Andrea Bargnani will miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury, according to the team's official site, and despite his unique skill set, this will be a blessing in disguise for the Toronto Raptors.
Ever since being drafted by the team in 2006, Bargnani has averaged 15.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from long range. In hindsight, those aren't bad numbers.
However, considering how Bargnani is 7'0" and 256 pounds, those rebounding numbers are unacceptable. His defensive game is borderline nonexistent, and he has missed significant time with injuries in each season since 2010-11.
Seeing as how head coach Dwane Casey is a defensive-minded coach and Toronto is 29th in the league in rebounding, not to mention how Bargnani has only averaged 12.7 points and 3.7 boards this season, it's clear that a change needs to be made.
Now that there are only a few weeks left in the regular season, Casey can tinker with the lineup and see just which rotation works best to close out the year. Amir Johnson is sure to get some more minutes, having posted 10.1 points and 7.3 rebounds over 27.9 minutes per game this season, which he has split between the starting lineup and the bench.
Per 36 minutes, Johnson is averaging 13 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. He isn't going to be as much of a scoring threat as Bargnani, but his commitment to staying in the paint will be a better overall fit in Casey's system and help take the team forward.
This is also a chance for Casey to see what rookie Quincy Acy can do. Drafted out of Baylor in 2012, Acy has spent most of the season either riding the bench or playing in the D-League, where he averaged 13.4 points and 6.9 rebounds in seven games for the Bakersfield Jam.
The fact is that Toronto is in a position where it can see just how well the team can do without Bargnani, and if it manages to perform effectively and win games in his absence, the writing will be on the wall. At that point, GM Bryan Colangelo will either have to find a taker for the two years and $22.25 million remaining on his contract, or just amnesty the man.
That said, though his skills as a stretch 4 and seven-footer who can create off the dribble are extremely rare to come by, it's clear that Bargnani being injured and out for the season is going to at least give the Raptors an opportunity experiment. Though talented in his own right, he isn't the type of player that the team needs at the 4 going forward.
Thus, though it's sad to see his season end this way, it's truly for the best.
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