Perhaps concerned that the massive trade between the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics had spent too long atop the front page, the New York Knicks swung a risky deal with the Toronto Raptors that will bring Andrea Bargnani to Madison Square Garden next year.
Howard Beck of the New York Times was first to report the news:
And while the move netted the Knicks a big name, a deeper look reveals that the acquisition of Bargnani was a risky one.
The Raptors will receive Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, a first-round pick in 2016 and a pair of future second-round selections from the Knicks, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!.
UPDATE: Monday, July 1, 2:16 a.m. ET by Grant Hughes
According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo!, the deal is done:
And David Aldridge of TNT reports that a sign-and-trade wasn't necessary; all the Knicks had to do was include another pick.
---End of update---
UPDATE: Sunday, June 30, 10:46 p.m. ET by Grant Hughes
Per Beck, the deal is all set in principle, but because the NBA won't approve it until July 1, the teams might have to tinker a bit in order to ensure that the trade works under the 2013-14 cap figures.
According to Beck, some of those adjustments could be tricky. Stein says the Knicks would probably have to include a minimum-salaried player in a sign-and-trade to make the deal work under the cap. There are a number of candidates on the Knicks roster, but Earl Barron or Quentin Richardson seem most likely, per Mark Stein of ESPN.
---End of update---
New York gave up a number of assets in exchange for a player who had fallen badly out of favor in Toronto, but there's a lot more to this deal than what we see on the surface. Here's a breakdown of how each team made out in the bargain.
Toronto Raptors: A-
Masai Ujiri, the Raptors' newly installed general manager, had no sentimental attachment to the roster he inherited, which probably helped him approach this dicey personnel decision rationally. He didn't spend a No. 1 overall pick on Bargnani just a few seasons ago, so he was free to deal him without looking like he was admitting the initial selection was a mistake.
From a financial standpoint, the trade is an unqualified success for Toronto.
Bargnani was owed $23 million over the final two years of his deal. By taking on Camby and Novak, who make a combined $7 million next year, the Raptors shaved about $4 million off of their cap figure in 2013-14.
Camby's deal will expire after the 2014-15 season, which is also when Bargnani's contract would have ended. Novak will be on the hook for one more year, but at just $3.75 million, he'll be easy to either keep around as a specialist or deal as a highly coveted expiring contract.
Put another way, the Raptors dealt away Bargnani's $23 million contract and got back two players whose total salaries over the next three seasons will be about $19 million. And when you consider how much easier it will be to move either Camby or Novak, both of whom have very tradeable salary figures, the Raptors made a terrific financial decision.
Toss in the first-round pick in 2016 and the future second-rounders, and the deal looks even better for the Raps.
Perhaps just as importantly, Toronto sent a message to the rest of the league that it's willing to ship out its assets. If a few more offers come in, the team will be nicely positioned to clean house, shed money and get in position for a lottery pick in the hugely anticipated 2014 NBA draft.
Look, Bargnani was playing the worst basketball of his career and had grown to be the team's most hated player. In fact, things got so bad last year that coach Dwane Casey had to start substituting Bargnani during timeouts so his name wouldn't be announced and fans wouldn't have an opportunity to boo him.
There was very little chance of the former No. 1 pick ever feeling comfortable enough to return to form with the Raptors, so it's impressive that Ujiri was able to swing a deal that saved the team money and got a first-round pick in return.
New York Knicks: C
Bargnani puts the Knicks even further into the luxury tax than they already were, although it's still possible that they'll be able to ship out his expiring contract in 2015 if things don't go as planned. Clearly, though, New York isn't particularly concerned about being a tax-paying team, so the financial component of this analysis isn't the same for the Knicks as it is for the Raptors.
From a production standpoint, New York is obviously convinced that Bargnani's last two injury-stricken seasons and his coinciding dip in play were anomalies.
There's some evidence to support that thinking, as the Italian big man has shown isolated flashes of real productivity during his career. In 2008-09, he hit 40.9 percent of his three-point attempts, and he averaged a career-high 19.5 points per game during an abbreviated 2011-12 season.
Maybe a change of scenery will help Bargnani find his way again. That seems to be what the Knicks are banking on.
Looking at Bargnani realistically, though, it's hard to see him being much of a boost to the team.
His stroke deteriorated badly over the past two seasons, and the recurring injury issues have to be a concern for the Knicks. Bargnani shot just 43 percent in 31 games two years ago. Last year, he shot 40 percent in 35 games.
It also has to be mentioned that despite his intriguing offensive skill set, Bargnani is an awful rebounder and does almost nothing to make his teammates better. Defensively, he's practically invisible.
Bargnani doesn't solve any of the issues that plagued New York last season—shot creation, team defense and ball movement—and his latest numbers with the Raptors were eye-openingly horrendous.
According to 82games.com, Toronto's offensive rating improved by 2.4 points per 100 possessions when Bargnani was on the bench. Similarly, its defensive rating was 3.9 points per 100 possessions better and the team's rebound rate spiked whenever Bargnani wasn't on the court.
Clearly, the Knicks are going all in on their small-ball approach, with Bargs representing an interesting option as a stretch 4 or even a backup to Tyson Chandler in a serious run-and-gun offense. Few power forwards possess the quickness to stay with Bargnani on the perimeter, and there's probably not a center in the league who'll be comfortable dealing with his face-up game from 20 feet.
There are questions that will have to be answered about his effect on the rotation, too. Where does Amar'e Stoudemire fit in now? Will Chandler play a reduced role? Will Carmelo Anthony get more opportunities in the mid-post area with Bargnani spreading the floor?
This deal is hardly a disaster for the Knicks, but it's fraught with risk and uncertainty. If things go bad, New York will be stuck with a high-priced, unproductive player on its roster. Not that that's anything new.
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