Masai Ujiri has emerged as my early frontrunner for executive of the year after accomplishing what many people thought was impossible: an Andrea Bargnani trade that shed salary AND brought back an asset. In a move that is puzzling/enraging Knicks fans worldwide and causing Raptors fans to dance in the street, the Raptors sent Bargnani to the New York Knicks for long range bomber Steve Novak, a cadaver that used to be Marcus Camby and a first round pick. If Camby reports to Toronto and plays out his contract the move saves the Raptors $5 million(more if he decides to retire instead of reporting), plus it gives them the outside shooter they sorely lacked last year and the future first round pick. The trade gives the Knicks…well, I think someone will have to get back to us on that because it’s really hard to see where the value is.
For those who are unaware of how truly bad Bargnani is, allow me to explain with a few simple facts:
- in this past season the Raptors were 10-25 with him in the lineup and 24-23 without him.
- for the duration of his time spent in Toronto they have been a significantly better team with him on the bench than with him on the floor, particularly on the defensive end where they go from allowing 106.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the bench to 111.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. That means they go from being roughly average without him to being horrid with him; it can be hard to establish causal relationships with something like that, but 7 years of consistent results is pretty damning.
- he’s touted as a stretch four but he has become a fairly mediocre three point shooter, hitting only 30% in the last two seasons. It’s unclear whether this is related the calf and elbow injuries he has suffered over the last couple of seasons, but if it continues Bargnani is entirely useless, as opposed to merely “mostly useless”.
I could actually go on if I felt compelled to. I live in Canada and my roommate is a Raptors fan so I’ve had the (mis)fortune of watching most Raptors games over the last 5 years and I’ve seen more Bargnani than most.
I saw the game where the Golden State Warriors backcourt of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry were sitting on the bench laughing at how bad Bargnani’s defense was. I remember being genuinely surprised at seeing Bargnani complete a rotation and contest a shot and then thinking “This probably shouldn’t be surprising.”
I know that there are probably flashes of good play in there but they’re easy to miss because they’re just drops in an endless ocean of frustratingly bad basketball. Bargnani seems to be one of those rare players with no real redeeming qualities which makes the deal all the more puzzling on the Knicks end. Even when his offensive game was at it’s peak it was still more than offset by his terrible defense, and the Knicks already have one of those guys in their frontcourt. Obviously time will tell and Bargnani may have just needed a change of scenery to get him on track, but thus far in his career he has given Knicks fans little to be optimistic about.