Toronto Raptors: Andrea Bargnani's Poor Play Is a Product of Raptors' System
While the potential trade of Josh Smith was the biggest story at the NBA Trade Deadline, one that followed closely behind was that of Andrea Bargnani. With rumored swaps for Carlos Boozer or Ben Gordon, it's safe to say the entire league expected him to be in a different uniform at this point.
Bargnani is averaging 13.5 points and 3.7 rebounds for the Raptors this season, shooting 40.6 and 29.5 percent from the field and from three-point range, respectively. To be fair, he's missed most of the season with an elbow injury, thus his shooting percentages are not likely to impress.
However, the 7'0" big man has been a disappointment since his first overall drafting in 2006. Bargnani has not lived up to expectations—averaging career numbers of 15.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game—considering his size and skill set.
This was a primary reason for Toronto's front office being desperate to move him. Bargnani has shown to be effective in the past, thus there is evidence his struggles may be due to the coaching staff.
Bargnani's defensive limitations are infamous, therefore I will not even attempt to make a case in that sense. However it is offensively where many judge a player's skills, so that is what we will examine.
After a slow start, Bargnani blossomed in his third season—averaging 15.4 points and 5.3 rebounds. He had a career-high 45 percent shooting, which he then bested the next year with 17.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and a 47 percent clip from the field.
Bargnani regressed slightly in the absence of Chris Bosh in the 2010-11 season, as his frontcourt partner signed with the Miami Heat. He posted a career-best 21.4 points per game and 5.2 rebounds, but shot 44.8 percent from the floor.
Can Andrea Bargnani become a vital piece to this team?
In the last two seasons, it would seem Bargnani has struggled under head coach Dwane Casey's system. He converted on 43.2 percent last season, and his aforementioned 40.6 percent is his lowest since the 2007-08 season.
It has much to do with Casey deploying the big man as a shooter in order to focus on clearing the paint for the drives of DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay, and the big man is suffering.
While the aforementioned shooting percentages for his last two seasons serve as evidence enough, we can take a closer look at this season.
Courtesy of Synergy Sports, we can see Bargnani shooting 38 percent as a spot-up shooter. His 30.1 percent from deep in this type of play is solid, but it should not discredit his performance inside the arc.
The Raptors run their big man on spot-ups 35.1 percent of the time, so it's slightly redundant to continue to play him where he is unable to make shots.
Bargnani is much more effective in post-ups and pick-and-rolls. He is hitting 44.2 and 44.9 percent on those plays, respectively. To put it simply, Bargnani has been deployed in 152 spot-ups over 64 post-ups and 54 pick-and-rolls.
While his injury remains an indication of his poor shooting, the fact that the coaching staff have Bargnani in spots where he is less efficient must change.
Just as LeBron James posts up with the Heat, so can Bargnani.
Before you react at such a comparison, it is more to do with the surrounding players than individual talent.
LeBron will put his back to the basket and hit open shooters or cutters for easy layups. Toronto has the perimeter shooters in Gay, Kyle Lowry and Alan Anderson in addition to slashers like DeRozan, Terrence Ross and new Raptors pick-up Sebastian Telfair.
Bargnani may not have the best passing skills in the league, but having learned basketball in Europe, he most likely has the fundamentals to be effective. It's just up to the coaching staff to put him in the right spots.
All statistics sourced from espn.com/nba/statistics.
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