If you’re a sports fan with internet access, you know that outside of theScore.com, Grantland is King of Kings when it comes to blogs and commentary. You may not always agree with their write-ups, but led by Bill Simmons, you have to agree that most of their stuff is must-read.

If you frequented Grantland on Thursday, you might have noticed that one of the posts on their front page was Raptors-related, entitled “The Versatility of Andrea Bargnani in Pick-and-Rolls.” It’s a Sebastian Pruiti play breakdown (which are always great reads) that basically explains what the title entails, using a few plays from the Raptors’ big fourth quarter against the Nuggets on Wednesday night as evidence.

This isn’t the first time someone from outside the Raptors’ usual beat coverage has taken notice of Bargnani in a positive light lately. Clyde Frazier was all over Bargs on an MSG broadcast last week and the Nuggets play by play team was praising him as he went off for 26 points on 14 field goal attempts against Denver. While I was in New York last week, the couple of times I struck up casual Raptors/Knicks chats with some locals, the conversation immediately turned into the New Yorkers telling me how they think Bargnani is underrated.

This all got me thinking. Do outsiders praise Bargnani because they don’t watch him enough to see his faults, or do us Toronto folk sell him short too often because we magnify his faults and have become numb to his talent? The answer is likely somewhere in between. Bargnani is a phenomenal offensive player who is insanely versatile for his size and position. He’s also an inconsistent and insanely frustrating defensive player, outside of a small sample this season.

He’s not Dirk Nowitzki, not a current superstar and most certainly not a future Hall of Famer. But he doesn’t have to be, and I think that’s what a lot of us forget. Yes, he was a No. 1 overall pick, and he hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with that. But does the fact that he isn’t a No. 1 guy mean that he can’t be a valuable part of something going forward?

For nearly seven years, we’ve debated what Andrea Bargnani is or isn’t. We’ve occasionally marveled at his unique skill set, but have usually lambasted his perceived laziness and obvious inconsistency.

The only thing that really matters in the end is whether Bargnani can be a piece of a contending puzzle in the future, and I believe he can be. He absolutely cannot be the piece, that much we know, but he can be a piece. Whether he can be that piece in Toronto depends on whether Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors’ management surround Andrea with the neccessary talent to compliment his skill set and mask his weaknesses.

But it also depends on whether Colangelo and co. believe Bargnani can still be a productive player by the time the much younger Raptors’ core, which isn’t even fully assembled yet, eventually hits its stride.

If Colangelo actually wants to build around Bargnani, then we’re in serious trouble. And if he doesn’t believe Bargnani will still be a valuable player by the time the young Raptors core develops into something worthwhile, then BC should trade him this off-season for draft picks and intriguing young assets.

But if the Raptors’ brass plans on continuing a rebuild that could see them take a step forward in the next couple of years, then isn’t it possible that Andrea could be a beneficial part of that, and we just ignore it because he’s not the superstar we once hoped he’d become?

With the right, defensive-minded, true centre beside him (which everyone hopes Valanciunas will be), and another option to defer to in the future (hello 2012 Draft), Bargnani could be a valuable member of a solid team for years to come.

Is he perfect? Hell no, far from it. Are there other power forwards I’d rather have? Of course. But is it possible that maybe we’ve sold Andrea short in the same way hometown fans are often known to overrate their own players? You don’t have to admit that the answer is yes like I have, but just know that it is.

And for the record, before the Bargs haters find my address and show up with torches, I’m not in any way, shape or form suggesting that Bargnani has to be a part of the future, or that he has played consistently enough to earn a place in that future. I’m just admitting that if the team is built the right way over the next couple of years, you can benefit from having a starting four with Andrea’s skill set, as frustrating as that might be at times.

I still fully expect Bargnani to both dazzle us and infuriate us over the last 15 games of the season. I’ve just come to accept that, and hope that management makes the right decisions to maximize Andrea’s talent while minimizing his risk, so that he dazzles in the future a lot more than he infuriates.

Comments (31)

  1. Fantastic article, exactly how I feel about Bargnani. I’ve enjoyed seeing him grow, and I can’t wait to see him with JV next year.

  2. I have two problems with the Raptors keeping Bargnani. The main one is even with his improved play, his defense and rebounding are still below average, which is something opposing teams will exploit, especially in the playoffs. It’s why teams with big men who are below average defenders rarely get to the FInals.

    The second problem is that Bargnani is a high maintenance player. He needs to be motivated, he needs to be fed the ball constantly in order to be productive, and when he is not he hurts the team. So there’s a real question of whether he can still be productive if he’s not the number one option. And he’s simply not good enough to be the best player on a contender, so chances are he’s not going to get the ball enough to motivate him on a good team.

    Theres no denying that Bargnani is a very talented offensive player, but in 6 years I’ve yet to see evidence that he’s worth all that trouble.

    • Well said.

      It’s just not a good situation which is why the Raptors should just move on. He’s not efficient enough offensively or consistent enough to build around and really can’t do much else but score (even that can be debated as most of it can be attributed to his usage rate on a terrible team and one that is built in a way where he can have any shot he wants whenever he wants) so he wouldn’t really be a good secondary piece unless he’s a 6th man gunner type which he’s too expensive for making an average of $12 million a season over the next three seasons.

      There’s just no good outcome for this franchise that can come with keeping him on the roster.

      • You two guys each have your heads up your own asses so far I’m surprised you can reach the keyboard to type anything. And you’re both wrong.

  3. The first and foremost question to ask, as always, is:
    how can we have a problem with Bargnani when there’s still no one – in this team – much better than him, or fulfilling all the needs people are speaking about?
    Forget those legends about number one picks. Ninety per cent of the time, number one picks are disappointing, and even weaker than Bargs. Why can’t we take him just for what he is? A medium-to-maybe-good player who – with four others like him – might be a part a good level team? Is good level not enough for you, guys? Are you really thinking to win a title in the next 100 years? Childish! The Lakers, the Spurs, the Celtics win titles, not others! For the most part, NBA teams never get even close to smell a Final.
    So, let’s get accustomed to reality: a medium-to-good team is something we could still root for, and – with all of his limitations – Bargnani is a legitimate piece of such an equation.
    Is there anyone, out there, estimating Carmelo Anthony a much better defender or rebounder of Bargnani? Don’t you know how can it be disgusting for his own fans or teammates to cope with him? Nonetheless, he’s still fully considered an All Star!

    • “Ninety per cent of the time, number one picks are disappointing, and even weaker than Bargs”

      Okay, let’s take a look at the evidence. The last ten #1 picks were:

      Kyrie Irving
      John Wall
      Blake Griffin
      Derrick Rose
      Greg Oden
      Andrea Bargnani
      Andrew Bogut
      Dwight Howard
      LeBron James
      Yao Ming

      Among those 10, you’ve got 2 MVPs and two others than were All NBA players. Blake Griffin is not a perennial All-Star. Although it’s early, Kyrie Irving appears to be the real deal. John Wall has been a disappointment so far, but has had a better first season and a half than Bargnani did. Bogut would probably be an All-Star if he’d been able to remain healthy. Greg Oden obviously never could stay healthy. So I’m curious where you get your 90% from?

      Among other #1 picks in the last 30 years:
      Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Chris Webber, Shaq, David Robinson, Brad Daugherty, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, James Worthy and Magic Johnson. And there were others that were successful, as well, and better than Bargnani.

      And your last bit of advice is to get used to mediocrity and embrace it.

      Remind me to never, ever hire you for a job, and I also hope you never get a job working for the Raptors.

  4. “Bargnani can be a piece of a contending puzzle ”

    here is the million dollar question – how valuable of a piece?

    a #2? Starter? Backup? 8th man?

    Is what he will provide as a piece worth 10, 11 and 12 mil a year?

    Are the Raps ready to have ‘pieces’ when they don’t have ‘the piece yet’?

    Will he still be a piece 3 – 4 years from now?

    Is he more valuable as an asset to collect other pieces in a trade?

    Saying a player can be a piece is one thing. Anyone can be a piece. Everyone on this roster can be a peice if in the right situation. But how valuable of a piece is he vs the value of other pieces?

    And will this organization ever recognize that? So far it sure seems like they see him as ‘the piece’ rather than bench player he should be. And that is a HUGE leap.

  5. I dont believe it matters whether it matters if Colangelo thinks he could be productive when this team is ready to contend, as long as he is still has 1 year left on this deal with no extension, he will do everything to get as many wins in the short term to get that extension. If the Raptors really want to commit to the rebuild, either fire him or extend him

  6. Agree with joseph, I don’t see the logic of dumping your best player because he’s not the superstar you want him to be. Sure, if a clear upgrade falls in your lap, he’s expendable, but barring that, upgrade your worse players and keep trying for a superstar through fa, draft and development until you get one.

    • Ask Sam Presti whether getting rid of his two best players, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, was logical and whether it helped the team in the long term.

      • Totally different situations and more different contracts. Presti not only got lucky with Durant, but then they had to suck bad enough to be able to pick westbrook, then do it again to get Harding, then those struggling rookies have to turn out to be all star calibre players. Not to mention a home crowd that put Toronto to shame and a gamble on an unproven coach that turned out to be dynamite. Hardly a template another team can just up and follow.

        • * “more difficult contracts*

          • I love how militant and downright petty Bargnani nuthuggers are, they’d rather spend more time trying to insult you or trying to impersonate you on an internet blog rather than argue your point.

            Keep it up, guys.

        • You could make the argument that NO situation is the same as another, but the fact is that teams trade their best player all the time for the betterment of the team (see my latest blog post). Seattle/Oklahoma just drafted Kevin Durant and had very little other talent. The Raptors have Valanciunas waiting in the Wings and hopefully a top five pick, to go along with DeRozan, the Johnsons, Ed Davis and Jerryd Bayless. And I don’t think anyone is suggesting trading Bargnani away for nothing. If the Raptors can get a lottery pick back for him, then it helps the team in the long term.

  7. I’ve always said this… How many players of his caliber actually want to be here (Toronto). I mean there have been a few, but its better to keep them than to let em go.

  8. Funny that New Yorkers would say he is under rated. Maybe it’s because Bargnani seems to always play well against them.

    I’ve said before I’d be in favour of trading Bargnani. But theres two problems which I think prevent that.

    1- His value. While I think the main reason Colangelo is still holding onto him is so that he can try and prove Bargnani was worth the investment, but what really could the Raptors get back for him? I highly doubt they can get anyone as good, or better in return for him, let alone a first round draft pack. Or else he may have been traded already.

    2- Why would someone else want our poblem? There is only about 4-5 teams, max, who would want a PF/C like Bargnani who doesn’t defend or rebound and then have to pay him 10-12Mil for the next 3 years. Denver, Phoenix, New Jersey, Orlando are the only teams I can think of who would show any interest. And going back to value, there is nothing these teams would offer that is an upgrade other than a late first round pick.

    And I agree, I definitely wouldn’t say Andrea is anything, or will be anything like the Dirk Nowitzki he was made out to be. I’d say more like a slightly better version of Mehmet Okur.

    • Funny you say that, than you watch them play against each other and it is the german who comes across the “poor man version”

      • Oh really? Last 5 games they played vs each other:

        Dirk- 18 PTS, 4 REB, 4 AST, .438%- Dallas wins
        Andrea- 30 PTS, 7 REB, 1 AST, .611%

        Dirk- 29 PTS, 9 REB, 4 AST, .600%- Dallas wins
        Andrea- 22 PTS, 5 REB, 0 AST, .500%

        Dirk- 19 PTS, 3 REB, 4 AST, .600%
        Andrea- 22 PTS, 6 REB, 1 AST, .529%- Toronto wins

        Dirk- 27 PTS, 10 REB, 4 AST, .550%- Dallas wins
        Andrea- 3 PTS, 3 REB, 0 AST, .200%

        Dirk- 24 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST, .421%- Dallas wins
        Andrea- 18 PTS, 7 REB, 1 AST, .333%

        Dirk’s AVG- 23.4 PPG, 7.2 REB, 4.2 AST, .522%- 4 Wins
        Andrea’s AVG- 19 PPG, 5.6 REB, 0.6 AST, .435%- 1 Win

        I’d go further but I think you get the point. Dirk is a career 8-2 vs Toronto. So not sure where you get Dirk is the lesser of the two when they play each other.

  9. I think it’s easy to forget that a 7-footer able to post, come off-screens, crossover, drive from the arc and shoot 80% from the line is rather rare.

    He has weaknesses, he also has strenghs. It’s about managing expectations, even Dirk needed an outstanding support cast to make it last year (and how long did it take??)

    • What?? Dirk doesn’t “need” a supporting cast. The supporting cast helped yes, but it’s hardly the only reason that the Mavs have been successful and were champs last year. You could make a case that the Raptors have a better supporting cast this year (if they still had Barbosa) than the Mavs currently do.

      The Mavs have made the playoffs every single year since Dirk’s 3rd year in the league 2000-2001, and has carried that team to an elite level even without Nash. Not to mention the MVP he won in 06-07, and the NBA finals appearance in 2006. What exactly has Bargnani done in his first six years that can compare?

      In fact, I’d bet that if you trade places with Dirk and Andrea last year, Dallas may not make the playoffs, if they do, doesn’t make it past the first round vs Portland. Then there’s no way they make it past LA in the second round, no way they beat OKC in the conference finals, and no way they beat Miami in the NBA finals.

      Put Dirk in Toronto, they probably would make the playoffs.

      There is NO comparison between Dirk and Andrea.

      • You think that Marion, Kidd, Terry, Chandler and Co. were hardly the reason the Mavs made it last year?

        Or performing in previous years? And you really would consider building a contender right now with the Raps’ support casts (Barbosa included) instead of the current Mavs?

        Dirk played like a franchise player in the stretch, fine. He still needed all these guys to step up game in, game out. These guys were experienced, and had chips on their shoulders. Anywho, this is a different conversation.

        My point is AB7 has unique skillset that can be instrumental on any good team. A contender would have to consider him if the opportunity came up, it would be insane otherwise.

        • That’s not the point. Of course those players were brought in to help the Mavs win. But my point is, the Mavs are contenders, and have been contenders for the past several years simply because they have Dirk on the team. You can’t say the same about the Raptors with Bargnani, they’re still a lottery team after six years with him.

          No, I’m not saying I’d like to build a contender with the Raptors supporting cast. What I’m saying is that right now, the Raptors arguably have a better supporting cast for Bargnani than the Mavs do for Nowitzki. That says a lot to how good Dirk is. Which is why I think if him and Bargnani switched teams, he would have the Raptors in the playoffs right now.

          I agree with you though. Bargnani has a unique skillset offensively. But I doubt he fits in with a contendor, most require their bigs to defend and rebound.

  10. Couple of points:

    1. It is only internet geeks like the bloggers at the Score and Tim W that have defined King Bargs as something “less than acceptable”. The general population see him as our team leader, best player, burgeoning all star, and amazing player. You guys represent the 10% of T Dot that do not feel this way. Sidenote- The Score bloggers are probably just upset their network doesnt air any games, and has two sub-par commentators doing the formerly awesome Court Cuts (RIP T and S)

    2. That is all

    3. Props to the Score for airing WWE (Tim W reminds me of that little Willow looking guy)

  11. This comment just proves you are a sub par blogger:

    “And for the record, before the Bargs haters find my address and show up with torches, I’m not in any way, shape or form suggesting that Bargnani has to be a part of the future, or that he has played consistently enough to earn a place in that future. I’m just admitting that if the team is built the right way over the next couple of years, you can benefit from having a starting four with Andrea’s skill set, as frustrating as that might be at times.”

    Grow some balls and stand behind and opinion. What was the point of this whole article? “maybe Bargs is umm ok dont get mad at me”

    You should be hosting the horse racing show that no one watches. I would rather watch Gillette Drafted then read this shiv drool

  12. Instead of debating each point, I came up with a post that debates all of them…

    • Great write up.

      All the resources and time this franchise has wasted in order to facilitate the growth of a player who is so limited overall is maddening.

      It’s getting to the point with him where it isn’t even about the type of player he is but the culture of coddling and entitlement he represents.

      • “All the resources and time this franchise has wasted in order to facilitate the growth of a player who is so limited”


        time to move on

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