Andrea Bargnani, Now Or Never, For Real

Andrea Bargnani will need to prove he can contribute to a winning team

By Dan Levine

With the NBA on its way back, the local media landscape actually includes some Raptors-related content.

And sure, there are free agents to discuss and new CBA rules to digest, but it’s quickly become apparent that Bryan Colangelo has no plans to spend much coin in the near future (Eric Koreen, National Post):

“Let’s just say to go out and spend money [immediately] just to spend money would be probably swimming against the current idea of what the plan is all about,” Colangelo said.”

“The plan is to acquire the right pieces, the correct pieces to keep adding to this young nucleus that we have or to put championship pieces together.”

Regardless of what you think of that strategy/sentiment, it means that much of the spotlight will fall on the development of current players and new head coach Dwane Casey. Jonas Valanciunas is still a year away, and wins will ultimately be less important than a sense of direction and individual progression.

Some of the more important players to follow will be DeMar DeRozan, Jerryd Bayless, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson. Davis and Johnson could battle for minutes at the power forward spot, while Bayless will look to prove he can handle the starting point guard position. DeRozan is up for an extension at the end of the season and 2012 will be an important year for him.

Still, none of these players present the quagmire that is Andrea Bargnani.

Entering his sixth season, Bargnani seemingly presents as many question marks as he did on draft day. Inconsistent defense and questionable effort are hallmarks of his game, but still, Bargnani has the ability to score at an elite level for a big man. And so, the Raptors continue to look for ways to win with him in the lineup, despite countless frustrating moments along the way.

Many fans want Bargnani gone now. Others wanted him gone yesterday, or three seasons ago. Through it all, we often heard that each season was Bargnani’s “now or never” campaign, only to see him return to his starting role despite disappointing results. But 2011/2012 appears to actually, really be Bargnani’s last chance to prove himself in Toronto.

As Tim Chisolm writes:

“One of the reasons that the Raptors hired Dwane Casey as their head coach was so that he could try to hide Andrea Bargnani on defence the same way that he hid Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas. If Bargnani can be so hidden, then his place in Toronto’s future may be cemented. If he cannot be, then the Raptors need to divest themselves of his services. They have to see him play under Casey, though, to know one way or another.

So why the urgency? Because no player on the roster requires as much compensating for as Bargnani; and if Colangelo is to make roster alterations to continue this rebuilding process, he needs to know if Bargnani is a piece worth compensating for anymore or not. This season was meant to be a freebie of sorts for Casey and Colangelo; a year where everyone knew losing was inevitable but they could tinker with their roster makeup before getting a windfall of cap space, a potentially dynamite draft pick in a loaded draft, and the arrival of the centre of the future, Jonas Valanciunas. After next summer, the expectations are going to heat up, and they can’t afford to continue assessing Bargnani in that environment. By next summer they need to know – one way or another – what they are doing with him, and they need this season to figure out what the answer to that question is.”

Chisolm nails this one right on the head. With the Raps expected to completely bottom out this season (if they hadn’t already), there is a mostly pressure-free environment to develop players. Bargnani is out of excuses at this point, and it will be interesting to see whether he can improve under coach Casey, or whether fans will be subjected to more of the same. If Bargnani can really be hidden on defense, it will make it much easier to appreciate his offensive contributions. On the other hand, it may be impossible to properly contend with a defender as putrid as Bargs.

Take this next link with a grain of salt, but Ryan Wolstat of the Sun reports that Bargnani has been working hard on his game during the lockout, including recent sessions in Toronto with personal trainers. As Chris Rock would say, “Want a cookie?” This should be expected from Bargnani… but it’s still nice to see after years of laziness.

Where do you stand on Bargnani? Agree that he should get one last chance, or think the team should ship him out before the season starts? And, can a coach like Dwane Casey really change a player like Bargnani, even after five seasons in the NBA? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Steve from Waterloo
Steve from Waterloo
December 2, 2011 3:49 pm

The Raptors are expected to bottom out this year? I thought they did that last year. Or the year before that. How low do they have to go? They certainly have not been entertaining to watch for the past few years.

Hmmm, Argos or Raptors?

I would take the Argos…

Brian from Woodstock
Brian from Woodstock
December 2, 2011 4:45 pm

Il Mago has to do it this year,he needs to improve his game in and game out performance , the numbers need to be 20 points ( has that ) 10 boards
( not close ) 2 blocks ( not close ) 2 helpers ( could happen )
If he does that then they might win 40 games not make the post season anyway.
Then they can trade him for some thing real.
That is what I am hoping for.

Raptors Devotee
Raptors Devotee
December 2, 2011 5:23 pm

Dan, if you read between the lines, it is obvious that Colangelo will do everything he can to secure as many lottery balls as possible in this monster draft year. Why spend money on Free Agents to bump up our win total and still miss the playoffs by 10 games. It makes no sense.

Ideally Colangelo would like to see Bargnani not be a complete liability on the defensive end, while maintaining his scoring prowess. I have given up on him as far as rebounding goes. Bottom line is he has the height to rebound, maybe not the wide body you want, but what he lacks is the will to go after the boards and be in position to do so. For Bargnani boxing out means him loading up his stuff for a move.

He is a soft player. Always has been and will continue to be so, and personifies why the Raptors are a team that opponents love to see on their schedule. Casey can only do so much, and I do hope he finds a way to make it work, if only that his trade value can be increased. When Jonas comes next year as a natural center he will need time to develop in the NBA. Bargs at the power forward position is better than center, more his natural position, but I don’t see a ton of difference happening.

The key test will be who the Raptors draft in the off-season, and that will give us all the answers as to what happens to Bargnani next year. If we can draft a superstar, or one in the making, then Bargnani maybe can stay, but I would still prefer him coming off the bench for instant offense, like Vinny the toaster Johnson did with the Pistons.

I am happy seeing him get lots of burn this year, and helping us to achieve our goals, which is a top lottery pick.

December 3, 2011 12:44 am

It doesn’t really matter if we as fans think he deserves another chance. The fact is, Colangelo is tied at the hip with him and has been even before he become Raptors GM and now that he himself only has a couple of years left as GM before he’s shown the door, they are going down together.

I’m not stupid or naive enough to believe that a player who has exhibited some of the worst qualities I have ever seen from any front court player in recent league history is going to suddenly curb his bad habits. People compliment his scoring but he doesn’t even do that well enough where you can overlook his historically bad defense and rebounding, he’s a black hole who isn’t redeemable in any capacity.

Enough of this bullshit.

Raptors Devotee
Raptors Devotee
December 3, 2011 12:30 pm

PBI, I concur with your thoughts for the most part, but there has been a change in the relationship between Colangelo and Bargnani. Last year for the first time he called him out, basically saying that he is the enigma we all know he is. Obviously Colangelo would never throw him completely under the bus, as that would hurt his trade value to some extent, but he went pretty far in his critique on his play and his development.

Bargnani’s contract was easily moveable prior to the lockout, and with the new CBA it appears it will be tougher to move, but BC certainly can if he wants to. If you can move Hedo Turkoglu you can move anyone.

December 5, 2011 11:22 am

They need to trade Bargnani.

craven moorhead
craven moorhead
January 5, 2012 3:14 am

[email protected] fans…..dudes a dynamic scorer who for the first time is getting 1st option status and a coaches respect for his game…..stick to hockey idiots.

Raptors Devotee
Raptors Devotee
January 6, 2012 11:04 am

Craven Moorhead, you have a lot of nerve, coming on this thread and making comments on Bargnani like his performance in the first 6 games this year was something to be expected. Had you posted this before the season started I would have no problem with it, in fact I would be applauding you for your foresight on it.

Why I am bothering to address your points I don’t know, but I will anyways just because your Monday morning quarterbacking really pissed me off.

Firstly, Bargnani put up a ton of shots last year with Triano as his coach and was the first option on offense. His shooting % was down overall though and he was a liability, mainly bue to Calderon not being healthy and now that he is, you can see the difference, with Calderon’s assists and his assist to turnover ratio being off the charts. Anybody who follows the Raptors knows that Bargnani since Bosh left has been given 1st option status.

As far as the coach goes, I have stated numerous times from the beginning that Triano was a horrible hire and subsequent coach. No surprise there. This is more a reflection on Colangelo for hiring him and the buck stops with him for doing so and not firing him a long time ago. True, Casey respects him and is coaching him properly, but that still does not excuse Bargnani for 6 years of defensive ineptitude and lack of interest in the games, which has changed 180 degrees since the season started.

You posting now is my big issue. Easy to say now. Even Colangelo called Bargnani an engigma. Our GM did not see it coming, and neither did you. Stop coming on after the fact and acting like you know it all, because you don’t.

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