"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…