In his six-plus years as President and General Manager of the Toronto Raptors, Bryan Colangelo has emptied the trick bag. He’s used three different head coaches, made five lottery picks and expended significant resources on trades and free agent signings. So with the Raptors sitting at 4-17 and recently coming off of a lifeless, pathetic performance against an undermanned Utah Jazz team, Colangelo and his supporters don’t have many excuses left. This team is in need of a major shake-up and BC only has one option, before his own head hits the floor – trade Andrea Bargnani.
Firing Dwane Casey is not an option. Colangelo can’t justify needing four different head coaches during his tenure as GM. Fingers start pointing at upper management when there is that much turnover. Jay Triano and Dwane Casey were both hand-picked by Colangelo. People will accept one mistake (Triano), but that’s it. Casey’s performance this year hasn’t justified a dismissal either. Toronto has been competitive in most games and although Casey’s offensive tactics have been questionable, he is not at the root of the problem. The culture change Casey brought to this locker room is still prevalent (in some players) and he deserves credit for leading a group of misfits to 23 wins last season. He gained respect as a defensive mind in Dallas and that reputation has grown in Toronto. Casey has earned the right to outlast his boss.
If a coaching change is not possible, that leaves BC with one other option – player movement. It wouldn’t make sense to move one of the recent first-rounders (DeRozan, Davis, Valanciunas, Ross), because their ceiling is unknown and any one of them could become very valuable building blocks. Trading Kyle Lowry would be lunacy – he is one of two players in the NBA averaging 15+ points, 5+ assists and 5+ rebounds. Colangelo should be worried about locking up Lowry long-term, since players of that caliber don’t walk through your door every year. Trading Jose Calderon wouldn’t have a significant impact, considering he now plays less than 20 minutes per game. The Raptors also need his ball-handling/creating skills in the second unit.
Looking at this roster, there is one player who stands out like a sore thumb. He is the one player who doesn’t fit the style and mentality Colangelo and Casey have tried to instill in this team. They want hard-nosed, blue collar, defence-first players who scrap for every point. Andrea Bargnani is not that type of player and he never will be.
The problem with Bargnani is two-fold. Not only will he never live up to expectations, but his lack of effort is cancerous. Why should other players bring hustle and heart to every play when they see Bargnani is allowed to coast through the motions without repercussions? How motivated are the other starters going to be when they know there’s a weak link in the defensive chain of rotations? A team can only drag a dead weight for so long before that dead weight starts to drag them.
Assessing Bargnani’s worth around the league is a complete guessing game. The rumours of a Pau Gasol trade have been growing steadily over the past few weeks, and I think that is a best-case scenario for Raptors fans but it likely won’t happen. The Lakers’ problems stem from the defensive end and Bargs would only make that worse.
Since everyone enjoyed my sample trades for Jose Calderon, here are three sample trades for Bargnani, intended to show what I would consider appropriate return. If Toronto makes any sort of trade, they need to address their ball-handling issues. Kyle Lowry is the only player capable of creating his own shot off-the-dribble and that is a serious problem in the fourth quarter. Teams force the ball out of Lowry’s hands and Toronto’s offence becomes very stagnant. Each of these proposed trades is designed to give Toronto a young ‘creator’ off the bench who can play alongside Calderon or Lowry…
Washington Wizards trade Jordan Crawford & Trevor Ariza to the Raptors for Andrea Bargnani & Alan Anderson
Milwaukee Bucks trade Beno Udrih & Larry Sanders to the Raptors for Andrea Bargnani
Detroit Pistons trade Rodney Stuckey & Austin Daye to the Raptors for Andrea Bargnani
Bargnani’s lackadaisical attitude has permeated the locker room and if he doesn’t leave soon, it will continue to affect the development of this young core. Trading Bargnani is not only the most logical move for Bryan Colangelo, it might be the only move that will save his job.