Reasons to Believe Andrea Bargnani Will Revive Career with NY Knicks
Andrea Bargnani is one of the biggest draft busts of the last decade. After being traded to the New York Knicks, however, he now has an opportunity to revive his career and turn into a productive player.
Over the course of his career, Bargnani hasn't been terrible, but it's been difficult for him to live up to expectations after being taken with the No. 1 overall pick in 2006.
During his time in Toronto, the Italian played on a perennial lottery team and rarely had significant help around him. Now that he's in New York, he'll be playing a smaller role on a better team and will be used in a way that better utilizes his strengths.
We all know Bargnani can score, but we should see him starting to do that with more consistency and efficiency, while also improving his defense and rebounding under the tutelage of Mike Woodson.
Bargnani may never be as good as the Raptors thought he would be in 2006, but if nothing else, the change of scenery should see him develop into a quality role player. Let's take a look at the main reasons why.
Playing a Smaller Role
Though he's still being paid like a marquee guy, Andrea Bargnani is really no more than a role player on the Knicks.
Bargnani's ability to spread the floor will definitely be important, and he should be seeing over 20 minutes per game. But unlike in Toronto, he's not going to be relied on to carry the team on offense.
As much as we like to criticize him, Bargnani is a talented and diverse scorer, capable of shooting from outside and going to work in the post. His career average of 15.2 points per game is nothing to scoff at for a modern big man in the NBA.
The big issue with Bargnani has been his efficiency, mainly because he's been carrying a bigger load than he can handle. For the most part during his time with the Raptors, he was expected to be one of the go-to scorers, but that won't be the case on a team that already has Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith.
Bargnani will be asked to spread the floor for Melo and score in the post when he has a good matchup, but he won't be needed to score any more than the 12.7 points per game he posted last season.
Shedding the expectations of being the No. 1 overall pick should take a huge weight off Bargnani's shoulders, allowing him to play more freely. New York fans can be unforgiving, but he'll be given a fair amount of time to prove himself before being routinely booed like he was in Toronto.
Sharing a Frontcourt with Carmelo Anthony
As the NBA's reigning scoring champion and one of the best offensive players the league has seen in years, Carmelo Anthony is the perfect partner to take the pressure off Andrea Bargnani and give him space on offense.
Melo has always been criticized as a player who doesn't make others better, but that's clearly not true. His ability to draw double-teams and command the complete focus of the defense only serves to put his teammates in better positions on offense.
J.R. Smith, Chris Copeland and early-season Raymond Felton all benefited significantly from that last year, and Bargnani will be the next in line.
All Anthony needs alongside him at forward is someone who can spread the floor and give him space in the post, which is exactly what Bargnani does. Their styles of play complement each other well and should see them end up as one of the best offensive forward partnerships in the league if they start together.
According to Newsday, Melo has had nothing but good things to say about the trade that brought Bargnani to New York. That could just be lip service, but when it comes down to it, they can both help each other out on that end of the floor.
Bargnani did have the benefit of playing with Chris Bosh for awhile in Toronto, but the problem was that he had to play at center, leaving the team with no real defensive presence in the middle. Now, he'll effectively be playing as a small forward with Tyson Chandler joining him in the frontcourt with Anthony, who is a much better scorer than Bosh.
Being Used as a Small Forward
Andrea Bargnani's struggles in Toronto mainly stemmed from being used out of position as a center. Though he's 7 feet tall, he isn't a traditional big man and struggled significantly when he was expected to be a dominant rebounder and rim defender.
Moving him to power forward last season should have helped, but injuries stopped that from being the case, as he only appeared in 35 games on the season.
Now that he's in New York, Bargnani will be listed as the team's power forward. Yet, playing alongside Carmelo Anthony, he'll effectively be a small forward, which is perfect for his skill set.
Bargnani is a woeful rebounder for his height, but unlike most 7-footers, he's a good ball-handler and has three-point range with his jump shot.
Those skills will allow Melo to go to work in the post without having to worry about spacing, which is one of the main reasons he was so dominant at power forward last season.
Having Melo and Bargnani together will lead to a lot of matchup problems for defenses. Anthony often has a speed advantage on power forwards and a strength advantage on small forwards. Depending on who they choose to defend him with, Bargnani could be given a major height advantage if guarded by a small forward.
Having a Defensive Presence in the Middle
For the most part during his time with the Raptors, Andrea Bargnani was supposed to be the team's center, which was a big mistake considering how weak he is on defense and on the boards.
Though he did spend some time at power forward, he rarely had the chance to play with a traditional center, but that will change now that he's in New York.
Bargnani will now be playing alongside a former Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive first-team selection in Tyson Chandler, who excels in every area that Bargnani struggles. He's an elite rim defender and rebounder, and he does the dirty work so his teammates can focus on offense.
More to the point, Chandler's presence in the middle should also serve to improve Bargnani's own defense. Chandler is a vocal leader on that end of the floor, and that was a big reason why notoriously weak defenders Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith made strides on D last season.
It's not that Bargnani has never played alongside a good frontcourt partner. After all, he's spent significant time with Chris Bosh and a year with Jonas Valanciunas. It's just that neither player complemented his game and covered his weaknesses the way Anthony and Chandler will.
Mike Woodson's Coaching
Just like J.R. Smith did last season, Andrea Bargnani is going to benefit big time from the tough-love coaching of Mike Woodson.
Woody is known for lighting a fire under players, and that's what Bargnani needs more than anything. He's always been a talented player, but he seemed short of motivation during his time in Toronto.
The chance to compete for a title instead of a lottery pick should be enough to get Bargnani back on track, but having Woodson behind him is only going to help. Just like he did with Smith, Woodson will make Bargnani work for his minutes and won't feel compelled to give him major playing time just for the sake of it.
On offense, Bargnani's role will be simple, but Woodson's coaching should help him to improve in other areas. His rebounding needs a lot of work, and increased effort should see him become significantly better on the boards.
Meanwhile, Woodson will also help his defense, where he has shown signs of life in the past. Bargnani isn't a rim defender, but at times he is a good one-on-one defender in the post, which we should see more of under Woodson.
Woodson wasn't expected to be the Knicks' head coach for very long when he first took the job as the interim in 2012, but he's had the most successful first 100 games in franchise history because he knows how to get the best out of his players. Turning a talent like Bargnani into a quality role player shouldn't be too difficult for him.