New Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has some housecleaning to do, and he's going to start by trying to rid his roster of disappointing forward Andrea Bargnani.
It might be a tough sell, though, as Bargnani's past two seasons have been marked by injury and ineffectiveness.
The former No. 1 overall pick has played only 56 of a possible 148 games since the start of the 2011-12 season and hasn't looked very good in the rare instances he's been able to see the court. Things got so bad last season that Raptors coach Dwane Casey took to substituting Bargnani during timeouts so fans couldn't boo him like they could when he was individually introduced during a regular stoppage.
The perimeter-oriented forward shot just under 40 percent from the field and a shade over 30 percent from long range during the 2012-13 season. Those numbers are bad in any context, but because Bargnani is a poor rebounder, seems allergic to contact and doesn't set up his teammates, they were especially problematic.
Still, Bargnani is just 27 years old and isn't so far removed from three straight seasons in which his PER was above league average (2009-2011). So there could be a decent market for his services.
*All of the upcoming trades work within the rules of the current CBA.
The Chicago Bulls have been linked to Bargnani for some time. In fact, during the 2013 trade deadline, the Bulls were on the short list of teams angling to acquire the Italian forward.
At the time, Marc Stein of ESPN reported the following:
From Chicago's perspective, sources said, Bargnani's arrival could help address its glaring lack of 3-point shooting and brighten the overall look of its payroll, given that the Italian forward makes $5 million less than Boozer this season.
Obviously, no deal went down at the deadline, which is why the Raptors are stuck trying to trade Bargnani now. As Stein mentioned, Bargnani makes sense in a lot of ways for the Bulls. His outside shooting and finesse game would help stretch the floor for a healthy Derrick Rose to penetrate and kick.
Plus, the Bulls currently have two interior presences in Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, so Boozer's bruising game is somewhat redundant.
Still, it's tough to imagine Tom Thibodeau retaining his sanity while trying to incorporate Bargnani's soft game and softer demeanor into Chicago's tough, puke-on-the-sidelines-and-get-back-out-there philosophy.
The Raptors would have to take a hit in the wallet by acquiring Boozer, who also has two more years on his deal but is due to make about $8 million more than Bargnani during that time.
But with apologies to Amir Johnson, Boozer would immediately become Toronto's most useful interior presence.
If the money were even, this deal would have a great chance of coming to pass. Both players would fit nicely with their new teams. But because of Boozer's extra bucks, it's difficult to see the Raptors wanting to make this move.
The prior administration made a massive error in acquiring Rudy Gay and his bloated contract, so Ujiri might not want to start off his tenure with a similar deal.
Another deal that was at least discussed during the 2013 trade deadline involved the Charlotte Bobcats shipping Ben Gordon and his expiring contract to the Raptors for Bargnani. Looking at how things stand now, there's still a good case to be made for this trade.
For starters, Gordon will be in the final year of his contract next season (assuming he opts to exercise his $13 million player option this summer). The Raptors are still a rebuilding team, so the appeal of a one-year rental whom they could either let walk away as a free agent or flip to another team for assets is obvious.
At the same time, the Bobcats have shown a clear affinity for stretch-4s. And apparently, their standards aren't very high; they let Byron Mullens jack up 208 three-point shots last season at a 32 percent clip. To them, Bargnani's career 36 percent stroke from deep must look pretty good.
It would be hard for the Raptors to send away a former No. 1 overall pick for an expiring contract, but those are the kinds of moves rebuilding teams need to make. The Bobcats have the cap space to absorb Bargnani's deal and the style that would fit his skill set.
Plus, if Bargnani tanks again, the boos in Charlotte won't be quite so loud. They're used to failure there.
Add the Philadelphia 76ers to the list of teams who had some interest in Bargnani at the deadline last season.
According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports:
The Raptors have also engaged the Sixers in conversations centered on Bargnani, sources said. No word on what the Sixers would need to offer in return, although a Western Conference executive suspects it would involve center Spencer Hawes.
If the parties were to revisit this deal now, it would have a lot of the same appeal for Toronto that a potential deal with Charlotte would.
Hawes will be in the final year of a contract that will only pay him $6.5 million, which the Raptors would have to like. Plus, Hawes would immediately become a rotation player for Toronto alongside Jonas Valanciunas and Johnson.
The Sixers have only about $46 million committed to next year's salaries and just $26 million in 2014-15, so they could easily take on Bargnani's deal.
From a strategic standpoint, Philly could definitely use Bargnani's stroke. Only five teams took fewer threes than the Sixers did last year, so as the team moves away from former coach Doug Collins' outdated preference for a mid-range attack, Bargnani could give a jolt to the offense by stretching the floor and bombing away from long range.
Plus, Bargnani can get his own shot off the bounce against slower big men. That would help take some of the shot-creation pressure off of Jrue Holiday, who was responsible for just about all of the Sixers' offense last season.
If the Los Angeles Lakers are going to try to build around Dwight Howard, the first step in that process is obviously re-signing the big man as a free agent. But the second step is probably surrounding him with players that make more sense in Mike D'Antoni's offense.
Pau Gasol will be on an expiring deal next season, and we learned during the 2012-13 campaign that his fit in D'Antoni's schemes was, at best, uncomfortable. There were some nice stretches toward the end of the season, but with Howard clogging up the lane, there was often no place for Gasol to go.
In Bargnani, D'Antoni would have precisely the type of outside-shooting big man he tried to turn Gasol into. L.A.'s spacing would improve dramatically with a true stretch-4 in the rotation, and Howard would be free to work alone in the lane.
To make the money work, Toronto would have to include Landry Fields and the $13 million he'll be owed over the next two seasons. But the Lakers risk losing Gasol for nothing after next year, so they'd have to at least think about getting a cheaper, younger, more complementary forward in exchange.
Toronto, on the other hand, would get a potential franchise big man (albeit one toward the end of his career) who will also come off the books next summer if things don't work out. Basically, the Raptors would get to audition Gasol for a season and decide what to do with him afterwards.
Ujiri proved that he could turn lemons into lemonade when he somehow got a ton of good pieces from the New York Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade. Perhaps he'll enjoy similar success if he can pull off a deal for Gasol.
Based on their complete disregard for the luxury tax, the Brooklyn Nets clearly aren't afraid of taking on a little extra salary commitment.
Which is why a straight-up swap of Kris Humphries for Bargnani could work.
The former Mr. Kardashian will make $12 million next season, which will be the final year of his deal. With Reggie Evans doing most of the rebounding and Brook Lopez showing everyone that he's a legitimate All-Star on the block, Humphries doesn't really have a role with the Nets—and he especially doesn't have one that justifies his hefty salary.
But Brooklyn has absolutely no perimeter shooting beyond that which is provided by Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. So Bargnani could step in as a starting power forward or come off the bench to provide the kind of perimeter threat the team lacks.
The Nets would have to pay Bargnani for an extra year, as his deal runs into the 2014-15 season, but the cap hit would be the same this season. And since the Nets are in perpetual "win now" mode, it seems like they'd be fine with the idea of dealing with the tax hit after next year.
Yet again, the Raptors would get an expiring deal in the exchange. But they'd also be getting a serviceable dirty-work player who could actually help them next season. This is as close to a win-win situation as it gets.