It looked like the Sacramento Kings were going to add to their bizarre summer by signing Andrea Bargnani, but the Brooklyn Nets swooped in and signed the much-maligned Italian to a two-year deal at the veteran’s minimum with a second-year player option. Yes, there was a bidding war for Bargnani’s services. In 2015.
There once was a time where a bidding war for Bargnani wouldn’t have been considered a huge joke. Bargnani, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft thanks to his size and skill, had several strong seasons for the Toronto Raptors at the end of last decade. He shot nearly 41 percent from three in 2008-09. He averaged over 17 points while shooting 47 percent overall and 37 percent from three the next year. The following season he put up a career-high 21.4 points per game.
Bargnani’s warts have always been there. He’s never been a good rebounder (he’s only grabbed at least six rebounds per game ONCE) and he’s a poor defender. But his scoring ability and sweet stroke from outside helped make up for those deficiencies.
But since that 2010-11 campaign in which he scored those 21.4 points per game, Bargnani has become a punchline around the league. So what the heck happened to this guy?
Before diving into some of the numbers, we have to bring up the fact that injuries have helped lead to his downfall. He played 31 (of 66) games in 2011-12, 35 games in 2012-13, 42 games in 2013-14 and 29 games last season. So in the last four seasons, he’s managed to play in at least half the games once, and he barely made that threshold.
When Bargnani has played, he’s been mostly awful. His three-point shooting tanked for three consecutive seasons before a bounce-back performance this past season, although the sample size was small. He failed to crack 30 percent shooting from three in two of those three bad seasons, and barely hit the 30 percent mark in the other year.
In his final season with the Raptors, he didn’t even make 40 percent of his total shots and was routinely booed by the home fans. He grabbed a measly 3.7 rebounds per game despite playing nearly 29 minutes per game. Between the injuries, bad attitude and poor play, Toronto couldn’t be more thrilled to find a taker for the big man.
That taker was the New York Knicks, and the Knicks inexplicably gave up a 2016 first-round pick and several second-round selections to go along with some salary filler. Bargnani’s time with New York was an unmitigated disaster, with more injuries and generally poor play, even with the uptick in three-point shooting this past year.
But wait, there’s more! The Knicks were outscored by 17.5 points per 100 possessions with Bargnani on the floor this past season, according to NBA.com. New York was still bad with him on the bench (which was most of the year because of his injuries), but not AS bad. Two years ago, the Knicks were 7.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the bench.
Those are some real ugly numbers, and Knicks fans still rue the day that trade happened. New York doesn’t have its first-round pick in 2016 thanks to that deal, and that’s a pick that would be really useful as the team rebuilds.
Now Bargnani heads across town to Brooklyn. Bargs at the minimum might not be the worst thing in the world, and perhaps he can add some value in a more limited role. But it’ll take a lot to fix his reputation thanks to the hit it’s taken over the last few years.