretty much seal his fate with the club right now. He will be traded by the deadline. To whom? I can't really say just yet.