If the contracts for Rashard Lewis and Gilbert Arenas taught us anything, it’s that there isn’t a player in this league who cannot be traded once they have entered the final two years of their contract. Bulls fans yelping with excitement at this thought can find plenty of evidence to support that notion, and this week, we just got a little bit more.

There is no reason why Andrea Bargnani should have been tradable. His promise burned out long ago — his talents, such as they are, no longer constitute potential. This should have been an albatross contract, residual scorched earth from the previous regime, an unwanted anchor of a contract attached to a player who can neither help, nor stay on, his current team. Toronto should be preparing to use the amnesty clause on him rather than choosing which future assets they can get for him.

Into the breach, however, stepped New York. Channeling the Isiah Thomas era, New York were determined to outbid seemingly nobody, and ended up giving what few assets they actually have for a player who only helps if this is fantasy basketball. In reality, Bargnani takes so much off the table that it is hard to justify acquiring him at any price.

Bargnani’s skill set may be rarer and thus more enticing than, say, Amir Johnson’s, but a comparison of their relative impacts reveals a result that frankly isn’t even that close. The reality is that Johnson has been outplaying the man ahead of him for years, and only politicization and asset management has prevented their roles from being reversed. While this is partly an endorsement of the highly underrated Johnson, it is also more than a mildly pejorative thing to say of Bargnani. Blessed with talent and size, and given every opportunity to succeed, he simply hasn’t for anything more than fleeting stretches.

For a player they could have easily justified amnestying, Toronto landed a first round pick, a second round pick, a useful role player on a reasonable contract, and significant savings. If Camby sticks around with the team, his 2014/15 contract — which calls for $4,177,208 but of which only $1,025,890 is guaranteed — will be a useful trade chip either at the next deadline or next summer. However, if he is bought out on terms favourable to Toronto before then — which seems likely — then he may only count on the cap this season for a nominal amount. This, combined with a concurrent amnesty of Linas Kleiza, will see Toronto expunge several million from their cap in each of the next two seasons, while gaining draft picks and losing bad memories. All this for a famously dispassionate player coming off of a terrible season. The justifications for the deal from Toronto’s perspective are indisputably apparent.

Justifications for the Knicks, of course, will do the rounds. They might contradict each other a bit — “he once scored 20ppg”, “he won’t be coming here to be the man,” etc. — but they’ll be there, and there’s a small degree of validity to them. Bargnani can score the ball, in multiple ways, with a skill set so rare to find in one so large. And the Knicks don’t need someone to go there and be the man offensively, as three others are already vying for that role. Potentially four, if the ambitious and non-sensical Monta Ellis pursuit goes anywhere.

No, instead what the Knicks need is athleticism, hustle, perimeter defense, some post-up offense and an extra rebounder. But Bargnani isn’t any of those things. Bargnani is another player to clutter the mid-range-and-in sector that New York is already overstocked in, who shoots too much, provides little help defense, and is an infamously poor rebounder. He is a more talented player than Steve Novak or Chris Copeland (although, absurd as it may sound to say about a man who averaged 21ppg only two years ago, the gap isn’t all that big), but Bargnani has long since proven that talent doesn’t mean all that much. If the Knicks are mostly going to use Bargnani as a spot-up shooter, they should have just kept Novak, the less talented but more efficient player who at least attempts to cover his noticeable flaws (and who is also a markedly better shooter). And if they are going to use Bargnani as a dribble-drive scorer, they are going to be disappointed.

In fairness, New York gave up backups to get this backup. Novak has his one skill, but he does everything else noticeably poorly, and Camby’s career is on fumes as his athleticism and skills are finally leaving him. The pick shouldn’t be in the lottery, and the Knicks’ infinitely big spending power will render any salary cap and luxury tax ramifications irrelevant. New York didn’t give up players integral to either their future or their present.

What they did do, however, was fire their few remaining bullets. You need these mid-sized contracts and cheap first round picks to be able to facilitate and maximize trade opportunities — proof of that concept lies in the very fact that those were the things that made this deal happen. Yet in paying so much for an upgrade to Steve Novak, New York threw in all their chips on a player who doesn’t fill their holes, using up most of their hole-filling assets to do so. If this deal costs them Copeland as well, the price gets even higher. The Knicks will have assets again in a year’s time, when their eight figure contracts all head towards expiry, but until that time, they have scant little to work with. In this interim period, they have cemented their place as a decent but uncompetitive team with little prognosis for internal growth and almost no means for bringing in others. Financial clout means nothing if you haven’t the mechanisms with which to spend it.

Instead, they’re left hoping that Amar’e’s two remaining years will fall under the two year principle.

Comments (22)

  1. Besides the fact that Mark hates the Knicks, he made some good points.

  2. He’s your problem now New York! Good luck.

    Novak is always going to have value for contenders looking for shooters (memphis, pacers, nuggets, etc). Camby is unguarenteed. I’m really impressed that ujiri traded bargnani without taking back worse contracts or giving up picks while still getting pciks as assets

  3. Any team with Melo is destined for failure. He is the ultimate black-hole. He demands the ball, chucks up shots without any concern and absorbs any and all plays he is involved in, especially when he has the ball in his hands. For lack of better words, he’s a cancer and a selfish one at that. I may eat my words somewhere down the line (barring a NY Knicks NBA champion title, ha ha good joke, right!?), but there’s obviously a reason why the Nuggets traded him and inadvertently were better team thereafter. Factor in his inability to make a significant impact on the defensive end only adds to the Knicks problems. Like, why would you add J.R. Smith to a roster with Carmelo!? Didn’t their time together in Denver prove anything to anyone?

    Bargnani will improve his own numbers, but like you said… that’s only going to help him in the fantasy realm. In short, I am happy that he’s outta T.O. and a big “grazie” to the Knickerbockers for taking him and his inflated contract (no thanks to BC).

    Good read, thanks for that @markdeeksnba

    • Your entire Melo rant sounds like something Cowherd would say. Do you even bother watching the knicks this past season? Matter of fact did you even listen to the podcast this season? You are basically painting Melo as some sort of villian.

      • Well, Carmelo DID lead the league in USG% (35.6%, highest of his career) and after a career high AST% last year (21%), he was back to basically a career worst 14% this season. Lowest DWS of his career too. What he did do was have one of his best shooting seasons and turn the ball over at a lower rate than he has in any other season. That the percentage of his buckets that were assisted continues to trend downward suggests a player is not getting his points in the flow of the offence.

        I wouldn’t call him a cancer or selfish necessarily, but the re-written media narrative seems a little off.

      • As a matter of fact I did watch the Knicks play this past season… There’s no disputing Melo’s talent, he’s a perennial allstar, no doubt! But he’s also very lop-sided; all offense & as evidenced by the Knicks playoff run, once the opposing team was able to shut him down there wasn’t much else in the Knicks offense (allow me to reference J.R. again & his horr-awful percentage from the field in the playoffs of 33% *cough or the ghost of NBA past, that was J.Kidd). In that regard, I think Bargnani’ll help carry some of that load (should Anthony decide to pass the ball more then 1.6 times/game).

        You could tell Melo was trying his damn hardest to get that scoring title this season, especially towards the tail-end of it. He was gunning for it when he’d literally stop the flow of their offense by holding on to the ball at the top of the key/at the elbow only to put up an ill advised shot or drive to the basket with the entire defense collapsing on him. Anyone who gets that many touches on the ball is going to score a lot (remember Mike James on the Raps? lol prime example!). When you look at Carmelo’s numbers on paper, it’s pretty gravy (especially if you have him in fantasy). But it’s not all about individual efforts. Basketball is a team sport and he doesn’t get his teammates involved enough. The best players (not just scorers) are able to lead their team and/or league in stats AND make everyone around them better too. Granted I’m biased because I’m not a HUGE fan of Anthony’s (perhaps like you are), but I am able to see the positives and negatives in his game (you can’t be that naive to think Carmelo is ‘THE BEST’ or whatever it is you make of him). He hasn’t been able to do much of anything throughout his ten year career in the playoffs thus far. Even with some amazing talent around him, whether it was in NY or Denver. He haults his team’s offense! Allen Iverson was another player who did much of the same (and I’ll say he did it better). But even A.I. couldn’t bring home the prize despite getting his team to the finals.

        To me, what seperates a great scorer and a great player is someone who leads their team both on the floor with team/league leading stats and off the floor with leadership (hence the selfish comment before.) I don’t think C.Anthony is a fantastic player, an allstar most definitely and certainly one of the best scorers, but not an amazing ‘player’ by (my) definition.

        For the sake of the argument and just to hold a comparison, look at Durant’s numbers more specifically at his assist average this past season and what he’s managed to do in nearly half the time as Melo (overall, throughout their careers.) Not only did KD average almost twice as many assists this season, but he also scored more then Melo. That just proves that a player can score AND distribute while taking his team to the next level. The obvious downside to OKC’s run this year was Westbrook’s injury, but thats a whole ‘nother conversation.

        To answer your second question, no I didn’t listen to any podcast because I have my own set of eyes and ears to form my own opinion. Cheers mate.

  4. I think they get two second round picks, not one (a 2016 first-round pick and second-rounders in 2014 and 2017) This was a highway robbery by Ujiri.

  5. This shows how truly bad colangelo is

  6. To pay 20.000.000 $ Amar’e for not playing is not a return to the Isaiah era?

  7. this a move that makes a lot of sense for the raptors but is not smart for the knicks. bargnani has a huge contrac, is not getting any better, and is too similar to amare. although bargnani can stretch the floor he is not a great 3 point shooter and amare already occupies mid range along with melo and jr. this team is not going in the right direction

  8. This is utterly baffling. And as a Knicks fan, utterly disappointing.

    Congratulations Raptors fans – at least some good came out of this for someone…


  10. Agree with everything here except I fail to see how the Knicks were not competitive. The move definitely doesn’t make them MORE competitive, might make them worse but they were absolutely competitive last season. It may have been smoke and mirrors for all I know but denying it seems petty.

  11. I thought you TBJ guys were pushing for Bargs to be an All Star not long ago ( and now all you can do is bash him.

  12. Novak couldn’t stay on the floor in the Playoffs he’s chased off the line and attacked when defender.

    AB doesn’t improve the D much (you do have to shoot over him at least) but he is a little harder to completely take out of the game.

    • Well, that should be generally obvious. There’s a reason Bargnani was a justifiable (at the time) #1 overall pick, while Novak was a second rounder. Bargnani is much more talented and therefore harder to guard and/or take out of the game. But Bargs also demands more playing time than Novak while being a lot less efficient overall. And, as this article suggests, this isn’t a trade comparable of players — Bargs is still easily the best player in this trade — but the assets that NY gave up (draft picks, cap space) to acquire a player more-talented-but-not-much-more-helpful than Novak makes it tough to look at positively.

  13. Toronto should never have gotten rid of him. He was just hitting his Primo.

  14. “If this deal costs them Copeland as well, the price gets even higher.”

    The deal will have no affect on whether they can resign Copeland. They were already way over the cap that they only have the mini mid’level exception to use. The Knicks are likely to be over the cap due to the contracts of Amare, Melo, and Chandler. Now you can add Bargnani to that list. All 4 contracts end after the 14-15 season. Camby is done and Novak was only decent during the regular season during non important games. Bargnani isn’t a savior, but is far better than both Camby and Novak (he doesn’t have a good deal at all). You guys must value late 1st rd picks more than I do, the pick likely in the 20′s and can be swapped by Denver. Both teams got what they want; Toronto gets worse on the court, but better financially in their long and probably never ending rebuild. The Knicks get a little bit better to try and compete for a championship for the next 2 years before their now 4 big contracts expire. The deal doesn’t offer affect them financially.

  15. The Knicks need a more varied offensive attack. The playoffs proved that

  16. As a die-hard Raptors fan, I have a new found love towards the New York Knicks. Thank you Knicks, and all the best! :)

  17. Bargnani 2014:All-star and sixth man of the year

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