When the Knicks sent away three draft picks and a trio of bench players for Bargnani in June, the trade was met with virtually universal criticism around the league.
Through his first 11 games in orange and blue, however, the Italian is averaging 14.5 points on a career-high 48 percent from the floor. He's also back to his career average from outside—shooting 36 percent—and has generally been one of the few bright spots on a weak Knicks team.
Bargnani's defense still leaves a lot to be desired. With Tyson Chandler out, he's been caught out in embarrassingly poor position numerous times at center. But to be fair, he was keeping opponents to a 12.9 PER at power forward (according to 82games).
There have been flashes of a genuine all-around game, like his 11-rebound game against the Atlanta Hawks and five-block performance against the Charlotte Bobcats, but we'll need to see that more often from him.
It was only a few weeks ago that Bargnani was hearing boos rain down at Madison Square Garden, but the call for a bigger role in Chandler's absence seems to have woken him up. He's playing much harder and, though he isn't living up to his salary, he's certainly making this trade look like a smart one for the Knicks.
We'll really start to see Bargnani's value when Carmelo Anthony is on form. He adds an extra dimension to the offense. If Melo can get back to drawing double-teams, the Knicks will once again be lethal on that end.
Bargnani has a reputation as merely a three-point shooter, but he's been finding good shots, using pump fakes to get to the rim, with the jumper becoming more of a secondary option.
There are likely still those out there who think New York shouldn't have made the deal, but remember there wasn't that much given up in the deal. Steve Novak is the only player they gave away who has played at all this season, and he has shot 24 percent in only 62 total minutes of action.
The two second-round picks were never a major issue; the Knicks will likely be able to acquire replacements for cash.
That leaves the 2016 first-rounder as the only valuable piece given up.
Given that the Denver Nuggets have the option to swap picks with New York that year, it seems like a fair trade. Sure, a late first-round pick could turn into a special player, but that isn't likely. Getting someone you know can give you 14.5 points a night is a solid exchange, especially if that comes at a position of need with Amar'e Stoudemire continuing to slow down.
Ideally, with Bargnani still being relatively young at age 28, we'll start to see him improve elsewhere on the court. He's got to catch up when it comes to defensive rotations, and it will be nice to see him use his height to bring down more boards.
The Knicks have plenty of reasons to be concerned about their start to this season, but the Bargnani trade isn't one of them. Their record would be even worse without the Italian. He's providing good value for what they gave up to bring him to New York.
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