Andrea Bargnani

This is one of the few times that Andrea Bargnani has been photographed willingly offering the ball to someone else. (Getty Images)

With seven days to go until the start of the Toronto Raptors 2010-11 season, I’m profiling each of the guys I expect to make up the Raptors’ primary 10-man rotation on opening night. Today, we look at Andrea Bargnani.

Andrea Bargnani, C/PF, 7’0″, 250 lbs.
2009-10 stats:
80 games, 35.0 MPG, 17.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 0.3 SPG, .470 FG%, .372 3P%, .774 FT%, 15.5 PER

As one of the charter members of the “Andrea Bargnani Hateration Collective” (est. 2007), this is probably where you might expect to read my annual airing of grievances regarding his rebounding and defensive deficiencies. But you know what? I’m not going to do that — partially because I’m tired of it (and so are most of you) but mostly because I want to come to terms with who Andrea Bargnani is and how the Raptors can make the best use of his unusual skillset.

If there’s one thing most of us can probably agree on when it comes to Bargnani, it’s that we wouldn’t have had such high expectations of his ceiling if he wasn’t a first overall draft pick — and the only first overall pick in Raptors franchise history. Fairly or unfairly, for years he was compared to Dirk Nowitzki because of his height, shooting range and skin color. There’s an “Andrea Bargnani is Better Than Dirk Nowitzki” Facebook group with 97 members (many of them Italian, unsurprisingly). While I can’t find the exact quote, I remember Nowitzki himself said that Bargnani was better than he was at that age after they faced each other a couple of seasons ago.

So what happened? Well, it wouldn’t be nearly as hard as it is to be a general manager in professional sports if everybody lived up to their supposed potential. Rather than comparing him to Nowitzki, it seems like a more reasonable comparison for Bargnani is Tom Chambers — a tall guy who was deceivingly athletic for his size, had good shooting range, and averaged 18.1 points and 6.1 rebounds over his career. Don’t those look like Bargnani numbers? For what it’s worth, Chambers averaged over 20 points per game in five seasons (topping out at 27.2 PPG at the age of 30) and played in four All-Star Games. Who would be unhappy with a career arc like that for Bargnani?

What remains to be seen is how well Bargnani can handle facing the opposing teams’ best defensive big men now that Chris Bosh has left the building. If the Raptors go forward with their plan to start Reggie Evans next to him in the frontcourt, it’s safe to say that their opponents will only concern themselves with one of Toronto’s big men on the offensive end. Along with the obvious improvements we’d like to see Bargnani make on help defense and on the boards, he needs to continue to expand his offensive repertoire so he’s less predictable and therefore more difficult to cover. His patented pump-fake dribble drive from the top of the arc is probably going to decrease in effectiveness once players like Kevin Garnett and Al Horford are keying in on him.

One thing I won’t ask Bargnani to do is take fewer three-pointers. A lot of Raptors fans seem to want to convert him into more of a low-post player, but that’s just not his strength and it likely never will be. If Bargnani is able to continue to make around 38 percent of his three-pointers as a more featured part of the Raptors offense, I’d want him to jack up more treys rather than less. If the Raptors continue their preseason trend of playing at a fast pace, I’d like to see Bargnani fire a couple of long bombs per game as the trailer on fast breaks. Let a shooter shoot, y’all!

The way I see it, the best thing we can do in terms of Bargnani’s continued development and ongoing mental well-being is to stop expecting him to become somebody he’s not and instead focus on getting the most out of who he is. Just like we don’t expect or want Reggie Evans to start showcasing his mid-range game, it’s time we stop expecting Bargnani to average 10 rebounds or two blocks per game. I don’t know how long it’s going to last, but my goal in following Bargnani this season will be to look for encouraging signs of improvement and maturity rather than continuing to harp on the same old things he’ll probably always suck at.

I figure I should be able to keep up that positive attitude for about 10 games, max.

Comments (9)

  1. Even if he’s hitting a high percentage of his 3s, the guy isn’t going to be a rebounder when standing out on the 3 pt line. Its a damn shame when the biggest guy on your team is also the softest.

    And i disagree about his strength not being under the basket. In games when he does go inside the results are there. I’d argue he has better touch in the post than Bosh did. Just that he doesn’t go there much, and rarely if ever gets multiple shots in a possession (the way Bosh did with his boarding).

  2. that group from facebook……..

  3. Basketball is a game of runs. Never have I ever seen the Raptors make a solid run against starters, with this guy on the floor. (He is a confidence player & every team in the eastern conference attacks him offensively after each of his buckets). The Raptors had many chances to floor a playoff team if they managed his minutes & shots in accordance to his capabilities.

    ??????

    I haven’t bought a ticket in 3 years because of this charade.

  4. @Champs96: If Bargnani ever gets traded or leaves this team by some other means, I might be first in line to renew my criticisms of him but the Raptors might be stuck with him for at least another three or four seasons because of his new contract so I’m trying to come to terms with him now.

  5. Scott, prepare to see some empty seats @ the ACC this season.
    This team seems to have some life in it right now but I give them 3 months before Andrea’s undeserved PT & shot count sends this team into meltdown.
    Another locker room disaster is brewing.

  6. Champs96: I doubt any locker room meltdown will occur.

    However, of course there will be empty seats. It’s a rebuilding year. Raps fans are great, but no team sells out in a year with the expected win total under 30. This is in no way a commentary on Bargnani’s use. You think giving more minutes and shots to Johnson and Evans will push the Raps into the playoffs? Please.

  7. DanH., well said!
    Of course, empty seats at the ACC and locker room meltdowns are all the whole to be caused by Bargnani. It’s incredible the power this guy has; the incarnation of all the bad in basketball and sports.
    One more time, I warn you: getting rid of Bargs doesn’t mean you buy a better player. As the story of Chris Bosh clearly shows, there’s always something worse!
    What you guys don’t get is the issue with Bosh was in these terms: 1) he was a very good player (even though I didn’t like him as a person) 2) the fans criticized him anyway 3) he got away. Certainly not because of the critics, but basically (and I must say: rightfully so) tired of the environment.
    In Bargnani’s case, you have: 1) an above average player (and don’t even try to deny this) 2) the fans are on him all the time 3) the guy is most loyal to the city and the team.
    It’s unfair, Scott. You can argue till the end of the world, but you are unfair and mostly obsessed with the character. I understand this type of phenomenon: projection. But people wouldn’t even dare to use the same words if he was a brother. Believe me.

  8. “I figure I should be able to keep up that positive attitude for about 10 games, max.”

    I’m taking the under on that one. :)

  9. Barberin,

    including this coming season, this man has been handed every opportunity to show what he can do, which played a huge factor in our best player walking out the door. it is up to him now to either prove us wrong (or right, in your case), or play his way out of town. either way, it should happen this season.

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