For the 2012-13 season, power forward Andrea Bargnani made little impact on the court for the Toronto Raptors. Not only were this year’s statistics much lower than his career averages, but he also was sidelined for the season with an elbow injury in March.
The seven-foot Bargnani was the league's top pick in the 2006 draft.
For his career, he averages 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and a field-goal percentage of .437 in 30.3 minutes of game play. However, his numbers fell considerably this season even when he was healthy. Bargnani averaged 12.7 points and 3.7 rebounds.
On March 13, ESPN.com reported that Bargnani, 27, would miss the rest of the season with an injury to his shooting elbow. In Bargnani’s absence, rookie center Jonas Valanciunas stepped up in the low post to compensate for the loss.
Valanciunas gained leaguewide honor when he was named the Eastern Conference’s rookie of the month for March, as reported the Toronto Star.
Bargnani is due more than $22 million over the next two seasons according to his contract with the Raptors. Because of the two injuries that he has suffered to his shooting elbow and his declining play, many question Bargnani’s future role with the Raptors.
If Bargnani wants to solidify his role as a crucial Raptors player and earn a contract extension, he needs to work much harder.
First, Bargnani needs to get healthy.
He can’t sit out games to nurse more elbow injuries. Toronto doesn't need an inconsistent and injury-prone power forward. If Bargnani continues to have injury problems, other players such as the young Valanciunas will surely surpass him in importance in Toronto.
Once his elbow is healed, Bargnani needs to step up his shooting and begin playing at the level he once did during his debut in the NBA. We know he can score 15 points per game; Bargnani needs to live up to the expectations set for him by his career statistics.
Furthermore, Bargnani needs to work on his defensive play. Kelly Dwyer complained of the power forward’s poor defensive play via Yahoo! Sports, “Bargnani is a terrible defender in all regards, which actually could be overcome if he weren’t a historically bad rebounder from both forward positions.”
With his height and weight (256 pounds), he can contest any other big man that comes his way, which means he can develop better rebounding skills. His size makes him an ideal rebounder, and Bargnani needs to improve his work on the boards if he wants to be taken seriously as a defender.
If Bargnani can rebound from his injury and start to display play that is consistent with his career averages, fans and critics might begin to label Bargnani a necessary element of Toronto’s team.
Until then, we wait to see Bargnani prove himself.