With former number one overall pick Andrea Bargnani's season abruptly coming to an end (via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today), one can only speculate as to whether his Toronto Raptors career is headed for a similar fate.
The 2012-13 season has been one marked by change for the only NBA franchise based outside the United States.
The transformation started last summer when the franchise threw major money ($20 million for three years) at former New York Knicks guard Landry Fields. When the Raptors' efforts to land former MVP Steve Nash fell short, the team quickly traded for former Houston Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry.
Jonas Valanciunas was added to the rotation a year after Toronto made him the fifth overall pick of the 2011 NBA draft. Fellow rookie (2012 lottery pick) Terrence Ross also entered the equation.
The Raptors saved their biggest splash for later in the season. A few weeks before the 2013 NBA trade deadline, Toronto plucked Rudy Gay (a career 17.9 points per game scorer) from the Memphis Grizzlies in a three-team trade.
This season also brought about a stark change for Bargnani. And not in the way the team hoped it would when it locked up the stretch forward in a five-year, $50 million deal in 2009.
Two separate elbow injuries cost him more than half of the regular season, but he failed to duplicate his past successes even before the injury bug flew in his direction.
He followed a three-year stretch of 19.2 points per game on 45.4 percent shooting from the field (via basketball-reference.com) with an abysmal 12.7 points per game and a 40.0 field-goal percentage. He shot under 32 percent from deep for the second straight season, a troubling sign for a player said to mask his limitations within the arc with his proficiency from beyond it.
The rebounding woes that had diminished the otherwise positive returns of the last three years only magnified. The 7'0", 256-pound Bargnani managed just 3.7 boards in 28.7 minutes per game. His continued struggles on the defensive end only magnified his problems on the glass.
He entered the season as the apparent beneficiary to the influx of youthful talent. But halfway through the year he looked far more like a deterrent to the continued development of the club's rising stars.
His name predictably wound up on the NBA trade rumor mill with the Raptors desperately trying to mask his declining production and rising financial commitments. Unable to find any takers, Raptors coach Dwane Casey was tasked with working the big man back in the rotation, battered confidence and all.
The limited success that greeted Gay's arrival (8-7 in 15 games so far) came in spite of Bargnani's presence, not because of it. After struggling as the focal point of the offense in the early goings, Bargnani looked lost trying to find his place behind Gay and fourth-year guard DeMar DeRozan.
At this point, it's hard to see that being a problem for much longer.
While the Raptors may have fallen short in their attempts to move Bargnani at the trade deadline, one can only imagine they'll do everything in their power to find a trade partner over the offseason.
That might mean lowering the price tag or adding an undesirable contract in the process.
No matter what it takes, it looks like both sides of this equation are ripe for a change.
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