"The enigma of all enigmas"

The Ultimate Raptors Rankings are the RaptorBlog editors’ attempt to rank the top 30 Toronto Raptors of all time. These rankings are obviously somewhat arbitrary and endlessly debatable, but they’re based on each player’s contribution, performance and longevity as a Raptor, and on how beloved they are by Raptors fans. We’ll count down a new Raptor every Wednesday on this blog.

Andrea Bargnani’s Raptors résumé:

  • 4th on Raptors All-Time Scoring list, 6th on Points Per Game list
  • 5th on Raptors All-Time Rebounds and Blocks lists
  • 6th on Raptors All-Time Games Played and Minutes Played lists
  • Named to 2006-2007 NBA All Rookie Team

Looking at the numbers above, one might wonder why Andrea Bargnani didn’t crack the Top-10 on RaptorBlog’s list of the Top 30 Raptors in franchise history. But as many Raptors fans have come to realize over the last five years, when it comes to the man Bryan Colangelo dubbed “the enigma of all enigmas,” you must take the bad with the good.

For example, I could have added more to Bargnani’s Raptors résumé, like the fact that he ranks fourth in total field goals made in team history and third in total three-point field goals made. But then I’d have to add that he also ranks fourth in field goal attempts, third in three-point field goal attempts and yet doesn’t find himself in the top-10 in field goal or three-point field goal percentage.

Whether it’s fair or not, the fact that Bargnani remains the only No. 1 draft pick in Raptors history means that he will forever be evaluated based on expectations and potential rather than tangible results.

From an offensive standpoint, he’s almost at a level where he can score with the best of the best. Heck, when he wants to, he can grab more than a respectable number of rebounds and play above-average on-ball defence. But none of that matters until Bargnani proves that he can become a consistent player on both ends of the floor – an all around big man, not just an offensive specialist.

Of course, under Dwane Casey’s leadership, the possibility remains that Andrea could finally evolve into that all around player, but I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that I’ll believe when I see it.

Which brings us back to my point of what ‘Il Mago” can do when he wants to. When discussing the seven-foot elephant in the room, it all comes back to that magical word: ‘want.’

Rafael Araujo, one of the worst lottery picks in NBA history, simply couldn’t get things done on an NBA floor. I saw the man play live a countless number of times, and always came away thinking the effort was there. It’s just that the skill and basketball IQ wasn’t. It wasn’t Hoffa’s fault that he paled in comparison to his peers. It’s Rob Babcock’s fault for drafting him.

Based on natural skill and talent, Bargnani was a legitimate candidate with the No. 1 overall pick in 2006. People think I’m crazy, but I will always maintain that had he played his heart out and played to his potential, Andrea could have become a consistent 20-plus point, eight-plus rebound and one-plus block kind of big man. In short, he possesses more than enough talent to be an All Star.

Andrea Bargnani can get it done. It’s just that through five seasons, he has chosen not to.

I often think back to Bargnani’s rookie season. Many forget, but through the first half of the 2006-2007 campaign, Andrea was an impressive import that most looked at as a future star.

It all seemed to change after he underwent an appendectomy in the latter stages of the season and never looked comfortable when he returned from the procedure.

He then followed up with a disastrous sophomore season and a string of mediocre ones since. I’m not in any way suggesting that the appendectomy derailed what was going to be a Hall of Fame career — after all, they removed his appendix, not his heart –  just simply recalling an observation I made in 2007 that Bargs didn’t look the same. I never imagined that four years later we’d still be saying he hasn’t consistently impressed us.

When NBA ball finally returns, Bargnani will be at least 26-years-old, probably 27, and entering his sixth season in the Association. It’s far too late to talk about his sky’s-the-limit potential. So what we’re left with is a seven-footer that might be best suited as an off-the-bench scorer or a third option on a good team (second option if absolutely everything goes his way).

He lost the chance to be a franchise guy or a higher ranking member of these rankings by his own refusal, and believe me, he’s been given more than his fair share of chances.

While it’s true that Andrea Bargnani’s place in these rankings can not be doubted, it’s equally true that his wasted talent prevents him from getting any higher.

And as “A Bronx Tale” taught us…

Comments (13)

  1. Sad to think of him as a 27 year old, wasted talent indeed. Imagine our current team though without him. Bargnani can score, Derozan can score and umm yeh Derozan can score.

    Anyways I do hope that once we are playing again and J-Val hopefully steps up to be our C and we draft a decent wing player, that we do trade Bargs for something that helps us, to a team that could use his scoring.

  2. I just don’t see what is enigmatic about Bargnani. He’s been the same player for years, ever since he came into the league in fact. Lots of athletic talent, weak frame, moderate basketball IQ, absurdly low motor, no leadership.

    It’s all written in his game play. I see no mystery!

    He needed a change of scenery at least two years ago. Whatever it will take to coax strength of mind and personality out of Bargnani, no one in Toronto has it.

  3. I agree with Tybalt.

    At a certain point, you have to evaluate a player based on what you’ve seen from him instead of whether or not he met the expectations that you placed on him or projected for him. Five years in, he’s an inefficient volume scorer on a terrible team, an awful defender and a historically bad rebounder so to say he can become great if he felt like it one morning is a huge oversimplification.

    Things like work ethic/mental make-up issues shouldn’t be glossed over simply because they are easier to correct than something that is physical. It clearly is a huge issue with Bargnani that will linger throughout his career.

  4. Thirteen seems like a fair judgment of Bargnani. I think the frustration comes from those games when you see him defending Dwight Howard well and have a great inside-outside scoring binge… How many guys in the NBA can defend Dwight Howard one-on-one? But even at his best, his terrible help defense is just painful.

    I still want to see Bargnani try being a sixth man on a good team. I bet he could really excel there.

  5. Most high impact off-the-bench players have hyperactive energy levels (Ginobli, Terry). Bargnani gets demoted to the bench and I predict Tim Thomas 2.0.

  6. I still believe.

    I’ll keep telling myself that a talent in this body takes time and that his assertiveness this summer is a sign of things to come.

    Denial or hope, whatever

  7. we screwed his development by forcing him to play the 5. now he is slower and lumbers around at half the speed of his rookie season.

    playing high energy basketball is a habit–particularly for those who do not naturally play with a high-motor. once these players get in a habit of playing slower-paced ball, it’s really easy for laziness to kick in–i.e. standing around instead of going after a loose ball, rebounding, playing help d.

  8. Bargnani just never really settled into a role in Toronto and I think that has hurt him. He was never going to be the starting PF while Bosh was here, and playing him at center has never really worked out either. We never really paired him up with another big that complimented his skills though. He would see far greater success on a team with a dominant center. Imagine him paired up with dwight howard, thats the type of team he should be on.

    • You know you suck when it would take playing with/next to one of the greatest centers in league history to hide your weaknesses.

  9. Bargnani’s rookie season convinced me to get season’s tickets. I proudly wore his jersey and got him to autograph it. As the years wore on, I found myself wearing my DeRozen jersey to games pretty much all the time. Now my #7 hangs in my closet, lonely and unworn, donned only by out-of-town guests who want to get all dolled up for a trip to their first Raptors game. Kind of sums it up, doesn’t it?

  10. I never understood the fascination with Bargnani. When he was drafted he was a 7 footer who, while very mobile and a good shooter, was a horrible rebounder, a poor defender and couldn’t get to the line. And 5 and a half years later people wonder why he hasn’t become a different player.

    I was THOROUGHLY against drafting him for the very reason that his weaknesses are not generally ones that are easy to fix. And big men who can’t defend or rebound rarely make a positive impact on the court.

    I really think that anyone who expected Bargnani to turn out any differently hasn’t been paying attention to NBA history. Could be why so many people are doomed to repeat it.

  11. I think you people are too harsh on Bargnarni. If you look at his numbers and his progression, he certainly has proven himself as worthy of beiung picked number one. I just think all of you are a bunch of HATERs in my opinion.

    • Yes, JT. We’re all haters because we expect a player making the kind of money Bargnani is making to actually play both sides of the court. If you don’t get that, then you pretty much don’t get “it”.

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