Andrea Bargnani is the Origin of the Toronto Raptors' Issues

Vishaal GuptaContributor IDecember 4, 2009

Don't get me wrong—Andrea Bargnani is a great basketball player. Blessed with the rare gifts of height and the ability to knock down a long range shot, which for some reason, seem to have an inverse relationship in basketball, the Raptors thought they knew what they were getting in to when they took Bargnani 1st overall in 2006.

Over the next few years, Bargnani's offence progressed slowly, until he finally had his breakout campaign in 2008-2009, where he averaged a respectable 17.2 points per game.

Unfortunately, for a centre, he didn't do much else.

Andrea averaged 6.3 rebounds per game for the season, good for 63rd in the league. Considering the minutes he played, most of which were at centre, this number is unacceptable. He averaged 9.3 rebounds per 40 minutes, for a whopping 147th in the league. A couple spots behind flipping Patrick O'Bryant.

In his first year, his R/40 was 7.5. In his second year, it was 7.8. And then came the 9.3.

Now over the years, the Raptors thought Andrea would continue to progress, like any 1st overall pick worth his salt. However, his defence barely improved over this time.

Let's fast forward to today. The Raptors missed the playoffs last year, and are currently 7-13 this year. What's even more alarming than their record is their horrendous defence to this point, which is now at second last in the league, allowing 110.95 points per game. On the plus side, it is clear that the Raptors have their offence clicking, good for fourth in the league with 105.3 points per game.

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While defence obviously takes a team effort, any solid defensive unit must have at least one good perimeter defender, and one imposing presence to guard the paint. While the Raptors have tried time and time again to bring in a solid perimeter defender, from TJ Ford to Jarrett Jack, they haven't seemed to make an effort to bring in a half-decent big man to patrol the lanes for the starting unit.

Unfortunately, since Andrea's draft year, the "big man" positions have always been taken on the Raptors, by him and Chris Bosh, of course. The Raptors have always felt no need to bring in another big man because Andrea and Bosh form such a threatening frontcourt offensively. They keep on waiting for Andrea to show some resemblance to a centre on the other side of the court.

Because of the need to develop Andrea's game, the Raptors have decided not to bring in a proper defensive centre (other than the Jermaine O'Neal experiment, which is now of course only talked about in whispers). 

It's actually Bargnani's height that does him in. Because of his 7 feet, teams feel obliged to develop him as a centre. In my opinion, Andrea has the game of an above-average small forward. Seriously, go look at his stats.

If the Raptors want to improve defensively, they have to understand that they cannot keep Bargnani and Bosh as their frontcourt, who are both, let's face it, well below average defenders.