Philadelphia 76ers v Sacramento Kings

As the plethora of Raptors-related trade rumours – most of which will likely include Andrea Bargnani – roll in leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline, I’ll try to post some quick thoughts and analysis on each one. So far this season when it comes to Bargnani, we’ve already talked about blockbuster deals like trading for Pau Gasol, Carlos Boozer and Pau Gasol again. Perhaps an indication of just how low Bargs’ trade value is right now though is the latest report.

On Friday, Fox Sports Ohio reported that according to sources, the Raptors have engaged the 76ers in Bargnani trade talks, with Sam Amico writing that “a Western Conference executive suspects it would involve center Spencer Hawes.”

Bargnani and Hawes wouldn’t be able to be traded one for one because their salaries aren’t close enough, but the Sixers could make it work with an addition to the deal as small as point guard Royal Ivey’s $854,389 contract, so it also wouldn’t be that difficult to pull off (Ivey’s name HAS NOT come up in any reports or rumours I’ve seen. I’m simply showing how little amount of salary would be needed to make Bargnani for Hawes work).

Bargnani is obviously the far, far more talented big man, but Hawes has simply been more effective on an NBA court for the last year or so while earning roughly just65 per cent of Bargnani’s salary. Hawes averages more rebounds in 23 minutes per game for his career than Bargnani does in 30 minutes. In addition, Hawes’ per-36-minute statistics have been pretty consistent throughout his six year NBA tenure, with the centre averaging over 13 points, nine rebounds, about 2.5 assists and roughly 1.5 blocks. Last season Hawes posted a PER of 18.1 in just 37 games for Philadelphia, while that number has dropped to 15.1 this season.

And while “spacing the floor” with his three-point stroke would seem to be the obvious advantage for Bargnani in this comparison, I regret to inform you that over the last two seasons, Andrea has shot a well below average 29.6 per cent from behind the arc, just 0.1% better than Hawes’ 29.5 per cent mark over that same period (Again, Bargnani hasn’t shot better than 35% from deep in a season since 2009-10).

All in all, while Hawes may not be capable of the same offensive explosions as Bargnani, he’s an all around more reliable big man who will make $6.6 million in the final year of his contract next season. Andrea will make $10.75 million next season and $11.5 million in 2014-15. In addition, Hawes would be a pretty solid and consistent backup for Jonas Valanciunas and would likely fill the role of third big man nicely behind Valanciunas and Amir Johnson, with all due respect to Aaron Gray, who has a player option worth nearly $2.7 million for next season.

I don’t think a deal built primarily around Bargnani for Hawes would make the Raptors that much better this season or even next year, but if they are as desperate as some believe to rid themselves of Andrea, a deal for Hawes would shore up the depth at the big positions for the next season and a half while providing some financial flexibility in the summer of 2014 (when Kyle Lowry may need re-signing), something dealing for Boozer would never provide.

Trading Andrea Bargnani for a bigger name may be the “sexy” thing to do for a lot of fans, but smaller deals for solid depth guys like Spencer Hawes may be both the more realistic option given Bargnani’s plummeting trade value and the more responsible move given the Raptors’ potential cap flexibility over the next few years. If the Raptors aren’t willing to amnesty Bargnani this summer, then a move like this reported one might be the way to go.

Personally, I’m still holding out hope that either before the trade deadline or during the off-season, the Raptors can find a way to turn Bargnani and another insignificant piece or two into Pau Gasol (I’m aware Gasol is out of the lineup right now). As I’ve said countless times over the course of this season, I think Gasol has plenty more game left in him than what we’ve seen with the Lakers this year and that he could still be a legitimate post presence for at least the next year. The best part, of course, is that Pau’s contract has just one year remaining on it, with the potential Hall Of Famer set to play next season on a massive expiring contract worth over $19 million.